Just to be different, let's be happy and optimistic about the US men's national team. We're at sea, our best friend the volleyball has drowned – it's all good from here. Goodbye, Captain Bringdown, and hello, General Optimism!
"General" is his first name. He's actually a seaman apprentice. Long story.
Just to be exactly the same as everyone else, let's talk about Matt Miazga. His complete inability to accurately measure the height of a person who is standing directly in front of him should disqualify him from further surveying work.
Slightly more seriously. I encourage people to view the Youtube clip helpfully linked by Your Fellow Poster DefRef here. The conversation itself revolved around the red card that occurred later, but I want to point out one very crucial aspect that video shows, which still photographs of the incident do not.
Diego Lainez provoked Matt Miazga, not the other way round. Lainez closed the distance to Miazga. I'm not criticizing Lainez here in any case. He can assert himself on the field however he chooses, especially as a teenager with something to prove, during a game against a hated rival.
But it wasn't as if Miazga instigated the face-to-face – he was reacting. If someone that much smaller goes into rooster mode against him, I'm not going to be unhappy that Miazga didn't immediately fire back with a quip worthy of Oscar Wilde. I'm going to be happy that Miazga wasn't baited into a card and early shower.
Miazga was incorrect that tall, large people have nothing to fear from short, scrappy people – ask Goliath, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in "Game of Death." But I can understand how the first thing that popped into mind was to remind Lainez of the height difference.
I apologize if this seems like I'm splitting an angel's hair while standing on (or being) a pinhead, but to me the whole narrative changes depending on who, for want of a better term, "started" it. Still photographs show Lainez bravely standing up to Miazga – which to a large degree he was; I have no illusions that Miazga wasn't bumping Diego around a lot on the sequence preceding. The video shows Lainez – well, standing up for himself, sure, but at the same time provoking Miazga.
This puts an entirely different light on Miazga's reaction to Edson Alvarez storming up and bumping him. After all, Miazga was the (more) (slightly more) affronted party. Look at it this way – if Miazga had been intimidating Lainez out of nowhere, and then backed down to the larger Alvarez, that makes Miazga into quite the [anagram for "spine"]. But since Lainez started the confrontation, the Miazga was consistent. He didn't react violently to Lainez, and he didn't react violently to Alvarez. Heck, it was Lainez who fouled him in the first place.
And I don't have a problem with Alvarez sticking up for his teammate, quite the opposite. Alvarez may not even have seen that Lainez had started the situation, but was reacting to the optics. Like all of us did.
American fans treating this like Gooch Onyewu's cool, contemptuous dismissal of Jared Borgetti are misguided. From Cobi to Landon to Christian, we've got fun size players we love, too. If anyone tried that on Pulisic, we'd have brought down the clouds with our cries. Miazga did nothing to be ashamed of – neither did Lainez or Alvarez. But this is where the still pictures, as opposed to the video, tell a different story. US fans going into raptures of Miazga mismeasuring a smaller player makes us look stupid. Again, I apologize if I'm being an idiot about this, but to me there's a big difference between "Ha ha, you look ridiculous squaring up to me" and "Ha ha, you're short."
The video makes me glad Miazga's on our team. The photograph, out of context, makes Miazga look like a cartoon villain.
I think the reason our fan base embraced that visual so much is, well, cartoon villain is better than cartoon buffoon. We went into the weekend as the fat saps of the hemisphere. We ended the weekend as no match for Brazil and one goal better than Mexico, provided we're a man up. That's progress, but not much.
So, is it weak tea for US fans to get excited about a home win against an experimental squad playing a man down? Yup! When you've been crawling through a desert, weak tea is pretty darn refreshing! Gimme another glass!
Look, we weren't that far from the big weekend highlight being Yedlin asking the ref if he watched Neymar during the World Cup. Us optimists have to take what we can get.
At least the red card was a million percent legitimate. Angel Zaldivar – or, if you're the inexcusably sorry font Adidas uses to ruin Mexico's great jersey, 2ALOIUAA – didn't merely go in studs up, he raised his left leg to kick Trapp in the face. And this, not the height crack, is where Miazga showed his true worth as a gloateur.
Now that is an expression worthy of Onyewu, maybe even of Clint Dempsey. After the game, while Lainez was appropriately boring and non-committal after the game, Zaldivar kept on digging.
"You see what their values are, they don't know how to win," Zaldivar told Univision afterward. "They poked fun, [and] tried to play a dirty game that honestly we don't think is how you should play. That's their game and we couldn't do anything about it."
Jeff Bezos wishes he was that rich. Zaldivar has three caps for Mexico, and if he doesn't get his head right, he'll never see a fourth. The good news is that as a Chivas player he will have many more opportunities to deal with provocation – unless Club America-Guadalajara matches have changed a great deal from what I remember.
US fans look stupid when they're celebrating Miazga mocking Lainez for his height; and Mexico fans who rail against US fan classlessness – wow, that's a serious succession of sibilants – seem like they're trying to change the subject from the P-word goalkeeper chant. It's silly, and pointless, because the same incidents show positive aspects of both teams' players. Naturally, our fans zero in laser-like on the flaws, and call them virtues.
So, uh, who should coach? My ideal candidate combines a detailed, preferably encyclopedic, knowledge of the US talent pool worldwide, the presence and resume to command the respect of the players, and the tactical acumen of maybe not starting the same lineup in a bog on the road three days after – eh, you get the picture. I thought Bruce Arena was that guy, and that blew up in our faces.
The good news is – and considering literally one sentence ago I showed how bizarrely wrong I can be about this sort of thing, so, grainy salty time – Earnie Stewart is reasonably close to that ideal. He's certainly close enough for me to trust him to pick the right guy.
So, whoever Earnie picks, I'm going to be fine with and cheer on. Even if it's Juergen Klinsmann. (What? He's out of contract. Couldn't hurt to ask?)
My blind trust in Earnie is an overcorrection to previous blind trust in picks made by Sunil Gulati – anyone who has the opportunity to pick three coaches in a single cycle almost certainly should not have had that opportunity, if you catch my drift. Chris Klein isn't reading this, is he? At the time, I thought each of Bob Bradley, Juergen Klinsmann, and Bruce Arena's return were understandable, if not laudable. In retrospect, Gulati was not the correct man to make those choices.
(Neither am I, of course. As of this writing, I subscribe to the conventional wisdom that Bob Bradley was hard done by and should not have been fired. However, since I was at the 2011 Gold Cup Final and saw Jonathan Bornstein's Last Roundup, I'm pretty sure that my views on the subject contain multitudes, as the saying goes. Wasn't me protesting the Klinsmann hire back then, that's for sure.)
The other thing Stewart gives us is the chance to hire a big-name (read: non-American) coach, and get away with it. Coaches are egomaniacs, but Earnie should command enough respect, and take up enough of the scouting workload, to allow (let's be ridiculous for a moment) Arsene Wegner to coach players that he hasn't nurtured.
Actually, let's not be so ridiculous. Jon Arnold this week showed that we could have had Tuca Ferretti in the family for decades now. If Mexico is dumb enough to look elsewhere, we could do a LOT worse than to re-extend the invite. Might slow down our talent pool feverishly hitting refresh on 23andMe, at least.