Friday, June 29, 2007

US-Argentina post-match reaction


That was my AIM away message last night after watching last night's USA-Argentina game at my buddy Tony's house. While the 25-mile drive up to Norfolk, MA to watch the game, in living color, was better than lifelessly staring at 22 red and blue dots on MatchTracker, it was a tough drive home, as I contemplated what Bob Bradley could have done better.

It was a 20-minute drive starting on North Street in Norfolk, through Route 1, onto 495, connecting to 95, and finally onto 195, Exit 6, and by the time I pulled into my driveway, I couldn't think of anything. I suppose it was just the inevitable that Argentina, currently ranked 5th in the world, would find a way to win. Boy did they ever, and in convincing fashion, as they manhandled their American counterparts 4-1.

When Eddie Johnson was pulled down in the box early on, leading to the US's first goal off the ensuing PK, I had hope. Hope that this was not going to be box office bomb it had been promised to be by so many prognosticators. Said hope lasted less than three minutes, before Hernan Crespo capitalized on a Kasey Keller mishandled ball for the equalizer.

The Americans played admirably, and did well to suffocate a exceptionally potent Argentinean offense comprised of Crespo and Lionel Messi for an hour. Then, as if the clock had struck midnight of the boys in pinstriped blue, their stalwart defending turned into a pumpkin, and the Argentineans feasted. Crespo struck for the go-ahead in the 64th, followed by a Pablo Aimar tally in the 78th, and capped off with one final dagger to the heart by Carlos Tevez in the 85th. If my hair were long enough to grasp, I would have ripped most of it out.

So I took a deep breath, and tried to put on a smilie face and figure out, aside from the four goals and Argentinean dominance in the final third of the match: what went right for Bradley's boys?

It was nice to see the young guys -Feilhaber, Bornstein, Wynne and Mapp - get some minutes on international soil. Although the score was unflattering, the experience acquired by these gentlemen is invaluable, since there is no substitute for playing a formidable team like the Argentines miles away from home.

Eddie Johnson performed well in space, but there were at least two instances where he had a clear shot on net and passed instead. Conrad and DeMerit played well for 64 minutes, and truly asphyxiated an "oh no, not those guys" front line of Messi and Crespo until the wheels on the pumpkin fell off. The Argentines struggled to assemble their attack for the first two-thirds of the match, and much credit is due to Conrad & Co. Then, in the words of Nick Hornby, "it all went to crap."

One question that begs prior to the Paraguay tilt on Monday is whether Bradley elects to go with Brad Guzan in goal, or remains with Keller. The 101-cap veteran looked more like a nervous rookie last night, and Crespo's first goal in the 11th came off a critical misjudgment of a dangerous ball in the box.

Another question is whether we'll see Twellman and EJ up front again, or if it will be EJ and Herculez Gomez, who came in as a late-game sub for Twellman.

While Paraguay will certainly pose another challenge, it shouldn't be of the same variety that Argentina brought forth last night. While they thumped Colombia 5-0 in their opening match, the US is a much better squad, and proved it for 64 minutes last night. That being said, it's time draw the curtains on last night's match, and begin looking ahead toward Monday.

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