Disappointing, troubling, worrisome. If that's the form the team shows up with in June, it'll be a very, very short trip, and the repercussions will be terrible to behold. Too often, we saw players completely lose focus and imagination, and fall back on brainless hackery. There might have been bright spots, but it's hard to pick them out after two hours of gloom. Not acceptable, not nearly. Three months might not be enough time to make things right.
But enough about Holland.
This is exactly what the United States needed, and as a fan, I'm delighted.
Let's start with the ref. Sure, he was more a celebrity chef than a FIFA ref, with that star-struck home cooking he was serving up. That foul De Jong put on Holden was a bigger red than Alger Hiss, and everyone knew it.
Welcome to the big time, kids. Was it Lalas or Harkes who said that foul would be called in the World Cup? I hesitate before contradicting Hall of Famers who, after all, played in World Cups, but no way in hell is that foul called in the World Cup. Not in favor of the underdogs, unless they're the home team. Brazil gets that call. South Africa gets that call. The United States? We have to suck it up and keep playing.
Refs cannot help the United States, they can only hurt. Assume we're playing against twelve, or fourteen, and we'll be better off. That penalty Bornstein gave up, that you're all so mad at? John Terry will do worse, and will skate like Nancy Kerrigan. Much better to know this now, than in June.
We nearly didn't learn that lesson. Michael Bradley, for example, tried to take his revenge on De Jong in the second half. Not that Harkes or Dellacamera noticed, but it was an attempt at an identical foul, complete with the lead foot studs up. If Michael had connected, he'd probably have been suspended for six games. The coach really ought to talk to him. Credit to De Jong for avoiding the kick, I suppose. Now THAT foul will be called in June. And so will dives like the one Jozy tried to pull in the second half. Other than that, though, the US kept is collective head. Out of all the things I wanted to see out of our players, in-game intelligence was near the top. I'll sleep much easier tonight, loss or no loss.
Hey, speaking of the second half. That was exactly what we all needed to see. The team didn't fold, they kept to their gameplan, they controlled most of the half. In Amsterdam. That's actually really good.
Sure, maybe they thought 2-0 was safe, and maybe the "For God's Sake, Don't Get Injured!" sign went up at the ArenA. I dunno, though - the Dutch want World Cup spots as much as DaMarcus Beasley does.
This is probably a good time to do the 180 on Beasley. He may very well stink it up later, but by Jupiter, that's how you win a roster spot.
So who lost their spots?
I think it's brutal, but fair, to judge one game as more important than two or three years of qualifiers, for two reasons. (1) This is the Church of What's Happening Now. The goals you scored against Barbados mean nothing to Slovenia, let alone England. The World Cup is like any tournament - the hot team with the hot players wins. Bruce Arena put in hot players in 2002, put in cold players in 2006. Simple as that. (2) A "play well or else" scenario is no way to judge a club player who has to contribute over the course of a season. It's a little more accurate for the World Cup pressure cooker. The best way to simulate that is one unfair game against Holland, rather than a home game against El Salvador.
So Findley is out. He should have probably been out several games ago - his appearances have been getting worse, not better. If he wasn't a forward, he wouldn't have gotten this far. Of the guys who lost their spots today, he has by far the least complaint.
Torres...well, he's an Internet darling, so this is going to be a hard pill for all of us to swallow. But let's face it. The one guy with the vote took him out at halftime. Before Findley, even. That sure was a neat shot, and if it had gone in, we'd all be talking about how he's going to be legendary. Yeah, you or I probably would put this performance against freaking Holland ahead of Kljestan's AMAZING! performance against whoever the hell it was last week. But the US played better with him off the field. Whatever it was Bob wanted him to do, Bob didn't think he did it.
Bornstein probably lost his spot when Sneijder dove...but you know, maybe he won it back when he helped Howard break up that Elia run early in the second half. The second goal, though, was clearly God saying he hates Bornstein. If Bob wants to take on God, that's his business. I say drop him over the side and let the whale take care of him. Maybe Honduras can naturalize him.
I'll tell you one thing I really didn't need to see, though. Ads for Holland and Belgium's World Cup bid for 2018 or 2022. In English, for the love of God. Why on earth would ESPN broadcast ads for a World Cup bid competitor?
I was infuriated, like you. Until I went to their website. Guess who is in charge of their bid.
Go on. Guess.
Okay. Think of a soccer personality who you wouldn't trust to get two rabbits to ********. First guy that comes to mind.
Okay, no, not Chinaglia.
Hint? Let's see. Former coach.
Former MLS coach.
Let's hope he has just as much success in this endeavor as he did in his last one.