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2010 World Cup Qualifying: Donovan Burns T&T

Well, I attended a US MNT match tonight (actually yesterday now). I spent the whole game furiously scribbling in my notebook between swigs of beer and rounds of chants. This made the fans around me question my sanity (even the insane fans), but I wanted to bring the whole experience back to you STO readers. So, here they are… My stream of consciousness thoughts as I watched the match (transcribed by my far more beautiful, talented and sober wife). 

Howard is back in goal, which is a very good thing for the Nats (no disrespect to Guzan, but he’s no Timmy). Onyewu is also starting after recovering from injury. Boca is holding down his normal spot on the back line, and Frankie “Jesus” Hejduk is on the right side due to his fantastic performance on Saturday. Beasley is on the back left. Beasley? I know, I am confused too. Let’s see if Bob Bradley knows something we don’t about Beasley’s defensive prowess.

In the middle, Bradley has moved Donovan and Dempsey back to play on the wings. I love this move. They both belong back there where they can create. Pablo is holding down the defensive mid position (I expect at least a yellow card out of him) and Michael Bradley (i.e. the “Seed of Skeletor”) is in the attacking mid role. Up top, we have Ching (who I respect) on the left and Altidore on the right. I am so happy to see Jozy get the start. Let’s hope he earns it.

So, from the starting lineup it is pretty clear Sacha is in the doghouse. Special K will not be part of our complete breakfast. Also, Califf and Pearce are out. Thank God! It looks like we are basically putting our A-Team out there (minus Mr. T). The only think I am scared about is Beasley playing left back. I can’t remember the last time I saw him play defense, but I have a short memory span (especially after six Natural Lights… hey, what can I say, I’m cheap).

To me, the key to this game will be whether Bradley can produce from the attacking midfielder role. If he delivers, we should blow this team out. I expect Frankie and the Beas to be pushing up as much as possible, but Ching and Altidore have to bang home every chance they get. Yorke isn’t playing for T&T either, which is very sweet for the USA. He’s a dangerous player, so it goes without saying, but – it is very good for our Nats that we don’t have to deal with him.

The crowd here is definitely about 90% behind the US, so the team needs to set the pace early and notch the first strike. If I had to bet, I would say Altidore gets the score. He’s always in the right place at the right time it seems. We really need three points tonight too, so the atmosphere here is electric. Sam’s Army has much to be proud of. In a nation that claims to hate soccer, I sure seem to see a lot of people who love nothing more than their National Team.

Go figure. Don’t believe everything you read I guess.

Anyways, the game is about to start, and my hand is getting very tired (and I need the restroom, so I will take a short break). Oh, I just saw some T&T fans. They seem like good folks. In fact, they look like they would be more fun to hang out with than USA fans. Again, go figure. Even though I am exhilirated to see them so happy and supportive now, I hope 90 minutes from now they look like their greatest hopes and dreams were crushed into pebbles by the US. 

The whole pregame hoopla seems like a bad Rocky montage to me. It’s cool that kids get to walk on the field with the players, but that kid really doesn’t look like he wants to be holding Landycakes hand. The bottom of the stadium is now packed. Hey, the top section isn’t, but come on… We’re talking about soccer here, folks. The T&T anthem sounds like “Pomp and Circumstance”. This is probably only because I have suddenly become quite inebriated. Indeed.

During our National Anthem, I can’t help but keep thinking about the idiots who say Americans don’t love soccer. I am in a stadium with thousands who do. I imagine those people have never been to a match like this, so they just don’t understand. Anyways, I am not here to keep writing, I am here to yell, scream, and support the team (to be one part of the 12th man), so I will now be reverting to crazy stream of consciousness style. No more thinking. At all.

Just screaming and scribbling. God, I love soccer (and writing about it).

(Author’s Wife’s Note: I am not sure if this is what he meant, but here goes)

Minutes according to author (i.e. probably not accurate) in bold:

  • 00: Announcers just asked for moment of silence. Sad. People are still talking. Sadder.
  • 01: Bumble-bee soccer is going on. Frankie H. looks like a madman. A good sign, for sure.
  • 02: I want to see Torres. It’s the 2nd minute and I want Torres already. The future is 2010.
  • 02: Offsides on Ching. It was close, and he wouldn’t have gotten to it anyways.
  • 03: Ching takes a very hard foul. The crowd loves it. Gives the US a great opportunity.
  • 03: Great cross by Boca, but no goal to be found. A dangerous play for the US though.
  • 04: Bad defense, but Howard looks like he has everyone focused. Well, he looks pissed.
  • 06: Landon looks like he is playing rover. He is just running all over the place.
  • 07: T&T doesn’t look so tough, but then again, neither did El Salvador at first.
  • 08: Ching just misses an almost open net after some bad T&T defense. So close!!!!!!!
  • 09: Beasley makes a good defensive play. Still crazy to see him all the way in the back.
  • 10: T&T looks sloppy. We need to take advantage by getting an early score tonight.
  • 11: Beasley is actually playing strong defense. Who knew? I guess Bob Bradley did.
  • 12: 1-0 USA
  • 12: Ching played a great ball to Donovan, who passed to Jozy who knocked it home!
  • 12: Damn! I called it! I said Jozy would get number one. We needed that. Great play.
  • 13: That’s back-to-back games with goals for Jozy (in about 30 minutes on the pitch).
  • 14: Crowd is feverish now. If we get a second soon, this game will be over.
  • 15: Corner for the US. T&T defense looks completely out of sync with each other.
  • 16: US is passing the ball very well. T&T seems to be completely overwhelmed.
  • 17: Dempsey tries a bicycle kick from 20 yards out. Come on, Clint, seriously?
  • 18: I usually hate Pablo, but he is proving his worth tonight with some tough D.
  • 19: Ref isn’t calling anything. Donovan and Onyewu both just flattened T&T guys.
  • 20: US looks fired up today. Everyone is going into challenges full bore.
  • 22: Sam’s Army is chanting loudly. T&T definitely hears it. Drums are rocking.
  • 23: Donovan steals the ball and makes a great pass to Jozy who promptly loses it.
  • 25: US is playing “Total Football” with Beasley and Hejduk not afraid to move up.
  • 26: Hey, a foul is finally called! It’s against T&T, and I didn’t see it (but I’ll take it).
  • 26: US is controlling the flow of play. Bradley is looking strong in the middle.
  • 27: Long-ball strategy isn’t working. We need to pick them apart with passes.
  • 27: Bradley made a great pass, and Altidore just missed finishing it. Darn.
  • 28: Donovan draws a foul after he clearly fouled the T&T guy. I love this bias.
  • 29: Dempsey made a fantastic back heel pass, but Hejduk’s cross was poor.
  • 30: Oh… Ching’s offsides. He looked on (but I’m drunk and have a bad angle).
  • 31: T&T actually crossed one into the box. No one was there though. Close.
  • 32: Boca blocks a shot. Nice job. John for T&T gets another shot, but no goal.
  • 33: Got to love Howard. He hasn’t been challenged yet, but he’s yelling at the D.
  • 34: US has a throw in dangerous territory. Jozy and Frankie work well together.
  • 35: T&T looks absolutely “discombobulated”. Is that even a word I just used?
  • 36: Bradley is very good on both sides of the ball. He’s not just a “coach’s son”.
  • 37: I still feel like the US is too balled up. Playing down to T&T instead of up.
  • 38: Donovan almost just notched a cheap one. T&T defense is lazy right now.
  • 39: Another foul called against T&T. Landon is the victim. What a surprise…
  • 40: The US is being too cute. Too much style. Just get it and rip it on goal.
  • 40: Another penalty for the US. We are “home-cooking” T&T tonight. Yay!
  • 41: Altidore almost scores. He actually should have. Great play by Ching.
  • 41: Beasley fires a header in off of a great Donovan cross. It’s saved though.
  • 43: WWFHD? “What would Frankie Hejduk do”? Hard sliding tackle. Nice!
  • 44: Donovan has played well in the 1st half. I like him much more at mid.
  • 45: It is going into halftime with the US with a one goal lead. I’ll take it.
  • Half: Back from the bathroom (never should have “broken the seal”).
  • Half: We need a 2nd goal early in the second half to put this sucker away.
  • Half: I wouldn’t make any changes if I were Skeletor, just go with our best 11.
  • Half: God, I love US MNT fans. Our enthusiasm is addictive. I just love it.
  • Half: Hey, I bet Jozy gets our second goal two. I am one for one, why not?
  • Half: I haven’t been here since Vandy won its bowl game. I love this venue.
  • Half: The camaraderie at the game is fantastic. Let’s hope our spirits stay up.
  • Half: Alright, everything is set to go for the second half. Sam’s Army is LOUD!
  • 46: T&T actually takes a shot. It was from 40 yards out and way off the mark.
  • 47: The US is just protecting the lead. I think they should be extending it.
  • 48: T&T finally gets something going but then plays a very poor ball.
  • 49: Ching draws a foul. Dangerous set piece here for the US MNT.
  • 49: Donovan put it right on Boca’s head, but his shot is too high. Darn again.
  • 50: Another free kick from Donovan is not taken advantage of. We need a 2nd.
  • 52: US is controlling the game, but doesn’t have that “sense of the jugular”.
  • 52: T&T defender gets booked for mauling Altidore. First card of the night.
  • 54: T&T just looks like they don’t care as much. Well, they look very bad.
  • 55: I am not trying to be mean. T&T just looks mediocre. US needs a 2nd.
  • 55: People in my section are tired of me saying US “needs a 2nd”. You are too.
  • 56: Dempsey called for a foul near the T&T goal. He deserved it, for sure.
  • 57: US can’t afford to get sloppy here. They need to get these 3 points.
  • 58: Hejduk makes a nice cross, but no goal. T&T’s counter-attack fails miserably.
  • 59: Altidore called for offsides. From my view, he looked on. Again, I’m biased.
  • 59: Michael Bradley looks so calm out there. He’s learned to quell his temper.
  • 61: T&T actually had a good chance on goal, but their shot is waaaaaay off.
  • 61: The fact Beasley is on D just shows Skeletor has lost faith in Heath (like me).
  • 61: Dempsey chucks one up even though Ching is wide open for the pass. Darn.
  • 62: T&T gets a free kick in a good spot. Lucky it wasn’t a PK. Pablo touched it.
  • 63: T&T does nothing with the kick. Howard makes an easy save (he’s active).
  • 64: Dempsey is smack-talking a T&T player, which has Sam’s Army riled up.
  • 64: Calls are suddenly going against the US. This ref giveth and taketh away. 
  • 66: Beasley makes a nice move and Donovan knocks it towards goal to no avail.
  • 68: US is controlling the flow of play, which is good. But not generating chances.
  • 70: Beasley is taken down hard, but it was a clean tackle, no matter the boos.
  • 71: 2-0 USA
  • 71: Donovan absolutely blows by the T&T defense & assists another Altidore goal.
  • 72: Damn, I am two-for-two now with predictions. Altidore finished with a flourish.
  • 72: Both Donovan and Altidore are Men of the Match. Great combination.
  • 73: Landon and Jozy both made defenders look soooo stupid there. Excellent.
  • 74: Everyone in the section is happy I am done talking about our “need for a 2nd”. 
  • 75: T&T looks demoralized now. I am not sure they can mount a real comeback.
  • 76: Hejduk makes a fantastic tackle to prevent a T&T shot. He’s becoming my hero.
  • 77: Dempsey draws a foul in a good position. I think he flopped. So be it.
  • 78: I didn’t see a foul, but the ref called one. Otherwise, Landon would have scored.
  • 79: The offense is now going through Donovan, which is causing T&T headaches.
  • 79: The T&T goalie is coming way too far out. I think we could see a long goal.
  • 80: T&T has a corner (they haven’t had many). It’s wasted though. Geez… 
  • 80: Apparently, I am one member of the largest soccer crowd in TN history. Yay!
  • 81: Torres is coming in for Ching. Great game for Ching. I love his tenacity.
  • 82: I usually bash Pablo, but he has played some really tough defense tonight.
  • 83: T&T looks resigned to the fact they will lose. They don’t even seem concerned.
  • 84: Game has slowed down significantly. It looks like it will end 2-0 as of now.
  • 85: Special K is in for Dempsey (who has a yellow from a previous match). 
  • 85: Bradley and Altidore make a nice give and go, but no goal results. Still nice.
  • 86: Bradley takes a nice low shot, but it is saved. This game is all but over.
  • 88: 3-0 USA
  • 89: Altidore scores again (a hat trick). Bad play by the goalie. Ugly actually.
  • 89: Selfless play by both Bradley and Donovan (who gets his third assist).
  • 89: Altidore will be the “big story” tonight, but Donovan is the Man of the Match.
  • 90: Two minutes from victory. Altidore, Donovan, and Bradley were fantastic.
  • 92: And it’s over! What an impressive win for the MNT. T&T looked overwhelmed.

While this will no doubt be remembered (rightfully so) as “Jozy’s Game”, I think the key ingredient to this win was Donovan’s creative play from midfield. It is undoubtedly where he belongs, which tonight proved. Sure, Altidore scored three goals, but it was Landon who put it on his foot all three times. I celebrate both their accomplishments (probably too much). But, LD deserves the game ball (hat trick withstanding). Hence my post title this morning.

All in all, it was a great night for US soccer. Sure, you are supposed to win at home, but this was a great “rebound” performance after Saturday’s strange happenings in El Salvador. I was honored to have been at the game, even if I probably took too many notes (hey, I can’t help myself sometimes). I loved Nashville and thought it was a great venue. In short, it was a great win for the US MNT which results in a very strong WC Qualifying position. Yay (again)! 

Hopefully…. The best is still yet to come.