Paul Caliguri had the shot heard round the world on this pitch, but tonight, Rico Clark had the shot that saved the US. With their backs against the wall the US responded after a poor first half.
In the second half tonight, the United States Men’s National Team showed the heart of a champion and the roar of a lion. The character shown by Bob Bradley’s side was not only impressive but it should have been inspiring to any American. This however, came after a first half that could have been filed away with some of the haters of this sport as to why they hate football (soccer).
Facing virtual elimination from the World Cup in a hostile environment which has historic significance, the US responded. Some people will claim the US continues to under perform, but to those fans I would respectfully state have vastly over rated the American talent pool. (As it turns out Costa Rica’s loss to El Salvador, which I predicted the other day has virtually assured the US a top three finish, thus an automatic World Cup berth. The US could still technically miss the World Cup, but it would take something akin to the parting of the Red Sea and crossing the Jordan River when flooded to do so.)
The US right now has arguably its least talented side since Bora Milutinonivc took his boys up to Mission Viejo. But Bradley has managed to scrape by with this rag tag bunch of players who lack the technical gifts of their predecessors and also seem to often lack the pride in wearing the shirt that previous US teams have demonstrated.
This team has no Claudio Reyna, nor John O’Brien type holding midfielder. This team has no Latin maestro like Tab Ramos. This team has no on-field vocal leader like John Harkes or Marcelo Balboa. And this team has only one classy wide/attacking player like Cobi Jones, Joe Max Moore or Earnie Stewart. That man is Landon Donovan, and without him the US would have missed qualification for the 2010 World Cup.
Tonight, Bob Bradley got his tactics and team sheet right. The US came out flying in the first ten minutes taking the game to the home standing Soca Warriors, and declaring a statement of intent. Bradley intended to play a high tempo, one touch passing game, which pinched the middle of the pitch. Instead, we saw an error prone, lazy American midfield get run over.