EDGAR ZUNIGA - Thursday, June 25, 2009
Let me begin by first stating that no matter what anyone says or claims, no one could have predicted what happened in the last two games.

As if rising from the abyss of elimination against Egypt was not big enough, the US then shocked the world.

Raise your hands - anyone - who thought the US could have defeated the No. 1 team in the world, the European Champions, Spain.

That's right…no one! This is why the 2-0 victory over Spain, breaking their 35-game unbeaten streak, is overwhelmingly staggering. At best, we were hoping for a respectable defeat.

So, all of you coming after me with torches and pitchforks, who are you kidding?

This is not the same team that just a few weeks ago got throttled by Costa Rica, and just this past week was taken to the shed by Italy and Brazil.

After the match against Brazil, I was simmering. In the back of my mind, I was cooking up something mighty vile and strong - and well-deserved. After getting whooped by Italy and Brazil, a six-goal swing was unthinkable.

I understand that I was very harsh in my last column, but someone has to be. US Soccer has way too much potential and resources to be mismanaged to the ground. The US media is too soft on the US Soccer Federation and the coaching staff. Someone has to take them to task.

After those first two games, it was sad to see that my worst fears were being realized. The only time Team USA looked like they had anything going for them was in that first half against Italy.

Understandably, the combination of being a man down and Judas - I mean, Giuseppe Rossi - was too much to overcome in the second half. But, when Brazil just ran over the US, it was apparent that there was no drive and no imagination. The US players looked like they were back in Saprissa - lost and scared. And, as usual, Bob was blinking.

Somewhere, fans were screaming for his head and there were cries all over the land for US Soccer to get on the phone with Jurgen Klinsmann or Felipe Scolari to take over before it was too late.

Then, the improbable happened. Bob finally found a winning formula and Team USA remembered to bring their proverbial balls to the field. As they should have done in every game, they fought and scratched for every inch of the field and rolled 3-0 over a very confident Egyptian squad that was still riding the high of defeating Italy. That is the US team that we have come to love and support. That is the US team that we have come to expect.

What sparked this radical change? They had become a completely different team and it was perceptible from the first minute.

Even so, there was no guarantee that Brazil would defeat World Cup Champions Italy, even less, smash them by the same score.

That stuff just doesn't happen…or does it?

Shades of World Cup 2002…thanks, South Korea.

Thanks, Brazil. That set up the match with Spain and US Soccer history.

Simply amazing.

This is why we love sports. Games are not won on paper; they are won on the field, where grit, courage and who-knows-what can overcome statistics and pedigree.
This victory shocked everyone, including ourselves.

However, getting to the final won't be enough. Now, the US has to win the Confederations Cup. Why get this far only to lose? Win the damn thing! Bring home a trophy!

However, even if the US does not win, the Confederations Cup will, largely, be seen as a major positive for US Soccer and Bob.

What then?

Well, one thing's for sure. The Federation will most likely give Bob more room to experiment and make mistakes and will be content with him taking the team to the World Cup.

Yes, beating Spain is hugely significant; this win has captured the attention of the nation, at least for a few days.

Nevertheless, what I said in my previous column hasn't changed. Despite the gutsy performances by the US against Egypt and Spain, our talent pool seems so shallow. It will take excellent performances from our current crop of players in every match from here on out to prove otherwise, and that the last two games have not been flukes.

Remember, this is the same team that nearly got smothered by El Salvador, just a few months ago. If Bob and the US are to be taken seriously, they will have to supersede CONCACAF and continue gauging their progress on a global scale. The victories over Egypt and Spain are a great start.

However, when a team hits such peaks and valleys, it is difficult to predict what exactly will happen next. Maybe the last few months have only been a speed bump, and the US is actually on the way to success at the World Cup and international prominence. Bob and company have sure slapped a smile on my face the last couple of games.

If only they played like this all the time.

Maybe they can carry this success to Estadio Azteca and finally beat Mexico there.

Remember that metaphor about the sleeping giant that woke up only to go back to sleep? Is it safe to say the giant woke up again? Or is sleep-walking?

If only they played like this all the time.

What's it going to take for the US to keep this up?

I mentioned in my last column that US Soccer fans should demand more because we deserve more. I mentioned that we all want to say that our team can compete with the world's best without having the Euro snobs mocking our team.

Well, take that, Spain! But, it's not enough. You know that somewhere right now, some Englishman or some Italian dude is laughing at Spain's loss and brushing off the US victory as a stroke of luck.

It is my most sincere hope that the US keeps proving the critics wrong, myself included.

Even with these two great victories, I am not totally convinced that Bob has what it takes to guide the US to prominence in the World Cup. To me, these victories were more the result of that gritty, balls-out attitude that is characteristic of great US teams of the past.

Although I expected doom and gloom for the US in the Confederations Cup, it never felt so damn good to be wrong.
Barry U
Thursday June 25, 2009 9:07 am
Glad to see you saw that you might have been a little harsh in your last article. I think your comment about the pool being shallow is right in some ways but i think that when fully healthy the place we are really weak at is striker. When we add Edu, Ching, Frankie and Dolo from injury. Add Jermaine Jones for the first time. Beasley gets his confidence back. Then we have pretty deep pool. Then we have guys that are getting looks in the Gold Cup like Lichaj and White then Marcus Tracy, Alejandro Bedoya getting minutes in Europe. These guys could be on 22 or 23 in WC2010.

Very happy with the win. Solid performance in the final would be great. Hopefully a win at Azteca will also make this a year to remember.
Thursday June 25, 2009 9:07 am

Get off the bandwagon. You weren´t here from the start. You clearly misjudged the heart of an American. Back off! Too late now for the support.
Spain were ready
Thursday June 25, 2009 9:03 am
I disagree with people who says Spain had an Off day. The reason for that is we didn't allow them to play their game. If we had just attacked, and allowed them to do their amazing passing game, it wouldn't have worked.

We defended remarkably, and showed teeth going forward. I honestly think Spain would have beaten Brazil in the final, because Brazil would have been busy playing their game, and Xavi could have passed their unhelped defense to pieces. Brazil can be beaten, sometimes spectacularly, by clinical play. Remember 98 vs France?

But we set out, not to show how amazing our big name midfielders are, because we don't really have any, but to disrupt their offensive engine. We shut down their best playmakers, and our defense handled the wide play and their two strikers.

AND we looked very good in the attack, and turned the screw. In the second half, we layed everything on the defense, and we still won. Great to see Boca playing out wide.

Go USA!!!
Thursday June 25, 2009 8:48 am
Zuniga is right on in this article. We rose to the challenge. Everyone. The fans by daring the coach and the team to step up or get out of the way. The coach by demanding the best out of the players. The players, by doing what they know how and doing it to the best of their abilities. That is all that we can demand from our national team. It was enough on Wednesday. It may be enough on Sunday. It may be enough all the way through to next summer. We did our best and for that we should be proud.
Thursday June 25, 2009 8:27 am
Bradley's persistance in playing Beasley who was so obviously out of form still makes me think that he is out of touch with his team. The improvement came when Beasley went.
Thursday June 25, 2009 8:07 am
I am so happy about the team and what they accomplished.

However, think about the moves that Bradley has made this tournament. He made them BECAUSE HE HAD NO CHOICE!!!!!! If there were no injury problems, you would still have Hejduk at right back, Bocanegra in the middle, and Bornstein or Beasley on the left. Spector and DeMerit would not have played and blossomed as they have.

He still is too loyal to the players who underachieve. Davies has been a good choice but do you think he would have a chance if Ching didn't get hurt?

I am happy that Feilhaber is getting moe of a chance to play. If he plays Klejstein instead of Feilhaber on Sunday, it sends a bad message to everyone about who he favors and not who is best suited to play. We need someone who can handle the ball under pressure. And what happened to Torres?

I will always be rooting for this team, and I know that Bradley will be the coach through the WC. But when that's over, he has to go.
Thursday June 25, 2009 7:47 am
I think it's been good to hold somebody's feet to the fire! I don't care what anyone says now, great though those victories were, they played like S*** against Brazil *before* they got a players sent off.

And we may have beaten Spain on the day, but there is no doubt Spain had an off day. Look how many shots Howard would normally be picking out of the back of the net that either were shanked or were hit right to him.

We still cough the ball up way too much under pressure. The only one who was consistent about holding the ball was Donovan. I noticed a couple of times when he dribbled out of trouble with 3 Spaniards around him.

But, I think at last we have a lineup that's almost right with Bocanegra finally giving us someone on the left wing (though we'll see how he does against a Brazil and a winger like Maicon. Spector is another good addition if it is really true that DeMerit can hold down the other centerback spot. But our midfielders just can't hold the ball - maybe when that German guy gets here we'll have some help.

Meanwhile I'm afraid Bradley will take the wrong lesson from the last two games as Davies is not ready for a regular starting role. I think he makes a great sub off the bench, but its' clear that the most dangerous duo right now are Altidore and Dempsey up top with Feilhaber in the middle.
Douglas Morris
Thursday June 25, 2009 5:56 am
I could not agree with you more. It never felt so good to be wrong. I too had been lambasting Bob and the US team on this site and with my friends, but am happy they have risen to the moment and lived up to their potential. You are right, the holes still exist -- not much of a bench, very few real finishers, suspect defending at times, and very questionable coaching -- but this is a game to be proud of, a game to build on.

Way to go USA.

Doug (Expat Fan in Italy) Morris
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