Although the US got on board right after the rooster crowed with Landon Donovan's twine kisser less than a minute in, the squad really wasn't clicking on all cylinders until the end of the first half. There was much confusion between defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jimmy Conrad, who looked about as stumped as Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton on an episode of Jeopardy! The Ecuadoreans acquitted themselves well as they kept the US defenders flat-footed until the Gold and Blue ultimately ran out of 93 octane around the 50th minute. Give Ecuadorean forwards Caicedo and Carlos Tenoriouch credit for really giving the Americans a formidable test, and quite honestly, forcing Bob Bradley's boys to drop it into fifth gear a few times.
The most impressive aspect of the game besides the Landon Donovan hat trick was the string of one-touch passing in the midfield. Playing refined and rather beautifully at times, this appeared to be a different look for the squad, perhaps due to the newbies (Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley). A preview of coming attractions? I certainly hope so.
Along the same lines, the one touch passing and more attack-minded soccer on display has changed my opinion of the US Men's National Team coaching situation. Before yesterday, I held the opinion that Bob Bradley wasn't the man for the job. I stand corrected. If yesterday’s game was indicative of how the team will be playing during the upcoming Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments, then Bradley has shown that the dreaded "interim" tag is no longer deserved. Give the man the job already, Sunil. Bradley has yet to lose, and has beaten two pretty good teams. Too much has been invested to turn back and start from scratch. And I don't care if Jurgen Klinsmann has a sudden change of heart...Bradley has already shown he is capable. What's the phrase I'm thinking of? Oh yeah...one in the hand is better than two in the bush. Give Bradley the job already, and be done with it. I haven't seen this kind of indecision since Colie kept waffling between her boyfriend and Alex on the Real World Denver.
Landon, Landon, Landon (one for each goal)...where was this little goal-scoring streak of yours last summer? Dude, you go off on a goal scoring heist (5 goals in 3 games in 2007) and you have alot of people wondering "What's with this guy?" Please, rip that damn "Hello, My Name Is: Inconsistent" label of your chest and continue your brilliant play throughout the summer. Please Landycakes, do this when it really counts!
Along with the great flashes of brilliance, there were some unfortunate lowlights. You could see Clint Dempsey wanted to open it up a bit, but just couldn't find his rhythm. Same thing for his buddy Eddie Johnson. Both of them are much better than what they’ve showed during the past two games.
Welcome back, DeMarcus Beasly. Glad you could join us this time around.
If you want to know what I thought about those Orlando Magic-like pinstriped jerseys, refer to my previous post on this very topic. And yes, I still feel the same way, even after watching them in action under the warm sunny Tampa sun. They still suck. I just hope the team doesn't feel that these sweatshop specials are somehow lucky and wear them again and again.
How about that Raymond James Stadium pitch? It looked like Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia had a chip-shot competition there the day before. Some of the passes uncomfortably took lives of their own, causing more missed connections than a Jet Blue flight. As I was watching the US-El Salvador U-17 game (which also took place at RJS) on ussoccer.com over my Corn Flakes and OJ before the US-Ecuador lunchtime tilt, there were more than a few instances where many passes were bouncing and diverting from their intended destinations. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the primary tenant of Raymond James, haven't played a snap there since December. And even though there were a handful of college bowl games played there in January, one would have to believe that there would still be plenty of time to prepare the pitch for soccer. There's no excuse for these sub-par field conditions.
Speaking of the Bucs...how annoyed was Bruce Arena at Dave O'Brien's comparison of Oguchi Onyewu to a football player (namely Bucs receiver Michael Clayton)? Yes, Bruce, we know you're fed up with the mundane comparison, but do us a favor and just suck it up, please. We soccer fans were all newbies at one point, and if a simple (albeit, exhausted) comparison of Gooch's stature to that of a football player induces some tangible insight for some newcomers, please, remove yourself from the booth. Go back to the Meadowlands and coach that fine senior squad you've assembled there. Thanks.
No one asked me what I thought of Eric Wynalda's inaugural red card/yellow card/game ball halftime feature. I liked it...especially when he called out US Soccer President Sunil Gulati to make up his damn mind about the coaching issue. However, the yellow card for Alexi Lalas warning him not to get wrapped up in the David Beckham hype was weird, although his point for doing it was admirable. Wynalda asserted that, despite the deserved attention Becks will receive when he touches down in LA, Lalas should not forget about making sure Cobi Jones, who will call it a career after 2007, gets his fair share of attention as well. Kudos, Mr. Wynalda.
For more uninspired analysis, check back Wednesday night after the US-Guatemala game. Until then, Death to the Pinstripes and Long Live Landycakes!