By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Yes, They Get It!!!!
MIAMI (BASN) — Last week I asked whether the players, the leaders & the coaches got it. They answered me with a resounding yes.
The United States claimed what could be the greatest win in the history of the National Team beating top ranked Spain 2-0 in the semifinals of the FIFA Confederations Cup.
The win ended Spanish side’s world record 35 match unbeaten streak and 15 game winning streak. The US now gets to Ease On Down the Road to the final where 5-time World Cup winner Brazil (1-0 winners over S. Africa in the other semi-final) awaits.
Say Say Say what you want but this was better than beating Colombia at the 1994 World Cup. Better than beating Argentina at the 1995 Copa America. Better then beating Brazil at the 1998 World Cup. Even better than Portugal at the 2002 World Cup.
When you consider how long it’s been since Spain lost a match (2006 claiming the European championship along the way) the pedigree of its players and how Bad the US were playing last week for the US to claim this scalp was simply unbelievable.
A Thriller so to speak.
I can’t even compare this to anything in American sports but suffice to say that people around heard about this result and were in a State of Shock such is the respect Spain has…and the lack of respect the United States commands in international soccer.
They Don’t Care About Us. And yet anyone who saw the game knows full well that the US didn’t simply luck their way into the final. They thoroughly deserved this victory, doing everything what needed to be done when the opportunity called.
There were so many different subplots coming into this match. Yes the US were impressive in beating a good Egyptian side but they were lucky to be here. They were considered afterthought, a speed bump if you will, along Spain’s road to the final where a showdown with Brazil surely awaited.
The Spanish looking to make history with a 16th win in a row and 36th match unbeaten. For the US there was Jozy Altidore, on the books at Villareal and loaned to second division Xerez but rarely getting off the bench.
There was Landon Donovan, saddled with a less than masculine derisive nickname needing to prove he his indeed big time. And the return of the captain Carlos Bocanegra, who had not played one minute of this tournament due to injury, lining up at left back where he plays for his club side (Rennes, France) but hadn’t played for the US since March of 2007.Yet the start of the match was even with both teams applying pressure and whizzing shots past the opposing teams goal. Tim Howard was the busier of the two, making saves very early in the match but the US continued to do what is necessary in matches against big time opponents: keep position of the ball, be patient, keep the ball moving on the ground.
It was excellent build up from the back that allowed the US to take the lead with Bocanegra winning a lose ball and playing it to Michael Bradley. He played a direct ball to Charley Davies on the left side line. One touching it out of the air to Clint Dempsey he got it back and played back to Dempsey in space, all on the ground, all with one touches.
Dempsey moved with the ball toward the middle and fed a cutting Altidore. Altidore used his strength to hold off his defender, Villareal’s Joan Capdevila and drilled his shot with enough force that Iker Casillas could only deflect hit off the left post and in. To this point the US had done everything right.
Spain now knew they were in for a long night and began to get hold of the ball and pressure the US’ back line. The US didn’t help as they began to lose patience on offense and give the ball away. But the lead held until halftime and the US, with an excellent record when leading at the break had to like their position.Spain opened the second half with increased ball pressure against the US and their technical ability began to show, launching wave after wave of attacks. If the Spanish were rattled by their deficit, they did not show it as they remained composed on the ball looking for areas to exploit.
But none was forthcoming. Tim Howard and the US’s back line of Jonathan Spector, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay Demerit and Bocanegra were heroic in the second half. All told the US faced 29 Dangerous shots from the relentless prowess of players like Fernando Torres, David Villa and Xavi but the US players literally flung themselves at the ball to deny Spain’s numerous opportunities.
Howard was especially immense in the second half.
Meanwhile the US had basically one real attack in the second half and made it count. Clint Dempsey intercepted a pass in the attacking third and the loose ball fell to Michael Bradley played right to left to cutting Benny (The Two Of Us need look no more…) Feilhaber, a second half substitute.
Feilhaber kept the ball at his feet running, faking three Spanish defenders and finally laying a pass to Donovan back on the right. Donovan tried to play in to the box but it was deflected. Spain’s Sergio Ramos had the ball at his feet but did not Dempsey was behind him.
Dempsey slid in like a Smooth Criminal and slotted the ball home.
Skill, patience, vision, perseverance, predatory instincts and little luck. It was all there on the second goal.
Bending but not breaking became the name of the game for the US as they withstood Spain’s continued attack. Yet the US held their nerve, surviving yet another questionable red card, this time to Michael Bradley who was told to to Walk Right Now.
This match had a little bit of everything for everyone. It had the US playing like a Top 15 team with its ball movement and attacking drive in the first half. It had Spain attempting to assert its superiority in the second only to be rebuffed by a heroic defensive stand time and time again by the back line and midfielders like Ricardo Clark, vilified for his red card in the first match but looking like a world beater in the last two matches.
A true underdog giving everything it had to defeat a team that is legitimately No. 1 in the world. It had the skill the US needed in the first half, the hard work and determination necessary in the second and even a suspect red card.
But above all else it provided statements. A statement from Altidore to all of Spain. A statement from the team to all of its critics (myself included) who questioned if they had what it took to be a top team.A Statement from Landon Donovan who appears to have thrown off the negative jives about his play in big matches by showing himself a true leader of this team, in effect saying Let Me Show You The Way To Go.
A statement for American soccer to the rest of the world ahead of next year’s World Cup. (Doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White…just American)
Certainly not lost on some were the statements made by Black players against a team whose fanbase has developed a reputation of racism in their stadiums. The strength and intelligence of Oguchi Onyewu. The skill of Altidore and Davies, the resolve of Ricardo Clark. The heroics of Tim Howard. They were all instrumental in this victory.
No matter what the US does on Sunday against Brazil, the US has finally shown what so many have been waiting for. The heart and skill of a Top Team ready to make its mark on the world.
I asked do they get it. I said I think they did. No I know they do.
Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough, USA.