Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brazil 3, USA 0 Analysis

To quote The Iron Sheik, "America, Ptooey." Once again, the US succumbed to a shockingly early goal, and an overzealous, stupid foul, leading to a somewhat harsh red card, leaving the US down a man for a good chunk of the game. Both of those aspects should sound familiar--one part Costa Rica, one part Italy games coming together against an opponent that is far too talented to give one such mistake, nevermind two or three or four.

The frustrating thing is that the US didn't look horrible for long stretches of this game. Of course, a good chunk of their best offense came when they were already down 3-0, and Brazil had already started thinking about Italy--Feilhaber came awfully close to making my prediction exact with an absolute thunderclap from the top of the box that banged off the bottom of the crossbar. The Answer to the Question No One Asked, Conor Casey, also had a header skip off the top of the bar (oh, and Jere Longman of the NY Times? Casey's header was hardly "lashed", but we will get to you in a bit).

But the US made some more of the same stupid mistakes we've seen from them for the past few weeks. Michael Bradley, who has somehow escaped criticism despite play that seems spazzy and stupid at times, helped set up the first goal by attempting to correct his own giveaway by fouling a Brazilian about 30 yards away from goal, setting up a free kick that made it 1-0 in a hurry. Yes, Spector lost his mark on the free kick, but the US knew that they couldn't give away free kicks to Brazil in their zone.

The contrast of the 2nd goal, and the way it was talked about is particularly galling to me. Yes, it was a short corner kick that Beasley let roll under his foot, helping to start a Brazilian counterattack. Harkes jumped on that as proof that Beasley was no damn good, and the US braintrust agreed, swapping him out at half with the at best clumsy, at worst comically overmatched Conor Casey. Longman in the NY Times also spits some venom at Beasley: "He made an elemental mistake that led to Brazil's second goal" and later calls the mistake "amateur."

That's all well and good and accurate, but even in a lengthy discussion of the first goal, there's no mention of exactly who got that foul called on him--and it was Michael Bradley. There's a lot of chatter about how Brazilians were diving, but look--Bradley got the ball taken off of him, raced back, and put his hand on Maicon's shoulder. Maicon sold it, but guess what--you aren't allowed to reach forward and put your hand on your opponent's shoulder. If they choose to go down, that's your problem, not theirs.

Here's the problem I have--both Bradley and Beasley made mistakes. Beasley made his 20 yards away from the opponent's goal--blaming him for an 80 yard counter-attack that was not once slowed by a US defender at any stage seems silly to me. I blame tactics in part--Bradley apparently talked at length with his team about the dangerous Brazilian counterattack, but did nothing special to address it--otherwise, how does a turnover 80 yards from your own goal become a easy 2-on-1 finish a few seconds later? Even if Beasley handles that ball, and feeds it into the mixer, the counter-attack could have broken the exact same way. The US was pressing on that cornerkick like it was the 85th minute, not the 20th. That does not excuse Beasley's brain fart, but good God--as a defender, I would never blame a goal on a turnover inside the other team's defensive zone, no matter what the circumstances were. Brazil was much, much faster than the US, and they did nothing to compensate for it. I don't see Beasley's mistake as more egregious than Bradley's, and yet no one is talking about how stupid it is to put your hands, with your arms outstretched, from behind, on an attacker 30 yards from goal. They could.

Oh, and yes, Klejstan's Red Card was a Yellow Card, at best, much like Rico Clark's was against Italy in the first game. Guess what--this tournament is an exhibition, in the middle of World Cup qualifying. Acting shocked that the referees were (more than likely) told to put a tight rein on the professional fouls is just stupid. Know the situation, USA, and don't dive in, cleats up, after the ball has left. Also, Clint Dempsey? Dribbling until you fall over doesn't count as offense.

Ugh. Technically, even though the US has lost their first two of three games by a combined 6-1, they still have a chance to advance, thanks to Egypt beating Italy 1-0 today. But the US would have to beat Egypt, and I don't know that they can do that--Egypt has played very well--scaring the fuck out of Brazil, and beating Italy at their own game of the 1-0 match. Fully expect the US to exit the Confederations Cup with zero points. Let's hope they can get their shit together in a hurry.

Bob Bradley is most definitely on the hot seat if they lose in the kind of fashion I kind of expect them to lose to Egypt.

In other news, the Brazil - Italy tilt should be a barn-burner. Italy needs that win, and I'm sure that while Brazil would normally not take that game too seriously, they haven't officially punched their ticket to the next round, and they will be playing the defending World Cup champions. Motivation enough to match Italy's motivation, I should think.

I should also quickly point out that despite the rumors I am going to start, Brazilian Head Coach Dunga is not actually Joaquim de Almeida of Desperado and Clear and Present Danger fame.

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