Seven Up, and Out

Mad that we lost? Hell no! I wish we had lost by more, so I could have more to write about. I don't want to make tough choices, I want victims and scapegoats!

Like Sunil Gulati, or at least the person responsible for the splash pages on ussoccer.com. As of 8:00 am Pacific time Tuesday morning, we were told the Czech Republic game would be on ESPN2. Hope you all enjoyed your WNBA action, fans!

If I had been the coach, I would have gathered all the bubble players together, and let everyone know that whatever they did or didn't do before tonight does not matter. Everything comes down to this one game.

I know that's not how a sane person would approach the game, but how else do you replicate the pressure of the World Cup? If the second and third line guys are going to snap like dry twigs under pressure, I want to know about it long before I go on national television and name the best twenty-three players in the country.

Of course, if I were the coach, tonight or tomorrow morning (oops - this morning, I guess), I'd have to tell five guys that this is the hardest part of the job. I'm thinking those five guys are Chad Marshall, Robbie Findley, Ricardo Clark, Alejandro Bedoya, and Heath Pearce.

With Chad, Rico and Robbie - well, there must be a reason they didn't see the field. I know Jonathan Spector didn't play, either, but I think his spot was fairly secure. I would have cut Bornstein, and done it cheerfully. But Heath Pearce was a freaking lemon out there tonight, and again, the premise is, this is your World Cup game. Apparently, this is how Pearce handles pressure. So I think that saved Bornstein...who wasn't exactly dazzling in the first half, mind you. Please tell me why Carlos Bocanegra isn't our starting left back.

And I just did not see enough from Bedoya. Bedoya was a longshot's longshot to make it anyway. I needed to see him make something happen. Buddle did, Herculez Gomez did. I thought Robbie Rogers had a terrific game. Bedoya? I don't think he played well enough to displace Torres or Beasley. (And I don't think Torres or Beasley played well at all.)

After I broke it to those five players, the next thing I do is ask one of them on their way out to tell Eddie Johnson and Sacha Kljestan if they could please see me in my office. Cutting those guys is the easiest part of the job.

(On a side note - did you see the Adam Spangler's site where Sacha and his dad are still mad at Steve Sampson for cutting him from a U-17 team seven or eight years ago? I guess fans are supposed to go, "Steve Sampson? I don't like Steve Sampson! Sacha Kljestan doesn't like Steve Sampson! Therefore, I now like Sacha Kljestan!" I think the only thing I liked more is the theory that Kljestan's hat trick against Sweden cost him the Celtic transfer. Because if there's one thing European teams hate, it's guys who score.)

However, I'm not in charge, and so Bob is probably going to read Sacha Kljestan's name on SportsCenter. Doesn't mean he did anything to balance out the killing floor of his qualifying campaign. I do, on the other hand, hold out hope that Bradley is as sick of Eddie Johnson as I am.
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By the way, this game was a classic example of one of the biggest problems in the sport right now - professional fouls in the midfield that kill the other team's attack, and go effectively unpunished.

I'd love to see a FIFA mandate that this sort of thing gets treated as what it is - deliberate foul play, punishable every single time with a card. Long stretches of the US-Ceska game were completely unwatchable, and that was by design, a deliberate plan on the part of both coaches, enthusiastically embraced by the players. But the game is too important to be left to coaches and players.

Whistling free kicks does nothing, because the attack is already ruined. Not calling the foul only encourages weaker, slower teams to use the midfield foul as an equalizer. The only solution is a bunch of yellow cards early in games, early in the new season, so teams have plenty of time to adjust.

Sadly, this means huge swathes of the World Cup are going to objectively suck, because there's no chance of cracking down on this before June. Yes, it'll be worth it for those moments of brilliance, but that's not the point, the point is, there should be more moments like that.