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2010 WCQ: US Shows Courage Against Costa Rica

us-soccerWhat a strange week for the US National Team. It started with jubilation after defeating Honduras in thrilling fashion to qualify for the Cup. It turned tragic when rising star and projected 2010 starting forward Charlie Davies was injured in a horrific car accident. And it has ended with a controversial draw that will no doubt leave the soccer world talking.

As for Charlie, I have always had high praise for him. He has deserved it too by indefatiguably hustling all over the field. He’s been one of our brightest new stars, and his absence in South Africa will be unfortunate. But, we must remember that a much more profound loss occurred – the loss of a young life. Condolences to Ms. Roberta’s family. 

I will delve into the Davies matter more tomorrow, so please do not think I am giving him short shrift. I do want to address tonight’s game in this post though. Actually, let me say just one more thing about Davies that does pertain to tonight’s game. In my opinion, there is absolutely no way the Yanks come back from 2-0 if not for #9. No way.

You see, since we were already in the Cup, many guys didn’t seem to have a spark tonight. Overall, we played fast and loose and without a shred of cohesion. Yes, the late goals did result in a tie, but that doesn’t erase the fact that we probably should be able to always beat a team like Costa Rica. I am OK with the result, but I hated the performance.

The biggest problems were in the back. The defense did not look aggressive. Onyewu, who was responsible for the first goal, lumbered around the pitch until he was injured. Bocanegra simply does not belong in the starting lineup. Period. I think Dolo may have actually disappeared.  Plus, Howard uncharacteristically lost focus. Only Bornstein bucked up.

His header to tie the game in extra time was perfectly placed. I think his starting spot is now his to lose. In the middle, Donovan and MB looked fantastic, and they seem to play off of one another better every game. Their chemistry led to the first goal for the Yanks, which Bradley notched. Holden played passively though, and Benny was a big bust.

Up top, Altidore looked great early, but he let his enormous emotions get the better of him too often. As for Casey, he looked flat out terrible (especially when one compares his performance to Davies, which Harkes did 1,000 times… Harkes also sang some Black Eyed Peas… don’t ask). I am not sold on Casey yet, and his lack of hustle pisses me off. 

As for the subs, Rogers looked super and provided the spark that got the Yanks back in the game. Cooper didn’t do a ton, but at least he sprinted around the pitch, unlike Casey. Torres showed some speed, but he didn’t create many opportunities. All in all, the squad didn’t deserve to win tonight. But, I don’t think Costa Rica deserved to win either.

You see, cheaters never prosper. Costa Rica could have played out the game with nobility, and they would have won it 2-1 if they had. Instead they played like – frankly – a bunch of cowards. Walking all the way across the field when you are being substituted is pathetic. Pretending to be hurt to run off time isn’t sporting. But, what did the coach do? 

Well, he instructed them to do walk off the pitch and to pretend to be injured, so he was sent off. Then, he was brazen enough to refuse to leave the pitch, and thus he wasted even more time. It was no wonder the ref allowed more than 6 minutes of extra time. Not only did Costa Rica almost waste that much time, but they also pissed the ref off mightily.

If the US hadn’t scored at the 96 minute mark, they might still be playing. Costa Rica now must face Uruguay to make it to S. Africa, and I hope they don’t win. They displayed unbelievably poor sportsmanship tonight. In the end, their lack of courage cost them their ticket to the World Cup. I hated the way the Yanks played, but at least they played fair.

We also played with a ton of courage. Yes, our tactics and skill tonight were both miserable. Yes, we looked distracted (because we were). But, one cannot deny that our comeback was thrilling and an honor to Charlie Davies. But, we still need to look stronger. I promise you that I will have some thoughts on the sad Davies situation tomorrow.

Until then, I will just say that I love this team. I love their camaraderie. I love their effort. I even love their attitude. Most of all, I love the way Sam’s Army has responded to Charlie’s accident. The outpouring of support for the young striker has proven to me – for the first time in my life – that many other people love this team as much as I do. Together, we can achieve great things in 2010. Good luck and God speed to all of you and all of the members of the MNT, especially Charlie.

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