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Fulham’s Dempsey And European Classmates Frustrated By Brazil

After Clint Dempsey moved to Fulham in 2007, his leap in quality was beyond remarkable. This was evidenced in his subsequent call-ups to the US national team. Stronger, defter, more confident. He was a new player. He’d already been a stand-out in Germany 2006, scoring the only non-own-goal for the US, but after his move to the Premier League, his ability, drive and influence on others seemed to escalate drastically in a short amount of time. His first season at The Academy EPL was already showing a return.

Overall, the schooling of US players abroad has been of great importance to the development of the national team. Bocanegra, Feilhaber, Beasley, Bradley, Adu and Edu have all been among those to join the likes of Everton’s Tim Howard in the diaspora of US talent. They ship out to strong leagues abroad and later bring their new prowess back to their national team.

The progress has been notable, and, under manager Bob Bradley, the US has looked the strongest it’s looked in ages.

Until yesterday.

Now, I did not expect the US to topple a Brazilian side who can pull both Kaka and Robinho off the gun rack any time they want. But four days earlier, a ten-man US admirably earned and converted a 41st minute penalty and then held Italy off until the 58th minute, when sub Giuseppe Rossi sparked the Azzurri comeback with a confident blast from distance.

The Italy won 3-1, but based on the way the US staved off the inevitable Italian goal fest until Italy made substitutions, I felt sure that if Ricardo Clark hadn’t seen red after his 33rd minute late tackle, the USA could have held their own against the standing World Cup Champions.

So while I knew Brazil would probably win. I still expected a decent performance from my countrymen.


The first goal came from a needless tackle and bad man marking on the set play. It happens. But the second goal was an absolute shock. The US won a corner kick (I repeat: the US won the corner), which they took short. Landon Donovan passed to DaMarcus Beasley who’s first touch had all the grace of a blindfolded, drunken water buffalo. Brazil gobbled up his mistake and the counterattack led to two Brazilians rushing toward one backpeddaling US defender. Robhino fired the second goal past Tim Howard, sealing the US defeat.

And Beasley’s touch wasn’t some fluke error. It simply came at the worst time and inspired the worst reaction. Throughout the first half, the US seemed to forget how to pass. A foolish dispossession here. Mistaking the touch-line for a teammate there. It was painful to watch.

The US would get another red card for Sacha Kljestan’s rash tackle  and Brazil would score another goal when Maicon found net off a sharp angle and a choice deflection.

By then, I wasn’t expecting a US miracle. I did hope they could sully Brazil’s clean sheet and carry away a modicum of pride.

Again, the ten-man side showed some grit and some shots went off the bar. But 3-0 was the final score.

If the FIFA Confederations Cup was to provide the thermometer reading for the US before the next World Cup, the boys are lukewarm. They need to get hot if they want to get past the 2010 group stage. Maybe the fact that they now need to beat Egypt by at least four goals for the chance to stay alive in the Confederations Cup will raise the temperature.

It wasn’t the act of losing to Brazil. It was the sloppy play that led to the first two goals. It was the lack of composure that saw two important players ejected in two matches.

I think the US were overwhelmed by the idea of Brazil. The reputation that preceded the heirs of Pelé was too much. The collection of mistakes and the disorientation that pervaded the US eleven raises big concerns on the eve of South Africa 2010. These concerns can be addressed with more seasoning in Europe.

In the face of total demolition, Dempsey, Feilhaber and Donovan, who all ply their trade in European leagues, kept their heads and looked the most likely to spark a US goal.

So, while it is bad for Major League Soccer in the short term, I’d like to see more of our players go to the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe. The step back our domestic league might take will lead to a step forward for American soccer on the whole. The boys will come back from school in Europe with great gifts for the national team that will filter down to every other level of the sport in this country.

What once seemed like an oddity, the American footballer in Europe, is now becoming a foregone conclusion: our best players will cross the Atlantic. Once they’ve shown their individual talents to the world, the clubs in England, Belgium, Germany and elsewhere will be willing to hire their services. As long as they eventually come back, this is a healthy development for the sport here in the States.

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  1. FredZ

    June 24, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Nice to see the US get through to the semis but that lucky result can’t hide how weak this squad is and the limits of Bradley’s talent as a manager. Not sure how anyone could seriously make the claim that the squad has had “notable” progress under Bradley. Bradley’s tactical decisions look to be getting worse over time. Were any USMNT fans surprised that Beasley was awful? I doubt it.

    I could go on and on about all of the poor player and formation decisions Bradley has made but instead I’ll just predict with total confidence that the US will not advance out of the group stage next summer with this moron in charge. We have one world class player (Howard) so there is a ceiling to what any manager could do with this shallow talent pool but I hope the USSF somehow manages to remove their heads from their rears long enough to find a quality manager once Bradley gets shown the door.

  2. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 21, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Actually Italy, Egypt and USA were all tied on points. So each was 1-1 against the others. GD would then have to be a determining factor.

  3. coachie

    June 21, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    can’t believe head-to-head isn’t amongst the first three tiebreakers. tuff break for italia. wednesday will be a bloodbath.

  4. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 20, 2009 at 9:21 am

    You guys can bag on MLS and I do it all the time, but the truth is this is the most European oriented squad the US has had since MLS was formed and is also easily the least competitive American team since MLS was formed.

    For example the 1999 Confederations Cup team that beat Germany, lost because of a missed PK to Brazil and finished 3rd had 13 MLS players. This team which is as bad as New Zealand thus far has 5 MLS players.

    Another example. The 2002 World Cup team which got the Quarterfinals featured 12 MLS players and this one features 5.

    The team that beat Brazil in the 1998 featured 17 MLS players while the team that got shredded by Brazil features 5.

    Detect a pattern? It’s not MLS even though the league clearly has slipped in quality with over expansion and losing mid level Americans but the US system, management decisions and tactics. That is the bottom line.

  5. Thomas

    June 19, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I tend to get overjoyed when I hear of a US player moving to Europe.

    I think that MLS has done an admirable job in improving, and has definately become watchable. It’s still far off form a top league…I’d even rate it below the Championship.

    It’s definitely not a coincidence that the best players on the USNT are in a European league.

    It really was laughable listening to Lalas try to hype MLS when Beckham came over here. As much as the MLS will impove, I still don’t ever think it will be a major league. Soccer fans in the US, at least based on myself and all my friends do not follow MLS. We may go to a match here or there because it’s all that there really is on offer. Everyone I know here supports a European club and follows that respective league.

    Hopefully MLS improves, providing a league that creates depth for the national team. The stars of the US should aspire to play in Europe, as I don’t see MLS being anywhere near the caliber of the top leagues, now, or in the future.

  6. Ian

    June 19, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    posted this on mls talk also in response to kartik’s excellent thread chronicling the decline of the US team which he says began in 2003 but I say began in 2005.

    The players on the field need to take some responsibility for their lack of commitment and effort. On Brazil’s second goal, after Beas loses the ball, I see Kljestan and Beas jog back at 75% rather than sprinting. How does someone dribbling the ball run faster than any American without? I thought we pride ourselves on fitness. Connor Casey gave absolutely no effort. He comes in as a sub to only play 45 minutes and can’t even apply a little pressure on the back line. And what is with Dempsey show boating down three goals? Do something effective like getting forward or defending or get off the pitch.
    Also, if Torres and Adu are not in the starting line up against Egypt then I might not even watch. Our defense and midfield is too poor to try to play a low scoring game against them. We have to throw everything forward with our skilled players.
    And why has there not been one criticism of Gooch? He may play well defensively, but he is just as well to blame for our offensive struggles as anyone. He can’t even make a pass to feet. He plays the ball long more than any international center back I have ever seen. That is the reason the US has played more long balls than any team in the tournament, including New Zealand. They also have connected on the least amount of long balls.
    It is too frustrating to watch Donovan be the only player who looks like he gives a damn in this tournament. He was dropping back in the final 20 minutes to defend because his team lacked the huevos and organization to hold Brazil in check at all. I feel like if I went out there tomorrow and just gave effort I would put in a better performance than half the team.
    And Klinsi will never coach the US as long as the clowns running our federation are in charge. Kartik, you might as well give that up now. He had ideas on how to change the bureaucracy and other rubbish and was told “we’re hiring Bradley instead.”
    This team is a disgrace. This decline may not have started in 2003 as Kartik chronicles here, but was clearly starting in 2005 when we jogged around Azteca after their two first half goals trying not to be embarrassed. The previous two qualifiers at Azteca we had given up one goal combined and gave up no goals down to ten men for about 70 minutes. That’s the game I’d point to as to when this collapse began. It was obvious to me that day in the toughest of circumstances the only setting you can judge in CONCACAF we had regressed from 97 and 01. Those who say this performance against Brazil wasn’t any worst than any other have never watched this national team when it’s been good and have been for lack of a better word Gulati-ized.
    This team is at its lowest point in 20 years. I agree with Phil Schoen on your podcast Kartik. The 1994 team would kill this one.
    Now as for you Ethan, you must be totally new to the USMNT to say they have played well under Bradley. Against the top teams: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Italy, etc the performances under Bradley have almost all been worse than the performances against the same teams under Arena or Sampson. That is a fact.
    As Phil Schoen said on MLS Talk yesterday this is the worst US team in 20 years. They are pathetic. I don’t care what euro club they play for- any keen observer of international football knows that’s not how you judge the international game anyhow.

  7. Ethan Armstrong

    June 19, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Yes I do watch and yes I do feel the team has improved under Bradley. Not everything is going to go perfect all the time, but since he’s taken over we’ve gotten decent results, with exceptions, and the team looks stronger to me than it did in 2006. When I said “ages” I didn’t mean since the middle ages.

    Bradley hasn’t faced sides like Italy and Brazil before. We played well against Italy (considering the ejection). We played horribly against Brazil. Seems a little quick to be asking for his head on a platter and a new manager.

    I’d like to see how he does in the World Cup. Hopefully the Brazil match is a wake-up call.

  8. kenny

    June 19, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    The progress has been notable, and, under manager Bob Bradley, the US has looked the strongest it’s looked in ages.

    Dude you must not be watching the games. WTF. They tied a terrible El Salvador team, got crushed by Costa Rica, and barely beat Honduras. This team does not play for Bradley. Go back to 2002 to see a good American team.

  9. jeremy34

    June 19, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Dempsey’s attitude is crap. I wouldn’t care if he was on the bench for every single game. I don’t care if he is one of our best offensive weapons or not.

  10. AtlantaPompey

    June 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Sending American players to Europe is fantastic for their development, but when they come back to the national team and are not in game shape, what good are they? These players need to follow Rossi’s example and go over when they are 12 and play in an academy. The problem with the US players is that their most formative, important developmental years were spent in the US, not in a world class developmental system. USSF is a joke.

    Having said that, this team is too talented to play this poorly. A big name, foreign coach who can get the tactics right would do wonders for this team. Just look what Bora Milutinuvic(sp?) did for Iraq. They went toe to toe with Spain, looking like they wanted to be there and knew what they were doing. I didn’t see that with the US against Brazil, and for only stretches against a slow, plodding Italian team that allows you to sit back and think for a second. You get no such chance against Brazil.

    Fundamental changes in the way the US develops young players is the only way that this will ever improve. I’m not holding my breath on that, though.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      June 19, 2009 at 1:58 pm

      Agree with your point about youth development. But we are far off from having a youth system anything like what they have in Europe. For now, players going abroad in their 20s is the best we can do. Is it ideal? No. But until we fortify the youth system and start building toward the “world class developmental system”, this is our best way to up the quality of the USMNT.

  11. Mark the Dog

    June 19, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Why has nobody mentioned anything about the manager? I feel we also need an manager with sufficient international experience to bring a team onto the field that usually isn’t the most talented and has to be a TEAM to win. Bradley seems to have gotten weaker with each game, not stronger.

  12. Tim Treacy

    June 19, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Ethan, well written. We have a similar discussion on our website (I’m not sure if you read it yet)
    but I completely agree that Americans playing in Europe (But only in the top divisions) is a massive plus for the game in the States. I’m not sure it will filter down to the roots of the game here in the states, it hasn’t in any other country that has its national team playing their club trade in another country.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      June 19, 2009 at 12:52 pm

      The filtering down has more potential in the US (whether it happens or not will take time to see) because the sport is not as entrenched in the culture here as it is in so many other parts of the world.

      The growth of US domestic interest gets a huge boost from international play. As the national team steadily improves, more neutrals seem take notice, and the interest can filter down to the MLS and eventually (hopefully) continue its way down to the grass-roots level.

      Conversely, it is because of the expansion of youth soccer in the US since the 70s that has seen the current generation of lovers of the game come of age and help give the game more attention in this country in recent years.

      Its a cycle that will hopefully continue to expand and more and more Americans will recognize the greatness of the sport.

  13. Jon-Jon

    June 19, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    I was talking with an obsessive US national team fan last night and we came to the conclusion that for the US to become a formidable force they need more field players in starting lineups in the big leagues. Just seems as though US has always been second rate. Except for those players that can use there hands in a regular basis. And until they get more first team action they won’t grow and learn the different situations. Also quit making Landon Donovan into something he isn’t. A world reknowned superstar. Also need to have some players with charater and leadership. It seems as though they are all relying on each other to take the lead and no one does. It’s sad. I wish they would become a challenge but sadly it maybe awhile before that dream comes to fruition. Sorry for any typos this was done on my iPhone waiting at the dentist office lol

  14. Soccergodlss

    June 19, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    um, you are incorrect about one thing. Donovan does not play in Europe. A pretty large overlook in my opinion.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      June 19, 2009 at 12:25 pm

      I was referring to his recent loan spell at Bayern Munich. You are correct in that I should not have used the present tense since his loan is over. But since he has had two stints in Germany (including the long one with Leverkusen), I feel my point of the European influence remains the same.

  15. Carl

    June 19, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I’d actually argue that we were totally listless against Brazil. I don’t even think I’d go so far as to say we played with “some” grit: none would be more apt.

    It’s hard to believe that we played so well against Italy for long periods of that game and then turned around and dropped a stinkbomb against Brazil.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      June 19, 2009 at 11:46 am


      I felt we came back a bit in the second half. I would not call it outstanding. I would not call it admirable. But we mustered up some decent attempts in light of all that had already gone wrong.

      Overall, it was the miserable play in the first half that did us in.

      Not at all what I was hoping or expecting to see.

      • Carl

        June 19, 2009 at 11:49 am

        True. We could definitely work on our setpieces a lot.

        Thank goodness the Pharaohs handed us a lifeline. A spirited performance using some fresh blood (Adu maybe?) could still get us into the next round.

  16. Jon-Jon

    June 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Blame it on the vuvuzela.

    • Ethan Armstrong

      June 19, 2009 at 11:44 am


      We’ll be dealing with vuvuzela in 2010 too. It’s all part of the test.

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