In case you missed the "Battle of the Titans" last night (or, perhaps, "The Battle of the Titans B Teams"), here's the action:
[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMibH8qYjGw"]YouTube - Jan. 24, 2009: MNT vs. Sweden Highlights[/ame]
I'm not going to do some in-depth analysis kind of a thing, partly because there will be plenty of those out there this morning and partly because, with apologies to Dan, I just don't care that much.
Hey, I watched it. What else do you want?
The news this morning is, of course, Sasha Kljestan, and good for him. Gordon Strachan said yesterday that he HASN'T MADE UP HIS MIND YET regarding a bid, and maybe last night's performance will help him decide.
In truth, while any hat trick is quite an accomplishment, the three goals amounted to 1) a well placed Free Kick against a keeper who was, incredibly, giving up the entire left 3/4 of the goal, 2) a PK and 3) a gift goal created by Brian Ching that he managed not to blow.
Frankly, while everyone is going all fuzzy over Sasha, the only guy who floored me last night was Ching. Call it withdrawn forward or attacking mid or whatever else you want, the guy carried the offense on his back for 75 minutes while Sweden beat on him like a rented mule the entire time.
I've never been that excited about the guy as a frontrunner, but last night, as a ten shirt, he was clearly the best player on the field by about three miles.
(Not that he was perfect by any stretch - for example, just before the PK call he had Robbie Rogers with a wide open net on his left and sent the ball right, to a marked up Charlie Davies. But that's quibbling and I'm not going there.)
Otherwise, I am absolutely the last person on Earth who ever blames any keeper for anything but honesty forces me to say that Troy Perkins can't get beaten near post twice by a bunch of fuzzy-cheeked Swedes and expect to get many phone calls from Soccer House. The competition for #3 US keeper is way too tight to lay an egg like that out there for all the world to see.
And boy, if Marvell Wynne ever learns to play soccer he'll be something, won't he? As it is, it's a darn good thing that he has all that speed, because he frequently needs every bit of it to make up for a shocking lack of concentration and recognition. He badly needs a stretch overseas where quality players will fry his ass until he learns that it's not a track meet out there, it's football.
Unfortunately, the team the US faces 17 days from now in Columbus isn't going to be a bunch of blond guys named Sven, and last night told us precious little about how that one is going to go down.