Both the US and Mexico tried to make it suspenseful, but it looks like Jack Warner managed to rig the final to get the most - really? Oh.
Hey, how come we never heard of this Adu kid before? Where's he been all this time?
Wednesday night's game was a pleasant non-surprise for the US. For a change, instead of playing badly and grinding out a result, the US played well and ground out a result. Panama was tough and aggressive, but the loss last week was an outlier based on the talent gap between them and the United States. The US, for a refreshing change, didn't make any painful or embarrassing mistakes. This wasn't simply the best US game of the tournament - this was a genuinely good performance.
Better late than never. Credit for this - and I realize it's painful to admit - goes to Bob Bradley. The decision to sit Landon yet again paid off so well that Bradley may decide to do it yet again. The decision to bring in Freddy Adu worked so well that Bradley may decide to start the guy. If you're Chepo de la Torre, how on earth do you scout the US? Does anyone outside the US team have any idea what the starting lineup will look like on Saturday?
"Well, gee, 4-5-1, it's worked so far." Great, but, who are the 5 and the 1? That's going to be pretty important for Mexico to plan against. If they spend all week planning for an offense that runs through Clint Dempsey, and all of a sudden there's Donovan again - that's going to require some pretty quick tactical adjustments.
How Bradley knew to stink up the field in group play and schedule the weddings of two players' sisters, I'll never know. That's why he's the coach. At this rate, he'll find a way to beat Ghana one day.
Although for the moment we'll settle for beating Mexico. If...and this is a big if...the US can produce the kind of sweet, sweet play that resulted in the goal, that stops being a fantasy.
You all saw it, and you don't need me to relive it for you, but what a fantastic sequence. Somebody somewhere took it upon themselves to teach Freddy Adu how to pass. Perhaps Peter Nowak and John Ellinger saw that perfect downfield bomb and threw their shoes at the screen in frustration, and perhaps there are some of my generation who still suffer from post-Freddy Hype Syndrome. (For our younger readers, Freddy Adu was once the most famous American soccer player, by a comfortable margin. He was so overhyped that he was on the cover of FIFA '10...wait, sorry, that was Kljestan.) And hey, maybe this is Freddy averaging one good game every four years or so, like clockwork.
Me, I'm hopping back on the Adu bandwagon. Yes, I saw his giveaway shortly after the goal, and I'm choosing to ignore it. He played noticeably well before and after. The story of Freddy's career is that he has been way, way too good for his peers, but not anywhere near prepared enough to play with adult professionals. It looks like he's addressed the second problem...yeah, based on twenty minutes against a middling CONCACAF foe, but two years ago who thought we'd ever get even that?
Then Landon's follow-up assist made Adu's pass look like a Howard goal kick in comparison. Has Landon played himself back into the starting lineup with an exclamation point - or sealed his later national team career as a super-sub? There are worse ways to spend your thirties than as Landon Gunnar Solskjaer.
Anyway, it was an absolutely breathtaking play, exactly the sort of thing that has won him the love of dozens and the grudging respect of millions. Stop me if I've told you this, but - I have no idea whether Landon is the best American player ever, since I can't for the life of me remember where I put my Best of Billy Gonsalves DVD collection. I just know that Donovan is the best American player I've ever seen.
Let's not fail to praise Clint Dempsey, whose goal celebration was mostly motion to credit Donovan. That was a fearless and determined finish to convert Landon's pass - and Dempsey made it look nearly effortless.
As far as the rest of the game - well, JP said it was a nail-biter, but maybe I was simply too complacent. Panama had a lot of energy and determination, but not a lot of effectiveness. Sure, they could have fluked in a goal, but by the last ten minutes, the US was passing the ball around the field at will. The United States was simply a better team than Panama. Goliath got two shots at David, and this time the stone missed.
And what looked like a Mexico coronation has turned back into a rivalry match. I think we're all looking forward to a hell of a match - and I certainly hope, like all of you, that Mexico wears those stupid black uniforms.