Has everyone stopped pinching themselves yet? Does everyone feel that they are still dreaming? Did it really happen?
Did this team that we have been screaming at for playing terrible, playing with no emotion or any sense of urgency to attack two of the top three teams in the world and all of a sudden gets a three goal victory against their final group stage opponent & some help from Brazil taking out the Italians with three goals of their own to back into the Semi-Finals & face not just the European Cup Champions, but the number one ranked team in the world Spain.
The last I wrote about this match for the USA. The only thing they have to bring on the field first and foremost outside of tactics and formation was heart & passion. Pride for the shirt & pride for the country. That’s all I was looking for and we all got it from the first minute till the end of the entire match. Now we can look at tactics and formations as they were spot on for Bob Bradley and his troops.
Clint Dempsey’s attitude and fire has returned for the Nats and he looked absolutly fantastic on the pitch. Attacking with the ball, setting up chances & making his own chances to score goals. What a nice pass by Dempsey to Jozy Altidore in the 27th minute even though it was some what blocked. Jozy with his back against Villarreal teammate Joan Capdevila was able to make a turn, a quick run and ripped a hard shot that somehow Iker Casillas got a paw on it but it was still destined for the back of the net & it’s one goal to nil for the USA.
From Altidore’s goal you saw the US defending like mad men. You never saw them just attack, but defend giving Spain so many set pieces from corners to free kicks near the area. From goal to goal all the USA did was defend and help Tim Howard clear the ball out of the area so many times you had to feel like destiny was draped over them to win this match. The US could not muster any offensive possession until the 74th minute when Landon Donovan attacks the Spanish area. He tried to cross the ball but it was stopped by Sergio Ramos, not knowing that Dempsey was right behind him and with a quick, hard poke Clint gave the USA the cushion it needed.
But once again the other opponent for the USA wasn’t just Spain but the man in the middle officiating the match as Jorge Larrionda from Uruguay decided that a legal challenge by Michael Bradley was to be issued a straight red card and put the USA down to ten men in the 87th minute. No matter who the USA plays from the top teams of the world any challenge is considered a red card. Even after the red was issued to Bradley and after three solid minutes of second half stoppage time there would be no denying the USA their clean sheet, their victory & of course their magical upset of Spain.
Give credit to the European Cup Champions Spain for not taking the USA lightly. They played this match tough & when they came out of the locker room ready for the second half, the blitz was on for the Red Shirts and they wanted the equalizer very badly. David Villa & Fernando Torres had so many chances to score more than just two goals; but they were all stopped by the human wall of Tim Howard. So much you can say about Tim Howard as his athletic ability carried this squad to advance into the finals.. He had plenty of help with clearances by Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit and Carlos Bocanegra moving back to his left back position. If anyone is looking for Frankie Hejduk’s replacement as a right back, Jonathan Spector is your answer. He marked the midfielders on the right side so well and made surehe wasn’t fooled on any trick moves at all.
This in my book is one of the best victories for the US National Team in these recent times. Now I never saw the USA defeat England 1-0 down in Belo Horizonte in 1950, but defeating Portugal & Mexico in the 2002 World Cup was my Belo Horizonte moment. Yes the Confederations Cup is a notch below the World Cup, but this was one of the top teams in the continent of Europe that is ranked the top side of international football and the USA finally brought out that courage to defeat in my view, one of the classiest sides that Europe has produced.
Finally let me say this about John Harkes. As good as he was back in his time you could hear him quietly celebrate those goals and seeing this team take out Spain. He has been waiting like all of us for this type of performence and we got it.
I recently felt like getting the axe sharpened out of the tool shed to chop off the head of Bob Bradley. I am going to have to put it back because you have to give credit where credit is due. Bob played this match the right way and as of right now he is going to lead the National Team to qualify for the World Cup. I know most of you won’t be happy with that, but guess what. You don’t make the choices and neither do I. That’s Sunil Gulati’s job and if you have read his comments Bob is going no where.
Celebrate this historic victory everyone. Keep pinching yourselves and get ready for Brazil this Sunday Afternoon to see our boys in their first Final of a FIFA sanctioned competition.