US soccer is touches away from being competitive with the top countries in the world. Playing at world class level that is no small feat and more work than it may seem, but we are getting there. I find no need to summarize the game. I feel bad for you if you missed it. This tournament showed that our defense can make mistakes, we struggle to possess the ball in the middle, and we lack a natural goal scorer who just seems to find new ways to put the ball away. This tournament also showed that we can hang with the likes of Ronaldo, Gyan, Mueller, and Hazard. Yes some of those names still hurt us, but in no match did we have no chance to win. Bradley struggled all tournament, but his energy and chipped ball over top did lead to the teenager Julian Green scoring a goal that gave the US hope for almost 15 more minutes at the end there. Up top it was a shame to lose Altidore. Dempsey had moments of greatness and it will be interesting to see if he vies for a place in the team for the next World Cup when he is 35. Tim Howard is as good as his performance against Belgium. That was no fluke. He’s the reason we were in every game and he showed that he is absolutely a top 5 keeper in the world. At 35, I hate to think that he may have seen his last minutes at the World Cup. The future looks extremely promising though. Yedlin did a great job today, Julian Green gave us a preview of next World Cup, and Altidore, Brooks, Chandler, Diskerud, and Johannsson are all also under 25. Also the younger US teams have continued to feature greater talent and the MLS as a whole improves every year. It was something else watching these four games. I can’t wait to see what we bring to the tournament for years from now.
Getting the point was crucial, but we all know it should have been three. My reaction to Varela’s last second header was very similar to my reaction to Austin River’s last second three to beat UNC at the Dean Done in 2012. I’m not one much for screaming or fanatics. I’m an internalizer. I made my lunch for today, took a shower, and went to sleep. Used as few words with my parents as possible. I hadn’t been so frustrated about a sports result probably since that February night after the basketball game in 2012. I still remember turning off the tv, walking past my parents without saying a word, and lying face down in my bed until I ultimately fell asleep. It’s funny that I had to look up who scored that goal for Portugal because all we heard about was Cristiano. It was a nice ball. I thought the US played exceptionally well overall. Only two big mistakes. The problem is you can’t make big mistakes in the World Cup. The first one is obviously don’t let the arguably best player in the world have the ball for like 20 more seconds and we’re on to the knockout round. Second, the whiff of a clearance that lead to Nani’s early goal. Howard seemed to go down early in anticipation of a low shot to the far post which opened up the goal about as much as it possibly can be while still having someone in between the goal and the ball. I really wasn’t worried about that goal though. You never want to give up a goal, but I remembered how I felt after Dempsey scored so early against Ghana. They were going to start bringing the heat. We were the better team both halves. I refuse to describe Jones’ goal as anything less than a wonder strike. It was one of the nicer goals so far this tournament. From just outside the box, his ability to hit it with pace as well as curve it around the defender and have it come back to side net was beautiful. I’ll remind you again that I said Zusi would be an important player for us. I absolutely thought he was putting to ball on frame, but the chip pass to Dempsey was fantastic for the second goal. Besides the goals, Dempsey is the man. He’s the most talented player on our team and he’s just a no nonsense, hard worker. Obviously I wasn’t happy with the outcome, but a win against Ghana and a draw against Portugal is already way more than many expected out of the boys of Stars and Stripes. Funny enough after that finish last night, US supporters will find themselves cheering for Portugal against Ghana although a tie is preferred for less cardiac stress. The game against Germany should be more than interesting. Both teams advance with a tie. Even the simultaneous group matches can’t prevent collusion. I’m not suggesting anything of the sort will happen, only that in this case I’m more than welcoming of a 0-0 tie. Last night’s match was the most viewed soccer game in the US ever. It’s really fun to watch so many people get behind this team and I think United States soccer will be something for other countries to fear in the not so distant future.