"Also, as an aside, I am not following the World Cup this season. Anyone who would like to write about it, please let me know by email."
- Glenn Logan
It is important to be careful what you wish for, because you might receive it. I know I'm not the only member of the BBN who has been following the greatest soccer tournament in the world, and it is my intent over the coming weeks to present a few posts discussing the World Cup and its results. As a lifelong player and fan of the game I'm not exactly uniquely qualified but I AM willing so that's got to count for something. You're welcome to the discussion if you're a longtime fan of the beautiful game, a once-every-four-years fan of the World Cup hype, or simply a patriotic American who roots for the Stars & Stripes no matter the occasion.
This is actually a bit of an awkward time to begin our World Cup coverage here. Half of the spots in the Round of 16 are already set, and the U.S. men are headed toward their final game of group play. Let's take a look at the results of the first two games for Team USA.
Whew! The first minute of this game ended up being a big fat lie. Clint Dempsey scored the fastest goal in U.S. World Cup history with his strike after only 32 seconds had elapsed. At that point it looked like team USA was ready to make a name for themselves in this tournament. For the next 81 minutes the Black Stars of Ghana absolutely took the game to the U.S. Their attack certainly could have used more patience but they definitely deserved to equalize when Ayew scored in the 82nd minute. Up to that point Ghana clearly looked better than the U.S. and certainly deserved a point.
As we are painfully aware, a lot of work can be undone in an instant with a well placed counterattack. John Brooks' header stole the full 3 points for the U.S. and gave the team hope that they had a chance in the so called "group of death."
It is amazing to me that the U.S. midfield could look completely outclassed against Ghana and then turn around and play a fantastic game against Portugal. I know that FIFA's rankings are a bit flawed but this was the 4th ranked team in the world! In the past U.S. soccer fans have simply hoped our team wouldn't be embarrassed against this level of competition. Hopefully our national team is turning a corner in how they compete against the best teams.
As much as we stole the result of our first game, Portugal was lucky to come away with even 1 point. The U.S. nearly split the possession stat with Portugal (48%-52%), got more shots on goal, and earned more corner kicks. We absolutely had the momentum in the second half and Clint Dempsey's functional finish (stomach shot?) looked to be the nail in Christiano Ronaldo's coffin. It's honestly still frustrating to me to think about the foolishness that led to BOTH of Portugal's goals. Even though Michael Bradley bears some responsibility for his cheap giveaway at the end, the U.S. should have had a clean sheet at that point; the early gift to Nani ended up being a pretty big deal.
As a UK fan that final play reminded me unfortunately of the slam-dunk finish on the road at Arkansas earlier this year. Let's hope we don't have to re-live any more moments like that in this World Cup!
I'll write a full post Thursday morning to provide a little breakdown of the U.S. - Germany match. With all the craziness and excitement so far in this World Cup I'm pleased with where our national team is sitting with 1 game to go. I would love to see a bit of World Cup discussion here at A Sea of Blue. If you aren't a soccer fan this can at least be a fun time to pretend like you're one!