Sunday, June 20, 2010

Special Post: The US Should Play With a Chip on its Shoulder

Click here for this week's standard post, below is a short, non-52 week project related post...

The US Should Play With a Chip on its Shoulder

Which US team will show up Wednesday morning against Algeria? Will it be the team whose shockingly poor defensive coordination allowed a goal in the first 15 minutes against both England and Slovenia? Or will it be the gritty team that battled back to tie both games, the team who in a just world would have won on a brilliant three-goal second half against Slovenia? (For those living under a rock, an inexplicable foul called against the US negated what would have been the game-winning goal in the 88th minute.)

But as frustrating as a stolen World Cup win is, there is a silver lining here. This call might be precisely what the US team needs to advance or even win the group. You see, this team performs well, but only with the right motivation. It can't seem to win simply because it is favored to do so. It needed a terrible first-half showing against Slovenia (population 2 million) to rally and play to its potential. It played well as an underdog against England. It is clear this team plays well with a little fire in its belly.

Following the game players rightly felt "gutted." But now that the dust has cleared, that emotion will shift. It will shift to anger. "We were robbed" will become the rallying cry at the US camp. So while an objectively bad call cost the Yanks two points in Group C standings, it could be what propels them further in the tournament.

Thanks to a 0-0 tie between Algeria and England, a simple truth exists: the US team controls its destiny. One win and they are through. The low scoring by others in the group, coupled with the fact that "goals for" is the first tie-breaker, puts the boys in red, white and blue in a strong position. They had some good luck against England and some tough luck against Slovenia. Now it is time to channel their frustration, play with a chip on their shoulder, and for God's sake get the ball to Landon Donovan.

1 comment:

  1. Not only does the U.S. need to play with a chip on its shoulder, we need to focus on doing even the simple things well.. Things like sloppy passes, lazy defensive shape, and poor first touches can be devastating both in a single play and in their aggregate influence on a game.

    Also, it's so so important that we start the Algeria game aggressively and confidently to avoid the debacle that occurred the beginning of our first two matches. I'm really impressed with teams like Brazil, who let you know from the first touch that the game will be played on THEIR terms.

    Finally, it is interesting that the U.S. DID come back against Slovenia in a way reminiscent of their own opponent, Brazil, in the Confed Cup final (i.e. scoring 3 goals in one half after being down 2-0). Especially interesting is that the Brazilians really scored 4 goals.. (Kaka's header in the 60th minute was called back, yet replay shows that the ball was clearly in.) I guess the takeaway is that a potentially win-defying, bad call could have cost the Selecao in the same way that it did the Americans. However, Brazil was so good - and so able to put the bad call behind them - that they won anyway. Net net, the U.S. still can't replicate the level of the South American geniuses, but we can learn from their get-it-done-anyway attitude.