This was written June 28, 2009
Disappointment was written all over the faces of the Americans as the full time whistle was heard. Disappointment was deserved. After all, no one should be happy about giving up a 2-0 halftime lead.
But that’s just it. The Americans lost 3-2 to Brazil today in the Confederation’s Cup final. 3-2. They didn’t come out scared. They looked as if they belonged on the pitch. They deserved to be disappointed. And that, my friends, is a step in the right direction for American soccer.
Quite the accomplishment for a team that was embarrassed and on the brink of certain elimination just one week ago. Last week, Bob Bradley’s head was sitting on a stick. America did not look like a team that was ready to get out of the group round in the World Cup. The American team that took the pitch the last three games most certainly did.
To be frank, America earned respect today, both here in the states and abroad. No longer are we to be considered a mid-level team. No. America, though not a world-class squad, has to be looked at as a unit capable of taking down any side at any moment. They out-classed two top 5 teams for 135 consecutive minutes. Bradley’s tactics were impeccable. He knew the advantage of his crew was speed, not skill, and made sure those strengths were utilized.
He basically packed it into the middle of the pitch, and told both Brazil and Spain to cross the ball. Any loose stuff could be picked up and thrown down the pitch, where the speed of Davies, Altidore, Donovan, and Dempsey could counter. It worked to the tune of 4-0 over 135 minutes.
However, in the 2nd half of the championship, you could see the fatigue on the American’s faces. They were beat two different ways: skill and fitness. Brazil finally was able to make some spectacular crosses, putting America on their heels. They wore out the midfielders and defenders, and earned their victory due to simply being the superior team.
But America earned every bit of respect that they have gotten this past week. And they aren’t happy with just settling for second place. Said Donovan after the game, “We’re at the point where we don’t want respect, we want to win. There’s no guarantee we ever get back to a final game like this, so it’s disappointing.”
The next step for America is traveling to Mexico on August 12 for Round 6 of CONCACAF qualifying. Getting a draw on the road would be an immense result, considering the rivalry and the fact that Mexico really has their backs against the wall. The attitude of American soccer has changed. No longer are they going to play scared, which is huge when you consider the environments that they play in while traveling Central America and the Caribbean.
And of course the benchmark of success will be next summer when they go back to South Africa. They just got out of a group that featured Brazil and Italy – a group of death draw will be no excuse. It’s time to put up or shut up. Time to reaffirm American soccer on the worldwide map.