Thursday, June 28, 2007

The real nitty gritty

"Summer breeze makes me feel fine, blowing through my mind "- Seals & the Crofts

Hours before tonight's USA-Argentina Copa America game - a game in which the Americans are without their Beasleys, Dempseys and Donovans - we can only hope that the Twellmans, Conrads, and EJs provide enough spark for us to escape Venezuela without the embarrassing after-effects of a horrendous tournament like the ones achieved last year in Germany.

For what it's worth, it will be at very least, an interesting exhibition of how our younger players handle their trade in third-world working conditions. How will Charlie Davies endure a smorgasbord of Spanish swears being hurled his way? Can Benny Feilhaber adjust to scene of the twenty-foot fences being patrolled by armed guards, and playing in what is essentially a prison yard? Despite both having played in Europe, where the atmosphere is of greater intensity than in the U.S., none of the youngins' home stadia is anywhere near the prison riot level seen at previous USA matches played in structures that could double as home training bases for terrorists and guerilla warlords.

Oh, and by the way, the team they're playing is currently ranked 5th in the world. Ye gods. This could get ugly.

But before it does, let's just take a minute to realize that this is a very young team. Despite the results, it will be a good test for the lower-capped guys who've only played in the most luxurious American stadia before, at very worst, a large pro-Mexican crowd at Soldier Field on Sunday. If you want to gauge whether the other balls employed onto the pitch are of the steel variety, then this is the perfect venue to do so.

It is also ample opportunity for guys like Taylor Twellman, Jay DeMerit and Ricardo Clark to make a name for themselves. All three are players that have yet to have their efforts rewarded with World Cup action, and their resolve in these matches could prove to be a deciding factor before the club is assembled prior to South Africa.

So don't be frustrated if the success attained by the boys in pinstriped blue is a few stories down from the level it was during Gold Cup competition. View these next matches as soccer’s version of basic training; it will separate the men from the boys.

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