ERIC ROSENBERG - Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Wouldn't it be cool if the US won the World Cup?
Yes, for some of us it would be. And it could happen.
Applying the logic of kindergarten teachers the world-over, we are, as of right now, in a tie for first.
However possible, is a good showing by the US and advancement to the later-rounds predictable? YA's tournament predictions notwithstanding, fans and journalists seem somewhat avoidant of the question.
The former, if message boards and bar chatter can serve as any indicator, have adopted an unexamined attitude of: "This is our team, now let's support them."
This approach reminds me of the lyrics to that song: "You are so beautiful to me." Which has always begged the addition of: "I don't care what anyone else says. The hump is very becoming."
I guess for the sake of decorum, that part is better left out.
But let's be honest. Yes, the team has my full support, as does my kindergartener, but that doesn't mean I think she can make a major difference against England.
The press, in many cases, is opting for tunnel vision in the former of player profiles, avoiding an analysis of the whole by looking at the parts from a perspective of human interest.
The Clint Dempsey story: from his humble beginnings as a one-armed, half-blind Texas subsistence farmer to his meteoric rise to folk-hero for the Fulham-faithful.
Or the perpetual Donovan madness: Is this his time to shine? Cue the theme music to Glee, as if he wasn't a household name in most of the US and hadn't already been playing at a relatively high professional level for over a decade.
True, a vocal minority is expressing their discontent at some of Bradley's roster choices, but interesting as the alternatives may have been, none of the omitted players were realistically vying for a place in the starting eleven.
So what is really going to happen this year?
In the fourteenth minute of the opening match against England, Clint Dempsey, adversities overcome, will launch a 30-yard missile of a ball careening off the crossbar and into the back of David James' head. The ball will ricochet off the left post (James' left, not Dempsey's) and into the path of an onrushing Altidore who will attempt a near-impossible diving-header, propelling himself into the back of the net and the ball across the touchline for a goal kick.
Although the missed opportunity will remain a disappointment, for the six people who read this article and remembered my prediction the moment will absolutely blow their minds.
My status thus cemented as a soccer Nostradamus, prescient in my anticipation of exact, albeit ultimately irrelevant moments of upcoming games, I will be hounded for the remainder of the tournament by reporters, spiritualists, truth-seekers and degenerate gamblers the world-over.
Vast sums of money will undoubtedly change hands.
Dining with kings, captains of industry at my beck and call, religious leaders lining-up to enlist in my growing legion of disciples, I will watch the finals from the protected confines of a luxury box, smiling serenely when, in the opening moments of the second half, as foretold, a corner-flag is upended by a missed slide-tackle and is, shortly thereafter, set back up again.
For me, it is going to be a great World Cup.
For the US team, I'm not so sure.
Dempsey, having faced great challenges, is a quality player. His poised, intelligent holding-play in the Europa League final, although ultimately futile, showed once again that he is capable of impacting an important game against world-class competition.
In combination with Donovan, Gomez and Altidore, chances will be created. Finishing ability will be the deciding factor on the offensive side.
This is often the case with US teams, since prevailing anti-americanism in global "football" has led biased referees to refuse us goals if we don't actually score.
Even without the global conspiracy to consider, it is important in soccer to score goals. A string of scoreless ties probably won't take us to the finals, and simply hoping for own-goals by our competitors seems like too much of a throwback to World Cups past.
My point is that finishing matters. Also, that it always strikes me as ridiculous when people say that finishing matters and then nod knowingly.
I know, it's pretty controversial stuff, but I am convinced that games cannot be won if we don't score goals. Also, evidence suggests that it is important to prevent the opposing team from doing the same.
And therein lies the rub. Our once-promising defense, heroes of the Confederations Cup, gods among men just one year ago, is in a physical shambles.
Onyewu and DeMerit, the twin towers of central defense, are both looking like they have barely played since last summer, perhaps due to the fact that they have barely played since last summer. Edu and Clark are going to have their work cut out for them trying to keep from exposing them at the back.
I'm not saying that no one else has noticed this fact, especially after the Australia friendly, or that they can't still mount a reasonable defense for large stretches of any given match. I also know that there are other players who can fill-in at the center, but who else has their international experience or achieved the level of play they exhibited the last time they were in South Africa?
A year ago I really thought we had something special on the backline. Now, I am worried.
Bocanegra is a solid leader on the left, but he needs support. With DeMerit and Gooch, we had three guys who were good in the air, experienced and physically able to hold their own.
They focused on the task at hand and got forward mostly on set plays, defenders there to defend, and that's good enough for me. If Bocanegra occasionally wanted to channel Dani Alves and journey into enemy territory, it was okay: such forays were few and far between, and the central defenders had him covered.
Only now, Onyewu and DeMerit are in need of a few more months' recovery time or, as a legitimate alternative, a time-travel device that could allow them to go back to the beginning of the season, avoid injury and get some good minutes for their clubs.
This same device might then provide Mr. Cherundolo the opportunity to pull a Timecop, go back a few years to when multiple injuries and the inevitable ravages of time had not taken their toll, allow his younger-self to kill him(self) off in dramatic fashion, travel to 2010 and take his rightful place on the right-hand side of the defense.
Old Dolo's noble sacrifice, known only to his teammates and alert readers of this column, would not be in vain. Younger Dolo can hold his own out there, and just think how great it would be to chuckle knowingly when Wynalda comments during the opening ceremony that he: "Looks terrific for a guy his age."
Now, I know what you are going to say and you may be right. It has been a long time since I've seen Timecop and I am hazy on a few of the details. I may be confusing it with The One.
I'm not a film critic, and it isn't my job to fact-check. Really, I'm just spit-balling here. But now that thinking caps are on, we may really have something, even without a time-travel option. I am talking, of course, of seven vs. seven.
Edu. He's pretty good. Had to work hard to break into the Rangers' team and he knows what it feels like to win a European league. (Which makes me wonder, now that you mention Scotland, if maybe I was thinking of Highlander.)
Either way, we put Edu in front of Bocanegra in front of Howard. That's a fine backbone. I have been happy with all our goalkeepers since we finally got rid of that playboy Meola, and Howard will no doubt come up big on big occasions this World Cup.
As a brief aside, who does he think he is, that Meola? Just because my girlfriend in 1994 thought he was cute doesn't give him the right to look all cool in that ponytail.
So there we have our starting three. Add Dempsey, life finally on the right track, and Donovan (maybe 2010 is his year!) running the show offensively, with Altidore up front, full of potential and Gomez providing us all with a recurring excuse to say: "Pachuca"... that could be an interesting seven-man team.
I am not trying to bash the other players. Okay, I am bashing some of them, but for the most part I just think that in order to hold our own on the world stage four or five other guys on any given day are going to have to play better than they ever have in their lives.
It is part of what makes watching the team exciting. They really are underdogs, but you can almost see them pulling off a string of upsets. There are some quality players, some experienced ones and a few youngsters with a lot at stake, playing in the biggest shop window the sporting world has to offer.
But relying on everything to come together, game after game, makes me decidedly nervous. Which is why, major changes to the rules of the game and the laws of physics aside, I do have a few more suggestions for Bradley.
I don't want to reveal too much, but let's just say that one plan involves holograms, and another pretty much consists of kicking Wayne Rooney repeatedly. Emails have been sent to appropriate members of the coaching staff. Credit need not be given.
Looking into the future, little is certain this time around, but it sure would be cool if we did well.
And whatever may come, this is our team - now let's support it.