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Dempsey, Howard And USA Put Up A Great Fight In 3-2 Loss To Brazil

Q: Why did he mention Dempsey and Howard in the title?

A: It’s a sneaky writer’s trick. He name-dropped Americans who play in the Premier League to justify writing about USA v Brazil for

Q: Is that why he posted that hastily sketched drawing of Dempsey’s mug as well?

A: Yes indeed.

Is there such a thing as a great loss in football? As a Liverpool supporter, I am told I enjoyed two great draws this past season. 4-4 against Chelsea and 4-4 against Arsenal. I was too devastated by Liverpool being knocked out of the Champions League and sliding out of the title race to notice I enjoyed anything. Out of context, I can appreciate the matches’ greatness. The bombardment of goals. The tension and drama. I get it. But in light of the repercussions of a cup exit and key points dropped, these matches leave a bitter, clinging residue. It still stings to think about them.

Yet, as an American North American USAian Statesman, ahem… Yet, as a Yank, I can say I enjoyed the USA’s great loss to Brazil yesterday.

The first half was a dream. Jonathan Spector’s service was brilliant but Dempsey’s shot looked awkward. It bounced optimistically toward goal. I was positive Julio César had it covered. When it bounced just past his fingertips, I couldn’t believe it. USA were one-nil up on Brazil. I still felt sure we’d lose 4-1. But I’d said before the match I’d feel better losing 4-1 than another 3-0. And now we’d scored first. Beautiful.

The US continued with convincing possession and driving play.  And while Brazil created some chances in the first half, Tim Howard continually read the attacks perfectly. He snatched, scooped and punched the danger away each time it knocked on his door.

Then there were two USA players running down the Brazilian defense with loads of space. Almost a mirror image of Brazil’s charge off the failed US corner kick in the previous match. Charlie Davies had the ball out wide and Landon Donovan made the perfect run. Davies found him with a sharp pass past two defenders and Donovan turned his man before launching the ball into the far corner. Was this the same team that bumbled and stuttered against Brazil just ten days ago? Had the USA and Brazil players swapped shirts before the match instead of after? Would Real Madrid be making a €50m bid on Donovan? I considered dumping a glass of cold water over myself just to make sure I was awake.

If you’d told me before the match we were going to finish the half two nil up on Brazil, I would have hurled rotting vegetables at your head to teach you not to say such ridiculous things. But the whistle blew. And 2-0 was the score. I couldn’t relax though. If it had been 8-0 maybe I could have taken a deep breath and relaxed. Maybe. But I was still too elated for words.

A minute into the first half, and Luis Fabiano was there to guide me back down to earth with a stunner. His back to goal and defender Jay DeMerit, he spun toward the target, slinging the ball between DeMerit’s legs and past Tim Howard. DeMerit gave him too much room and the shot came off before Howard could process the ball’s movement. The keeper lunged but it was no use.

At this point, I thought the US could still prevail. Brazil had gotten one off, but if our boys kept their heads they could create another like the Dempsey or Donovan goal and we could win it 3-1.

But Fabiano’s goal had thrown our side off balance and Brazil would take advantage with blistering resolve.

Against Spain, the US were able to congest the box. There was plenty of room for Spain on each wing, but no one open in the box no matter how good the service. Against Brazil, this same space on the wing was an open invitation to an onslought. The Brazilians would just keep coming. Wave upon wave of attack. Another goal from Fabiano and one from Lúcio would smother my hopes. Kaká should have been credited with a goal as well, but Tim Howard got the ball out before the officials could see it had crossed the line.

Brazil’s goals stung my heart, but when the final whistle blew I wasn’t devastated. We’d had no business getting past the group stage. We’d had no business beating Spain. But there we were in the final against Brazil. We lost by a mere goal.

After the miserable group stage loss to Brazil which was plagued by horrible US passing and embarrassing concessions, all I wanted from yesterday was for the US to play well. They could lose to Brazil as long as it wasn’t a dismal display. The biggest problem the US had in the previous encounter was they let Brazil’s reputation overwhelm them. They played infinitely better against Spain, The Best Team in the World™. But Spain haven’t been The Best Team in the World™ long enough for the US to let it shake their psychology. They kept their heads and managed an upset.

Brazil have been Brazil for decades. It’s not just that they are great players, but their legend is a long-standing institution which looms large. The idea of Brazil put the US on the back foot even before the opening whistle of the group stage match. That the US were able to overcome this psychological hurdle yesterday and play out of their skin and go two nil up is massive. An important leap before South Africa 2010.

I didn’t expect us to win the final. But then I didn’t expect us to escape the group stage and I certainly didn’t expect us to oust Spain. So yesterday I was open to the boys flipping my reality on its head one last time. Which they did, if only in the first half.

Thanks for giving me that dream, boys. The Brazilian comeback may have been inevitable. But the great fight of the first half was pure joy and a big step for the future of team USA.

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  1. chris

    June 30, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    So you think brasil acutally played good this whole tournament ?….I just dont think so…and not just this tournament they havent played like brasil used to play in thier qualifers. I am pretty sure if brasil met up with England, Or Spain or whoever they would have some real big problems…I am also pretty sure Dunga was sitting over wondering if he was going to have his job at the end of this game. But he turned out pretty lucky…you know there is a problem when brasilians are critizing how they are playing. Why would brasilians critize thier team if they were doing so great and awsome hahaha they would have no reason to. So there is obviously a problem. I am acutally a fan of the brasilian team but as a fan i have been disapointed in them. its also obvious we are not on the same level as brasil but we can compete with them and we have the talent to. I just know when it comes world cup time i think we will be fine and i think brasil may have problems…It may have been stunning for you to see the way they played in the second half. But if i was brasilian I would have said that should have never happened we should have been up 2-nil or 3- nil at halftime. Im prolly postive every Brasilian would say that. So the brasilians have a problem that they are letting teams do this. they are weak, and they arent always going to be able to come back from being 2 down. theres going to be a team out there thats going to not let them come back. for all i know if we meet up with brasil again its will prolly be us not letting them come back no matter how much they throw at us. Im acutally hoping our fellow english men will meet them soon. if the USA dosent get it done I turn to our family across the pond.

  2. Andrei

    June 30, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    @Chris I think you are reflecting on the trend that the playing field in the world soccer is evening. Today, any team can pull an upset if it shows enough heart and stars align. But it doesn’t mean that the top teams have less talent. And on Sunday the way Brazil played in the second half was just stunning. Very few teams if any could have pulled something like that. In the semifinal, Spain was in the better position going into the second half. You know the result. More importantly, they didn’t come even close to the level of intensity and attacking power that Brazil showed.

    As for the US team – yes we can win. If we don’t tire out, if we catch some breaks, if we don’t get silly red cards for reckless tackles – lots of ifs. Not taking anything away from the US performance against Spain and Brazil what I saw in this tournament is a one dimensional team that can get a result if everything goes it’s way. Any deviation from the script and things start rapidly falling apart. Btw does anyone remember last time USMNT came from behind being down by 2 at the half time in the meaningful game?

  3. chris

    June 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    Anton, Those stats mean nothing if you cant get shit done. Spain took all those shots and never acutally hit one. with a team that is susspose to be that good they had better hit them.

    I think your terribley mistken by the USA team…we can compete with the best in the world.

    by the way we may have 2 guys coming to the team one Mexican American that plays for the Mexican National team and the other German American that plays for the German National team which they will be very good additon to the team.

    So you prolly should stop the critizing of the USA team. You will end up like my brasilians friends..when we went up 2-nil…shittin thier pants.

  4. anton

    June 30, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    of course i’m discounting the style. with this kind of reverse brainthink, we might soon be saying that stoke city was better than arsenal last season and relegated middlesbrough was better than liverpool. the defend / counter-attack approach never proves how good you are at actual football. it is at best a cheap tactic that is like playing russian roulette for teams with little real skill. sometimes it might get you the lucky win but most of the time you get the loss you deserve. anybody can create a wall in front of goal. that is not skill. skill is being able to control the ball and create chances. the sheer magnitude of chances created, possession, combined with the offside stats shows which team has real skill in this match IMHO. When USA can come an hold its own in the possession and attacking game, they will prove they actually have the SKILL to win matches consistently. Until then, they will have to resort to a cheap counter-attacking policy that may advance them at most to a certain level and the occasional lucky win.
    That’s my argument in full.

    Stats prove skill, not who will win the game. USA still has a long way to go on the world scene.

  5. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    June 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Anton- I agree with the above comments. As someone who has watched the USMNT for the better part of 25 years I think you are discounting the way the US has played from a style standpoint. Yes stats can tell a story but not the whole story. Spain outshot the USA 29-9. Brazil 31-9. Does that mean Spain’s performance was nearly as efficient as Brazil’s? Brazil had about 10 good shots on goal, Spain had maybe 2 (Shots on target is one of the most misleading stats in football. Spain had a lot of shots on target but not many shots that would have beaten the keeper unless it is “calamity” James.)

    USA having 41% of the possession is actually faily high given the style we play. That’s an ode to Dunga’s new Brazilian style. In the game the US won 1998, the US had 34% possession and was outshot 24-4 and shots on target were 14-1.

  6. anton

    June 30, 2009 at 4:14 pm

    stats never tell the story. that’s a first. please come back from your american soccer world and enter the real football world. idiot. i’ve never followed american sports in my life.

    9 Shots 31
    4 Shots on goal 13
    41% Possession (%) 59%

    the only way that doesn’t tell you something is if you can’t read. those stats tell me that brasil has far superior ball control and morement skills.

  7. chris

    June 30, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I mean the Brasilain team is always going to have some kind talent always. they will always be somewhat good but from the looks of it there is nobody there that is shock and awe and will be able to jsut run over teams like they used to. I never said the brasilian team is worse than the USA team. I think they are not that great. we showed that we can compete with them and give them hell in a match and can beat them . Im saying Brasil has alot of work to do and there are btter teams than them. and yes i will say that we arent the best in the world, I will admit that. but we are making our way there…and i think the Brasilians day of being one of the best teams in the world is gone. Its also obvious that if we didnt tire out from such an agressive and attacking and countering mode in the first half we would have won that game. because we would still have a whole lot of gas to do the same thing we did in the first half if we didnt tire out. It was very noticeable, its not like we didnt have the talent. It very easy to loose a game when your tired and cant keep up. We are perfectley able to compete with anybody and get the job done and win games agains the best. we just need to work on smaller things and learn how to balance out when to do things and just not coming out like a bat out of hell and run out of gas. if you get what im saying.

  8. Andrei

    June 30, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @Chris, are you saying that USMNT was up 2 against not so good Brazilian team and still managed to loose?

    @John Harris, yes stats never tell the whole story but it helps in countering some claims that US dominated in the first half. Yes, US played well but dominating the game – I don’t think so.

  9. John Harris

    June 30, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Anton, spouting statistics in the way you have just exposes the fact that you don’t understand football. Stats are for the geeks who like American sports. A free flowing game with real tactics like football doesn’t need stats to tell the story. For years the USMNT has relied on organization defensively and counter attacking and has tended to cede possession against good opponents and away from him in qualifying. Spain outshot the USA 29-9 yet had what I would describe as one stone cold chance to score a goal. Otherwise most of the chances were 1/2 chances or from tight angles when our defense was spaced well and the keeper was in position.

    Stats NEVER tell the story in football.

  10. Andrew

    June 30, 2009 at 10:14 am

    so after how many of these great job but you let up a 2 nil lead but we are still proud do we start to expect more?
    I say 3?

  11. chris

    June 30, 2009 at 12:34 am

    I am just wanting to see the mens team get into the world cup and come in and play like they were playing in the semi finals and finals. if they do this and work on the smaller things they were talking about then we will be fine. what i hated was my brasilian friends rubbing this in my face, for one thing I dont think brasil now days are just not the team they used to be. It has been shown in this tournament and the game they played against paraguay and really all thier qualifers. I have watched thier qualifers on tv and while watching i was thinking to myself arent they susspose to be dominating these teams. I realize how diffacult the South American Region is. but I also thought Brasil was a real big dominating team. The game they played in Ecuador was horrible they managed to draw with them. the game against Peru they had that one won…the game against Urauguay…they played good but slacked like they did against Egypt but didnt let any goals happen. The Paraguay game…I will say they were prolly lucky they won that game. So I do not see brasil going far in this world cup if they qaulify. I do know they are sitting on the top of the table in the South American Region but anything can happen. I see Spain becoming the team that people will have to watch out for even though we beat them. I just see something more from Spain than i do from Brasil. I cant quite place it but Spain see to have more control of things than Brasil do…I dunno maybe i am crazy. But I just disliked it when my Brasilian friends seem to think that we were never going to win that game. and they wasnt saying anything until they scored. So I know that they know we have talent and they wasnt going to admit that we were on our way to beating them and didnt know how the game was going to end up, like they usally would with any other team brasil were playing.

  12. Thomas

    June 29, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    I think most teams, especially managed by a good manager, know the US approach. We do it against all the good teams we play. It’s no different than any other team that is inferior in terms of talent. Of course we are going to sit back, defend, and hit teams on the counter.

    More than anything, I think the last 3 games gave our guys a huge boost in confidence.

    To put a positive spin on the loss: At least it seems our guys are very hungry to continue to go out and prove they belong. Had they won, it would have been great, but there’s a chance for complacency.

    Spain, and the first half against Brasil gave us the confidence to know we can compete. But it also humbled us. We have to continue to work hard to get better.

    Overall, I was proud of the way the team played. A win would have been magnificent, but none the less, this was a great game to watch.

  13. anton

    June 29, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    didn’t prove a thing other than how slow brazil’s defenders are and their early over commitment. if anything it proved the amazing fire-power and confidence of a brazilian side and its commitment to attacking football. if brazil had played like the usa played the first half, you would have seen a 2-0 or 3-0 win. You begin to see the difference in fire-power when you consider it should have been 4-2 as kaka’s goal was obviously a goal. I also proved that tim howard is one of the best keepers in the world. the amount of punishment he took in the first half without allowing a goal was amazing.

    it also proved how sub-par the brazilians defense it. Thank goodness they more than made up for it with offense. It becomes even more clear how much better brazil was than the USA when considering the stats:

    USA (USA) Statistics Brazil (BRA)
    9 Shots 31
    4 Shots on goal 13
    2 Goals Scored 3
    17 Fouls Committed 11
    11 Fouls Suffered 15
    5 Corner kicks 10
    9 Free kicks Shots (scored) 21
    0 / 0 Penalty Kicks (Goals/Shots) 0 / 0
    1 Offsides 6
    0 Own goals 0
    1 Yellow cards 3
    0 Second yellow card and red card 0
    0 Red Cards 0
    27 Actual playing time 40
    41% Possession (%) 59%

    So we have a USA that falls to costa rica and a USA than can beat spain. They seem very efficient at converting easy goals. What I see here is not how good the USA is, but how stupid brasil and spain are in underestimating the USA’s speed on counter-attack. I have a feeling that now that the cat is out of the bag, teams will line up tactically against the USA much differently, and the overnight success of the US team will be nullified once again.

  14. edgar

    June 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Wow! What an article! Exactly how i feel word for word. Thanks.

  15. chris

    June 29, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Our guys did so great in this game…I knew they had it in them to compete with the best of best in the world. we showed brasil that they should prolly never ever think we will be a push over no more. Spain knows this now. And I think everybody now should know the Spain game was no fluke considering how we played aginst Brasil. Anybody can make statments well Spain made mistakes blah blah this. Well the fact is we shut spain down from scoring and we took advantage of the chances we had to score. Same thing we did against Brasil. Also in this game I believe the Brasilians are not as good as people think they are. This whole tournament I thought they played horriable, If your brasilian I would think you would have been expectng brasil to play better than they did in this tournament. To almost get beat by egypt has to be an complete disgrace. I dont think they have the amazing talent like they have had in the past years. and It has been shown that the Brasilians can be beat by anybody, they are not just plum “amazing”. So I think the USA is back to thier winning ways like the way they was before the costa rica game. We have shown we will be good contenders for next summers world cup and nobody should overlook us. We have everything to be proud of with this tournament result. We can back from the bottom of the table wanting to get somewheres and we did that. nobody cant take that away from us.

    ps. I bet there was alot of brasilians in brasil shitting thier pants yesterday. im sure they thought ahhh we will beat USA with ease lol. I guess they will prolly think twice about that.

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