Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA soccer can celebrate ... for now.

The United States World Cup team finally gets a win, and it propels them into an unlikely first place finish in their group. Landon Donovan put the rebound in at 92:00.

The problem with the outcome was the USA’s opportunities they failed to capitalize on. They did have a goal stolen from them. Again. But, they also missed two wide-open goals and several other chances under pressure.

It was obvious. They were failing under pressure. Jozy Altadore had no goalie in front of the net. All he has to do is tap it in. He kicks it wildly over the net. It was a pressure play. Edson Buddle had a chance, and he whiffed.

Tim Howard and the defense played good, but Algeria is not the offensive threat like Argentina or Germany or the Netherlands are. The USA will need to score on chances like that against those teams. They will need to get three or four goals.

Another big stat? The USA leads the World Cup Final teams with the most goals, with 10, after the 86th minute. Wait. So, the USA has either been losing or tied after 86 minutes in 10 games. This includes qualifying matches and the first round of the final.

Sooner or later these types of pressure situations catch up with a team. A team can only make so many dramatic plays, and the United States cannot play with fire in the elimination round.

I don’t think they can beat Germany or Argentina or anyone in a shootout. I see a team struggling with pressure. They should have had five goals against Argentina, but they folded in the spotlight.

The last goal was due to Algeria’s push on the other end. They didn’t have enough people back, and the United States finally had the rebound with numbers.

Speed is an attribute; and if they have numbers, the USA can make goalies sweat. However, if they really want to make the next step, the goals need to come earlier. The team needs to be consistent the whole game. And, they must win in regulation.

So, celebrate for now, but beware. I would not be surprised if Ghana finally puts the botch on their dreams. The key? Score first, and play with nothing to lose. In my mind, they really don’t.

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