I HONESTLY thought we were tanking this game. Not just resting, but actively trying to avoid winning.
I understood giving Adu and Edu and Altidore and all the other good players a rest (wait, sorry, that is every good player), because the second round had been clinched, and there's no way to know who the easier team in the semifinal will be.
Then I thought, "Wait, why does Sacha Kljestan keep trying to set up the Honduras offense? Wait! It's brilliant! If we finish second, there's no way we can play Mexico until the final!"
Not only that, but a second-place finish would encourage Guatemala to lay down for Canada, guaranteeing that Mexico doesn't even make it to the Olympics.
Logistically, this assumes that Guatemala has been watching the first round, and would think that the US is still the more dangerous opponent, the way I still think of Mexico as the more dangerous opponent - in other words, in the face of all evidence.
THEN I thought, hold on, the last thing in the world we want is for Hugo Sanchez to be fired. So tanking would be the dumbest thing we could do. Maybe - and work with me here - maybe it is worth actually failing to qualify for the Olympics twice running, at the hands of our most hated rival...if it means getting Hugo as the opposing coach for qualifying.
Three points, in the Azteca. Doesn't that sound GOOD?
Fine, then. What were YOU thinking while watching Chad "Twelve Shins" Barrett have more bad touches than a Neverland slumber party? You try to tell me your mind wasn't wandering during that game, and I'll call you a liar in front of God and your goldfish.
Besides, I'm not the only one to impugn the motives of the teams. Michael Lewis played the anonymous sources card over on MLSnet, saying "some observers felt perhaps Honduras was trying to avoid Mexico in the next round." Why wouldn't we be as equally motivated to poop in the flower bed?
Occam's Razor suggests, then, that last night was two middling-to-below average teams trying their very best, without risking injury. It's sure more fun and reassuring to think Charlie Davies JUST MISSING the broad side of a barn was the result of a Cunning Plan, though.
Absent any evidence, then, I have no basis to call for the end to the all-important semifinal, meaningless final system we've been using, except it gives rise to speculation on the part of dumbasses with too much free time *cough*. But the system is pretty ripe for abuse. Even a little thing like the final game of the group being played when every other result is known is asking for trouble - West Germany-Austria, 1982 kind of trouble.
Yes, group play is over, and Tomorrow Is Another Day. So it shouldn't hurt anyone's feelings when I say that we actually should have lost on merit - the Honduras goal in the first half was technically offside, since the Honduras player didn't or couldn't get up after Cervi clocked him. But talk about an "Oh, COME ON" offside call. There must be something in the Laws of the Game along the lines of "except if the defenders have all either been beat like dusty carpets or have run into each other like bumper cars, because COME ON." (In light of that, why did Lewis - sorry, "some observers" - think Honduras was phoning it in? They got the ball in the net during the run of play, at least. Oh, well.)