Sure, when I left the bar, I was pretty unhappy. But in the time it took to drive home, I was able to focus on the positives - the United States gave us four brave and exciting performances, and helped show this country what soccer, and American soccer, could really be all about. And although it would have been nice for the US to stick around longer, maybe some of the new fans the US national team has made will decide to stick around for the rest of the World Cup. Because really, the excitement is just....
No, on second thought, I'm still pissed off.
But let's do focus on the positives, however dim the silver linings may seem right now.
Topic one. Based not only on this afternoon's game, but on previous games, Uruguay would have killed us. I realize that Forlan and Suarez are fops, but they would have absolutely eaten our cheese for us. Every single goal we gave up in this tournament was on a ridiculous defensive mistake. Imagine what a team that can actually shoot would have done to our back line. That's not much of a bright side, but I'd kinda rather go out in a tough loss in the Round of 16 than in a quarterfinal embarrassment.
I suppose if Ghana goes on to win the World Cup, then we can say we were good enough to take the eventual champions to extra time, and would have won if we didn't start the wrong guys. But I think Ghana isn't going to do any better against Uruguay than we would have, and we were spared having our defense exposed repeatedly.
Topic two - on the "Did you go out like a bitch?" scale, this was pretty acceptable. The US came back, yet again. The US looked great in the second half, yet again. People may look back on 2006 and see parallels, but the United States needed to win that group game outright, and were frankly not a credible threat to do so. This year's team was absolutely good enough to beat Ghana. If we had started the right players. But I'm trying to stay positive here.
Topic three - you, long-time soccer fan, seem to have lost patience with speculations about when your fellow Americans will finally embrace the sport. Which makes my eyes rain (sorry, another Tropic Thunder reference), because I love that kind of navel-gazing guesswork. C'est la life. But like the Confederations Cup last year, this didn't advance support of the game so much as reveal support for the game. At least, the game as played by the United States men's national team. What we're seeing is the new baseline for Nats support, and it's only going to get bigger and better.
Unless we fail to make a World Cup. In a related story, let's don't join CONMEBOL. What do you hate more - Jack Warner, or seeing national team World Cup qualifying games played at Torrance High? Yeah, thought so.
Topic four - either Darke or Harkes made the point about the bright future for the US. Once you get past however many of the Ghana game's starters you would enjoy seeing drowned, and once you get past that if our future is bright, Mexico's is positively luminescent - this is absolutely correct. Tim Howard will be around for maybe another two World Cup cycles, in the unlikely event that absolutely no one challenges him. On this roster alone, Altidore, Feilhaber, Bornstein, Bradley, Torres, Spector, Edu, Holden, and (sigh) Findley will be less than 30 in the next World Cup. Donovan and Dempsey will be in their early thirties.
We have to rebuild the back line pretty much from scratch, but, the good news is, we get to rebuild the back line pretty much from scratch. Fine, so I'll stop looking back in anger for a minute - Gooch at 32 might still be good to go. Cherundolo at 35 - not so much. DeMerit at 34 and Bocanegra at 35 - well, how well did DeMerit at 30 and Bocanegra at 31 do on the god-damned winning goal?
Sorry. Staying positive. Anyway, there's a core to build around, assuming Omar Gonzalez progresses according to all our wildest dreams, and we clone him a couple of times.
EDIT - and assuming the team survives partying with Bill Clinton and Mick Jagger. Partying with Mick Jagger sunk the entire NASL. Mick and the Big Dog? This could make Hunter S. Thompson's bat country look like "Little House on the Prairie."
Topic five. We can all get excited about the direction our new coach will take us! Yay!
I actually hate now having to join the Haters' Choir, but - okay, starting DeMerit was understandable, because - nothing against Clarence Goodson, but I've got lots of things against Clarence Goodson. Starting Robbie Findley was slightly less understandable - in other words, insane. Yes, his speed was a factor - he missed those shots very quickly. Starting Clark was incomprehensible. If it's not fair to say Bob Bradley lost this game, then it's probably never fair to credit or blame a coach for anything.
The best reason not to replace Bradley is how incredibly easy it would be for the USSF to do much, much worse. And if you think, like me, that the US doesn't have what you would call a particularly deep talent pool, then you really need to think twice before dumping a guy who has, by that definition, overachieved. Also by this definition, Bob Bradley did a much better job than, say, Marcello Lippi, Sven-Goran Eriksson, or Raymond Domenech.
Still, he started Clark over Edu or Feilhaber, and that cost him the game. Ask not what Bob Bradley can do for you, ask what Sigi Schmid or Dominic Kinnear or Steve Nicol can do for your country.
Would I be heartbroken if Bradley stayed? No, but I'd be surprised.
Topic seven - I think people exaggerate the importance of American soccer getting respect from the international soccer community. They don't buy tickets or jerseys, after all. And I think we found out today that the importance of winning the group is pretty minor. Didn't help Mexico in 2002, either. Still, if there were to be a situation where, I don't know, the United States were bidding for the World Cup against, I don't know, England - well, that might conceivably be an instance where being able to point to group standings might come in handy. It's all going to come down to bribes anyway, but maybe now the bribes won't have to be so large.
Topic eight - we'll see how many tickets Landon Donovan sells from here on in. MLS does have a pretty solid, no questions asked star to work with out of this tournament. Of course, he was around all this time, and the Galaxy have had a bunch of empty seats. But it beats trying to build an ad campaign around, say, David Beckham.