As the US team prepares to face Ghana in the round of 16, and the rest of us recover from yesterday’s game and steel ourselves for Saturday, a few random thoughts:
Neven Subotic can now work on his tan. Subotic joins Giuseppe Rossi as potential American soccer players who would have had a far more satisfying tournament had they chosen differently. Rossi is the striker that was born in New Jersey who was cut from the Italian team at the last minute. Subotic is the Serbian-born American who played on the US U-17 team before declaring himself for Serbia. Had both of them declared for the US senior team, they would both be likely starters against Ghana on Saturday. Gloating would be ungenerous on our part, but many US fans can’t help but smile a little at how well this summer is going for the US team and how disappointing it must be for Rossi and Subotic.
Donovan is the local boy who made good. As a LA Galaxy season ticket holder, I have no illusion about where the Galaxy and Landon Donovan fall in the local sports pecking order. This is Kobe’s town, and the great local rivalry is not the Galaxy vs. Chivas but UCLA vs. USC. Having such a skilled and gracious athlete like Donovan toil in the relative obscurity of MLS is a reality that Galaxy fans confront with every game. Fans know that Donovan, when interviewed, is as honest an athlete as your are bound to find. They also know that despite his effort and loyalty to the Galaxy, you are likely to see 20 Beckham shirts for every Donovan jersey. He has always had a great personal rapport with the fans and was largely overlooked outside of the Home Depot Center. To see him have such a glorious moment yesterday brings a special satisfaction to MLS fans in general Galaxy supporters in particular.
It had been a long time since the US had taken a lead in a meaningful game. You have to go back to October 10, 2009 against Honduras. Since then, through the last WCQ game against Costa Rica and the three World Cup Group C games, the US is undefeated but had gone over 360 minutes without having their nose in front of their opponent. It says something remarkable about this sport when the US can play three World Cup games and be behind or even for all but three minutes and still win the group.
The US is owed a break from the Soccer Gods. Bad referee calls are as much a part of soccer as round balls and green grass. Officiating mistakes are an unavoidable fixture of the sport, and I try hard not to get too fussed about them. Nevertheless, after scoring two goals that were incorrectly disallowed, getting two yellow cards (to Findley and Beasley) for hand balls that were never handled, and having a penalty and red card for a fist in Clint Dempsey’s face go unnoticed, we are ready for a break. If the Law of Averages would be so kind, I would not mind collecting some of that payback on Saturday.
Ghana’s run kind of reminds me of the US run in 2002. Ghana won its opening game against a good European team (Serbia), drew its next game against a Pacific based team (Australia), and then lost against another European team (Germany) and qualified thanks to some help from others. That is almost the same pattern as the US run eight years ago (beat Portugal, drew South Korea and lost to Poland). Let’s hope the similarities end there.