So I’ve had a couple days to look back at the United States 2010 World Cup and it’s hard to ignore how close it was to complete disaster. If Michael Bradley volley went flying over the bar against Slovenia or if Algeria could have defended for one more minute, U.S. soccer would have had its disappointing World Cup ever. But the U.S. did put together two climatic last-minute finishes, which for the first time ever put the American public in a soccer frenzy.
Then came Ghana…
When the match kicked off I was 35,000 feet above the ground (I can’t articulate how pissed off I was). When I came back to Earth 35 minutes later I was feeling fairly confident. I was worried about how the U.S. was going to play in the final 30 minutes, since it played Algeria just 72 hours earlier. But the first 30 minutes? There’s no way the U.S. would come out flat. With maybe one or two exceptions, this was the biggest match any of the Americans had ever played. Plus, they’ve already started matches slowly and paid for it, surely they had learned their lesson.
Nope. When the planes’ wheels hit the tarmac I feverishly turned on my cell phone and saw the headline, “Ghana leads 1-0, goal in the 4th minute.” Errrrrrrrrrrr. How could this of happened? Then I remembered one of our center backs plays in the second division in England and the other is a left back in Ligue 1. Oh, healthy Oguchi Onyewu how I miss you.
I watched the second half at a sports bar inside the terminal at John Wayne Airport in Orange County (a surprisingly good place to watch). I sat down when I saw Benny Feilhaber was about to be subbed in. “Un-fuckin-believable,” I thought. “He started Robbie Findley.” Hoping I was wrong, I saw Findley’s name with a red arrow pointing down on the screen and I just shook my head.
(Tangent No. 1 — I have run out of ways to describe the absolute madness of Robbie Findley starting World Cup matches for the United States of American. In four years, when Tristian Bowen is lighting the World Cup on fire (you heard it hear first) commentators are going to say, “Just think, four years ago Robbie Findley was a starting forward on this team. Look how far the U.S. has come.”
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s really head-scratching why Bob Bradley got a pass by the media on continually putting Robbie Findley on the field in South Africa. I didn’t read one person write or say on television, “Wait, this is crazy. Robbie Findley can’t be in the starting 11.” Instead, I read stuff like this from Steve Goff about how Findley’s speed is a game-changer, his teammates love him, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes when reporters closely follow a team, and a have a personal relationship with the coach, it can be hard to question what he’s doing. I’ve been there before, I know. But that’s their job. Calling Findley out was an easy one. He’s always struggled with the national team and scored one goal for Real Salt Lake this season. Maybe if Grant Wahl, Ives Galarcep and Alexi Lalas all yelled at the top their lungs, “Starting Findley is bat shit crazy,” Bradley might have felt a little pressure and kept Findley on the bench. Probably not, but maybe.
The most disturbing statistic for the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup — Robbie Findley 167 minutes played, Stuart Holden 0 minutes played.)
The U.S. looked good from the opening whistle in the second half. The five-man midfield was able to hold the ball and though chances weren’t coming every second, I was feeling confident a goal would come. It did when Clint Dempsey nut-megged a Ghana defender before getting tripped in the box and Landon Donovan bounced the penalty kick off the post: U.S. 1, Ghana 1, the John Wayne Airport terminal goes wild.
(Tangent No. 2 – If I’m going to kill Bradley over Findley, I got to give him some credit for Jonathan Bornstein. Bornstein benefits from having extremely low expectations, but I thought he played well against Algeria and Ghana. Bornstein was the one U.S. player the media didn’t hesitate to criticize and he responded with a couple good games. Surprising, sure, but good for him.)
The goal seemed to jolt Ghana and it raised its game for the remainder of the second half. But the U.S. was still dangerous and if Michael Bradley took an extra touch before his shot or if Jozy Altidore didn’t flop one too many times and stayed on his feet when he got free on goal, maybe the U.S. scores and advances to the quarterfinals.
But the goal didn’t come and the U.S. biggest weakness (central defense) cost them a goal when Asamoya Gyan powered his way through Carlos Bocanegra before firing a shot over Tim Howard and in the net. That was about it. Feilhaber and Dempsey had shots blocked and the U.S. were out of the World Cup.
If the U.S. got stuck with the Netherlands or Argentina and lost 2-1 in extra time it would be a lot easier to swallow. Ghana isn’t Guatemala, but only advanced to the Round of 16 because of goal differential. With Michael Essien injured and Sully Muntari not fit enough to play a whole match, Ghana is just an average international soccer team. The U.S. were slight favorites and deservedly so.
(Tangent No. 3 — The U.S. wins if it starts the match in a 4-5-1. It was clear in the second half Ghana couldn’t matchup man-for-man, but with the extra midfielder in the first half it was able to dominate the tempo (I watched the first half later).
I’m going to give Bradley a break on starting Clark. He isn’t as good as Edu (which I have been stating for months), but Clark was the fresher body. For people who aren’t big soccer fans, soccer teams rarely play two games in three days, so fatigue was going to be a factor. Clearly, in retrospect, starting Clark was a mistake but Bradley deserves some credit for recognizing and getting him off the field before he could do any more damage.)
What also makes the loss painful was if the U.S. won it would be only slight underdogs against Uruguay; the U.S. would have had a legitimate chance of advancing the semifinals. If that were to happen, soccer would have exploded in the United States (we love winners). It still might, but the loss puts an anti-climatic end to an exciting World Cup for the U.S.
The over (2.5) in the Brazil\Holland match — $10 — to win $12.50.
Ghana and Uruguay to tie in 90 minutes (+210) — $10 — to win $21.
I’ve won and lost a couple future bets since my last post. There were less than 17.5 goals in Group G (there were 17) and Landon Donovan was the leading scorer for the U.S. (which I had $5 on at 4/1). I also had the over for goals by Chile in the group stages, which was 4 1/2 (it only scored) three and my 110/1 longshot — the predicted finish of Group G (Brazil, Portugal, North Korea, Ivory Coast — had a chance but North Korea could pull off the upset against North Korea. Overall, I won a grand total of $2.69.
Individual matches: 2-8 (lost $17.50)
Prop bets: 0-1 (lost $5)
Parlays: 1-2 (lost $15.68).
Over\Under: 3-2 (made $26.59).
Future: 3 pending, 4 wins, 3 losses — made $12.33 — $63 invested
Total: Made $.64.
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