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June 15, 2006



What was most disappointing about the US game is not the result but the performance. I knew getting a result against the Czechs would be tough but the performance was a disgrace. We did nothing right. The Czechs put in a decent performance but we made them look like 1970 Brazil.

The only possible salvation we can take is that it was the worst US performance, by far, of Bruce Arena's reign. Win, lose or draw, there's no way we can be that bad against Italy.

As someone who's watched almost every game they've played in the last decade, they most certainly have not gone backward in the last four years. We had one stinker of a game. If we have another vs Italy (again not the result, but the performance), then I'd be open to revisiting the conclusion.

What happened is that we were vastly underestimated in 2002, especially by Portugal, and that helped facilitate our quarterfinal run.

I think what happened vs the Czechs are three things.

One, I think the players started a little bit to believe the hype. They knew they weren't #5 in the world but I think in the back of their mind, they believed they could get a result vs the Czechs with something less than their best performance. I mean, the Czechs only had maybe 4 or 5 good chances, but they buried 3 of them. That's what a world class team does.

Two, the Czechs were way too smart and prepared to make the same mistake Portugal did; they didn't underestimate us.

Three, we simply played our worst game in years.

I was always nervous about this World Cup because we do better when we're underestimated. I didn't think we'd be underestimated this time around. And we started with matches vs two world class teams. Bad combo.

There are several mistakes I wanted to correct.

"Their squad is mostly composed of home-based players with a few scattered among Dutch, German, and the English second tier"

A majority (12 of 23) of our roster plays in Europe which means a minority are home-based players.

"The only players they have in an elite league are Bocanegra and O'Brien from Fulham and Reyna from Man city."

Three of our players play in the German FIRST DIVISION. I think most people would consider that an elite league.

It's McBride who plays at Fulham, not O'Brien.

And frankly, almost all of the starting 11 were European based players and they stunk up the joint. The only player who was the least bit dangerous was sub Eddie Johnson, an MLS player and to some extent Convey, a former MLS player who also hasn't yet played in an 'elite league.'


Of course, part of me is a little bitter that Mexico got the WC seed instead of us despite the fact that:

-The US won the CONCACAF qualifying group

-The US won the last CONCACAF Gold (nations) Cup

-The US was ranked above Mexico in the FIFA rankings when the seedings were announced.

It's a mark of how idiotic the FIFA rankings are that FIFA themselves don't even use their own rankings the one time they could do so: in naming WC seeds. Why does FIFA even maintain these rankings if they themselves don't put any credibility in them? Oh wait, it's FIFA.

In short, IF only one of Mexico-US was to get a seed, it should've been the US. They got Angola, Iran and Portugal, We got Italy, Czech Rep. and Ghana.

No point in being bitter but it's worth mentioniing.


Last note I promise: one thing I wanted to add is that the US ought to schedule more matches against European teams. All our competitive matches are against CONCACAF teams. And we schedule a lot of friendlies vs South American teams. And even a few against Asian and African teams. But we very rarely play European teams outside of the World Cup. The general Latin American styles are so much different than the varioius European styles that we don't have enough exposure to it.

Frank McGahon

Brian, thanks for some interesting comments and there's a lot there that i agree with. I think the underestimate/overestimate thing is spot on. Last time round they were definitely better than their rep. This time round it appears they might be worse. These assessments of mine are just off-the-cuff observations and necessarily tentative, but I do think the problem is insufficient experience playing against top quality players. Mexico aside, you just don't get that in CONCACAF and winning the group might have been the worst thing to happen to the US!, inducing a false sense of superiority. As for the European based players:

Looking at the starting 11, you have Keller and Cherundo in Germany (which by the way, Bayern Munich aside, is not such great shakes) Mastroeni and Donovan in the MLS, I don't know where Onyewu plays (does he have a club?) Pope in Belgium, Beasley in Holland, Convey in Reading (promoted but no experience yet of the Premiership) and Reyna & McBride in the Premiership. They certainly did stink up the place, but there's no guarantee that the second string with even less experience of elite football will be any better.

As for:

The only possible salvation we can take is that it was the worst US performance, by far, of Bruce Arena's reign. Win, lose or draw, there's no way we can be that bad against Italy.

Well, you know what they say: When you hit rock bottom, there's only one way to go...sideways!

Also, just on Mexico's seeding. It does indeed make a nonsense of FIFA's own ranking but if so, too bad for the rankings because it looks like Mexico will end up winning their group and the US are likely to finish bottom of theirs, vindicating Mexico's seeding - however galling this might be to fans of Team USA.


Well the Bundesliga is probably the fourth best league in the world so I'm not going to bash Keller or Cherundolo just because they don't play for Barca or Juve.

For what it's worth, Oneywu plays for Standard Liege in Belgium and Pope plays for the MLS club in Salt Lake City. Pope is the best defender the US has ever produced but it's been clear for about two years that he's on the downswing of his career.

Like I said, I think it's a lack of experience playing against top quality EUROPEAN sides. We regularly play matches against South American teams and do reasonably well against them. I think we have trouble against the size and strength of top European sides because the top Latin American sides are more about quick decision making and possession. We're bigger and stronger than most of the teams we play in CONCACAF and South America. But top European defenders are the size of rugby players.

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