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The Stakes could not be Higher

Four years of speculation and anticipation will end for those of us obsessed with US Soccer tomorrow as our side faces a mammoth challenge to reach the knock out stages of Germany 2006. We must beat Ghana, which involves scoring goals something we have not done yet in this World Cup while stopping a potent Ghanaian attack who had more shots on goal in a five minute period against the Czech Republic than we have had in the entire World Cup thus far. At the same time we must hope that Italy beats the Czech Republic. For those who do not recall, Italy and Mexico showed a disgraceful lack of respect for the sport in Korea/Japan 2002 by playing for a draw allowing both teams to advance to the knock out stages. That particular game was the worst I’ve ever seen on the International level and hopefully the Italians who are very much in the same, draw and advance position they were in the last World Cup will show a little more interest in the match at hand this time around.

This match is wildly critical for the future of Soccer in the United States. For the first time as walk around in suburbia USA people are talking about the World Cup and are anxious for the USA to play. The previously microscopic television ratings for the event have now risen to the point where the World Cup is outdrawing NHL’s Stanley Cup and Golf’s US Open (in fairness to the Open, Tiger Woods missed the cut) and the ratings look respectable even when compared to the NBA Finals. Soccer is becoming mainstream in our nation, even if so many elites in the media remain hostile to it. If the USA were to advance and play Brazil, we can expect record interest in Soccer in this nation. Building a soccer culture has taken time and several baby steps through the years. A victory tomorrow coupled with an Italian win would be one of the most positive developments for soccer in this nation. Not only would the USA advance to the knock out stages for the third time in the last four world cups, but we would have done so on European soil, and for the first time with many casual American sports fans paying attention. The stakes tomorrow could not be higher.  

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About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC.
View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →

40 Responses to The Stakes could not be Higher

  1. Mr. Eko says:

    AMEN!

  2. USA06 says:

    USA certainly has their work cut out for them against a hungry team. With every team eligible to advance going into the last game, this has proven to be the “Group of Death”.

    USA has nothing to lose and everything to gain by pushing forward and trying to score goals.

    I expect a great game.

  3. Hernandez says:

    Important for USA to psuh forward early. offense is lacking for the attack in the cup so far but if johnson and beasley begin the macth on the field look out!

  4. Hernandez says:

    in defense of lapuente and the mexican side in world cup 2002 we were playing hard for a draw and italy was trying to clog up the midfield to secure the draw. eventually some cautions and yellow cards were handed out and both squads seemed to determine it was in their best interest to just get out of the match without injury or suspension since both were advancing. it didn’t work out for either side as the usa beat mexico and south korea beat italy in the next round. neither side was sharp because of the stalemate that was either a gentlemans agreement or simply instinctive behavior by both sides. i believe italy will play for a victory this time and that usa will push forward score and early goal and then defend well for a 1-0 win and a spot in the knock out round. i must count on usa because mexico has proven in the last two matches that they are a disgrace, and are fortunate they were in such a weak group.

  5. Federico says:

    As a mexican-american I am ashamed of the performance of los tres colores. We held some possession today but could not do what we needed to do to avoid playing Argentina in the next round. I hope that LaVolpe gets serious about fixing the loose ends in defense that have allowed the likes of Angola and Iran to have several good chances to beat us.

    Mexico’s poor performance not withstanding at least I have them to root for in the next round. The USA my other team has too much of a defensive mindset. This having been said 1 pt is more than Mexico would have gotten in this group of death. Ghana is going to be a tough match. Don’t kid yourself into believing that we only need Italy’s help and we are in. Ghana has shown a lot more in this world cup then we have and unless Donovan starts to play like the player he is capable of being we’re sunk. The injury to John O’Brien has been deadly because when he is fit, I believe he is easily the best US player. O’Brien is a superb passer, who can play on a flank or in the center of midfield and unlike some of the US midfielders he doesn’t ignore his defenisve responsibilities.

    O’Brien’s injury is the difference between 2002 USA which should have made the semifinals and this USA likely to end the World Cup last in its group. One player can make that much of a difference.

  6. USA06 says:

    Watching MLB, they flash the countdown to USA v. Ghana.

    12:55:45

    Feeling the butterflies already……come on boys!

  7. Sams Army says:

    Yes, feeling the butterflies alright! I am as well.

    As far as the Mexicans are concerned their fans are infamous for turning against their own team. I was in Ciudad De Mejico in 1997 to watch our boys play los tres colores in a France 98 qualifier. After almost getting killed on the way I settled into my seat and took verbal abuse the enitre first half. Jeff Agoos was sent off on a stupid foul and we were a man down. Then we began to control possession and as the game wound down the same fans who wanted to kill me an hour earlier were chanting Ole Estados Unidos and giving me high fives.

    They are a demanding perfectionist bunch. I personally think Mexico will be fine and feel they were saving their best for Argentina. And for one hope they win because I am tired of hearing about how dominant Argentina is and how bad CONCACAF is. I have no love for Mexico, but against Argentina, well then I begin to discover some love for our rivals to the south.

  8. USA06 says:

    Hernandez and Federico,

    I can understand your disappointment in Mexico’s overall play thus far in the tournament. No disrespect intended, but what did you expect? The teams from CONCACAF just aren’t in the top tier of teams that consistently challenge to WIN the World Cup. USA and Mexico have to be careful not to base their expectations on the positive results of meaningless friendlies.

    I respect Mexico for usually fielding a competitive team if there’s a trophy involved. Copa America, Gold Cup, Confederations Cup – they take these more seriously than some teams. World Cup is the ultimate – that’s why only seven teams have won it.

    Argentina is a strong favorite to go far in this tournament, but so what? Anything can happen. Enjoy the next few days while your team is in the tournament. These are the days to rejoice in your team getting this far – not bemoan how they got there. There will be plenty of time for the what-ifs before World Cup 2010.

    As a fan of USA, I envy your position. I hope my team can shrug off their bad form and put something together…one time.

  9. Sams Army says:

    I 100% agree about O’Brien. His ability to make dangerous runs as well as his closing down of space and his short quick passing makes him in my mind our best overall player.

    His lack of fitness has killed us for 3 years and while you can say we should have developed a replacement by now, we don’t have players like him who come up through the academies in europe and were sought by all the big euro clubs. Even Claudio Reyna and Kasey Keller have basically spent their careers playing with mid table teams in europe, while O’Brien was the one american everyone wanted before the chronic injuries forced him to reluctantly relocate to MLS.

  10. Hernandez says:

    usa 06

    that is good advice. i will try to enjoy despite our poor form. blanco could have helped. but i am sure we will get run off the field by the superior argentine side but thankfully our chain smoking, morale killing coach will be relieved of his duties if we get beat badly.

    i agree with everyone above about o’brien. maybe he is now fit and arena gives him the green light tomorrow to go forward to stimulate a usa attack that leads to a victory and advancement to the knock out stage. o’brien is the usa’s key player. he is the best they have and even if he is only partially fit they need to take a chance and play him versus ghana.

  11. Tim L says:

    This will be very fun tomorrow. Kartik, you going to be around to talk during the game. I may give you a ring!

  12. Der Kaiser says:

    ” thankfully our chain smoking, morale killing coach will be relieved of his duties if we get beat badly. “

    Don’t forget, “dragon-tie wearing”.

  13. Sams Army says:

    Hernandez,

    That is good advice for Arena. Baros and Koller have been named to the Czech starting roster for tomorrow even though they are less fit than O’Brien. Arena should see what our opposition the Czechs are doing and do the same with O’Brien.

  14. USA06 says:

    This is what they’ve been saving O’Brien for. The question is can he go the full 90. With two suspensions, the bench is already thin.

  15. Federico says:

    O’brien is the key. USA 06, I hope you are right. He needs to go 90 and play like he did in Korea four years ago.

  16. Xavier says:

    The Mexican fans are both loyal and fickle if that makes sense and if it is possible.

    Arena needs a more attacking lineup tomorrow. With Pope out I would put Bocanegra inside with Convey playing left back. Place Beasley on the left wide midfield spot and Dempsey on the right. Start Johnson up top and give McBride a rest. McBride can come in at minute 60 for Johnson who has yet to prove he can go 90 minutes in a game of this high caliber.

    O’Brien plays if he is truly fit. If not, I’m not sure who to play back there.

  17. USA06 says:

    10:10:00 and counting………

  18. Xavier says:

    I cannot understand why O’brien did not get the start against Italy. In your biggest game with your backs against the wall you don’t play your most skilled player?

    Either Arena is a total idiot or O’Brien isn’t match fit and isn’t going to play vs Ghana either.

  19. USA06 says:

    As i said before, this is what they were saving O’Brien for. If he’s fit or not this is the “all or nothing” game for him and USA.

  20. Kartik says:

    potential bad news guys……O’brien may not be fully fit according to soccertimes.com…..if he’s not fully fit look for Ben Olsen to get the nod.

    ouch…..no wonder we are dangerously close to being eliminated from this world cup.

    I’m not sure I 100% agree with everyone above who says O’Brien is the best player we have, but he certainly is among the best and not having his skill, european experience, world cup experience and pedigree on the pitch is certainly not helping our cause.

  21. Kartik says:

    Mexico fans, calm down. You guys as Sams Army said are notoriouslty hard on your team. No you guys have played less than inspiring football the last two games, but guess what, regardless of the weakness of the group you have advanced and now have a shot to do CONCACAF proud and shock the world at the same time!

  22. Hernandez says:

    kartik are you mad? ben olsen?????

    arena needs to be shot along with lavolpe if he starts olsen over o’brien. a 30% fit o’brien is better than a 100% olsen.

    why would you want olsen to play????? are you crazy?????

  23. Der Kaiser says:

    The fact that O’Brien is not fully fit is not news!

  24. Mr. Eko says:

    In a few hours we find out what’s in the hatch.

  25. Kartik says:

    Hernandez,

    Calm down, and read my post more carefully. First off I would NEVER advocate playing Ben Olsen over John O’Brien.

    Obviously they are not even close to being comprable players, but with Pablo suspended and O’Brien not fully fit, Olsen is the only option left Arena evidently feels.

    That is of course if the story is accurate. I think we will see O’Brien for what ever it’s worth. Arena may just be throwing Ghana for a loop, since their scouting has surely identfied O’Brien as a potential game changer.

    Oh and Hernandez, LaVolpe did get you to the second round. Wait till Mexico is eliminated before talking about shooting him and all the other things you have said about him……Mexico could shock the world this weekend. Until they are out, cheer for your team, not against them as you seem to be doing!

  26. Kartik says:

    der kaiser (aka Franz Beckenbaur)…..are you going to see the USA game or the Italy game in person?!

  27. Hernandez says:

    oh, sorry did not understand you.

    if o’brien is 10% fit he must play. you cannot leave your best player on the bench with your world cup on the line. unless arena is simply concerned about confederations cups and gold cups, not that usa wins those very often either. i say o’brien plays and makes the difference and usa advances to the knock out stages.

  28. Kartik says:

    Good Hernandez. I hope you are right about the USA tomorrow, and wrong about Mexico getting killed by Argentina over the weekend! :)

    Maybe CONCACAF gets the miracle……Mexico upsets Argentina and USA upsets Brazil……whoa I am getting WAY WAY ahead of myself. LEt’s take care of business first against Ghana!

  29. Der Kaiser says:

    I will be watching USA very closely as they attempt to continue their climb onto the world stage.

    I am in current talks with Don Garber of your MLS about purchasing an expansion franchise Bayern Miami which will be coached by Juergen Klinsman. I am also offering Oliver Kahn’s services with BM to your growing league.

    Enjoy the game!

  30. Rafael says:

    Our here in LA the feeling is that Arena chacked O’Brien’s fitness with the CHIVAS staff led by Bob Bradley his close friend and Preki, whom Arena has a great deal of respect for.

    He is fit enough to go 90, and that is why he did not play vs Italy. He is ready to go. He played better than much of the team versus Czech Republic.

    I agree with the above comments. O’Brien is the best USA player. So few “holding” midfielders in the world have O’Brien’s attacking ability. He is great on the ball, plays superb balls into the area and is a tenacious defender. People have forgotten about him because of all the recent injuries, but he is probably the most respected non-goalkeeper of the USA in Europe. Claudio Reyna on the other hand is seen simply as a servicable club player.

    Eddie Johnson should start as well. What are the chances of Josh Wolff getting in the game and scoring a late goal? I’d love to see that!

  31. USA06 says:

    Let’s hope USA doesn’t need a late goal…………..

  32. The Babe says:

    ESPN showing video of Seattle Mariners warming up playing soccer in the outfield.

    Many foreign born MLB players are watching matches before their own games.

  33. John Locke says:

    Mr. Eko,

    You know what’s in the hatch! Know push the BUTTON!!!!!!!!!

  34. Xavier says:

    Any word on Arena’s lineup choices?

  35. Federico says:

    Arena better start O’Brien. Really he has no choice. You have to go for the win and leaving one your best players on the bench because he isn’t 100% is not acceptable in a win or go home game.

  36. Xavier says:

    USA needs O’Brien on the field to score. His crisp passes from the back of midfield stimulate the attack. Without him they are disorganized and the attacxkers get poor service.

  37. Kartik says:

    The lineup has been released by FIFA:

    O’Brien is not starting and must not be fit. He will be replaced by Eddie Lewis. Pope is being replaced by Conrad, and Beasley replaces Convey on the left side.

  38. Kartik says:

    It’s a crying shame about O’Brien. As everyone has mentioned he is about as skilled a player as the USA has ever produced. However he will be best remembered for his constant nagging injuries and his inability to recover from these injuries. Guys like Tab Ramos and Eric Wynalda got hurt often also, but always seemed to recover in time for the biggest matches. Ditto for Reyna. O’Brien on the other hand was a wasted spot on the 23 man World Cup roster it appears.

  39. Sams Army says:

    O’Brien must only have 45 minutes in him so expect to see him replace Lewis at halftime.

  40. Federico says:

    Eddie Lewis!!!!! The horror!

    Why not play Convey there instead, if O’Brien really isn’t fit?

    Arena, like LaVolpe is playing out the string in his international coaching career.

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