And, starwipe.

While the US got the help they needed from the Azzuri, it was no match for 12-man Ghana. Although, in fairness, even excepting the BS penalty awarded to the Black Stars the US would have earned a tie, which wouldn’t have been enough to qualify for the knock-out phase.

So, I’ll kick off the “where was Landycakes” bitching, as well as the “why didn’t Arena go offensive earlier” commentary. In fairness on the second count, Eddie Johnson’s touch was pretty awful when he did finally get into the game.

Kudos to Clint Dempsey, who definitely brought it today, and I think Eddie Lewis acquitted himself well after an awful performance in his previous start (against Czech). Also, while Beasley had an inconsistent game, his setup of Dempsey on the US goal was absolutely phenomenal.

Curious to hear the reaction from those in-stadium. On to the qualifying for 2010…

Still Stewing About The Draw; K-Town Repruhzent!

Trust us, it was even more ridiculous in person

(I wrote this on the train yesterday; it took a while to find puters with USB. Apologies if it’s dated.)

The dust has settled a bit for our crew. We’ve given our one-armed man hugs to K-Town and ridden the ICE five hours to Berlin, where we expect to spend the next couple days.

We’re still stewing a little about the game. Unable to find an English newspaper at any of the various rail stations where we’ve spent most of the day and cut off from the Internet, the only coverage we’ve been able to digest has been German TV highlights and a copy of today’s La Gazzetta Sportiva. (Shockingly, while the Italian paper thought that Lippi should be blamed for this disastrous result, there was hardly an account that fit with what we had all observed in the stadium: that we had completely outplayed the Italians and stood proudly even when it was 10 v 9.)

You don’t get any sorts of replays in the stadium, so we didn’t know until today how badly McBride had been cut up. We also still don’t have an answer in re: what the call was on the disallowed Beasley goal. I assume our next connection with the Internet will answer some of those questions.

What you need to know about the atmosphere at the game:

–When we arrived in K-Town at 2 in the afternoon, I was pretty concerned about the levels of American support. The Italians were already there, drunk and singing. There seemed to be lots of them and a distinct minority looked like criminals and low lives, and were doing things like calling 12-year-old German girls whores. In all fairness, most were pretty mellow, but there was definitely a group who qualified as the sorts of hooligans the alarmist press is always warning you about. But as the day went on, more and more Americans arrived, and by 5 the scene on the Marktstrasse was loud and charmingly pro-USA. Overall, relations between the USA supporters and the tifosi were pretty chill (with one notable exception, to be discussed at a later date). Just a lot of singing and shouting from both sides.

–The Italians definitely had a much deeper catalog of songs than we did. Our supporters relied way too heavily on “When The [Yanks] Go Marchin’ In,” though I did appreciate the ongoing “America,” “%$&* Yeah!” call-and-response routine. The Italians kept doing this thing where they’d sing opening riff from the first White Stripes record, and it was pretty compelling. Overall, though, the whole thing could have used a bit more things sung to the tune of “Hail To The Victors.” In the interests of good taste, we managed to hold back on the E-A-G-L-E-S chants (though we did sneak one in).

–K-Town was a lovely venue for the pre-game nonsense. It was just small enough to have a festive village feel, but there was still plenty of places and things to check out.

–Though it should go without saying, I went another day without a vegetable. Pork sandwich in the afternoon, kabob at 3 am. Luckily I had plenty of beer in between.

–I was blown away by the fact that almost everyone at the match (especially the USA supporters) had a silly costume on. It was hilarious. Like soccer Mardi Gras. I particularly enjoyed the Italian gladiator dudes, and the guy who was a cross between Captain America and a Viking. Also, these Italian guys had a shopping cart and two gigantic jugs of wine, and were making random people chug. Also, this woman was walking through the Fan Fest in nothing but USA body paint and a g-string.

–All that said, one of the folks in our groups has the best hair we’ve seen yet. Seriously. People stare. And they are right to stare.

–I’ll be curious to hear how it sounded on TV, but the American supporters were louder in the stadium than the Italians. We were sitting in the Italian section (more on that later) and even we were able to shout down the Italians at times. Of course, it helped that our team was playing with heart and pride and their team was playing like a bunch of cheating cowards; I imagine the thrill of cheering for diving and simulation eventually wears off.

–A bunch of English guys were chanting “Same Old Eye-Ties, Always Cheating” to the tune of…I dunno, the little thing that clocks play when they chime the time. Said chant, um, resonated.

–For the avoidance of doubt, this Italian team was complete crap. Before minute 75 (when our guys completely ran out of gas), their offense consisted entirely of lobbing the ball towards Toni and Toni trying to fall down. I remain shocked the game didn’t end on a dubious penalty in the 89th minute. They’ll likely advance, but they will beat no one of consequence. There’s just no there there. And yes, it seriously upsets my sports feelings to have to root for them on Thursday.

–The post-game scene at the USA bars was pretty solid. People were cheesed off about not winning the game, but everyone was pretty ecstatic about how we’d played. After the Czech game, I think everyone was a little worried we’d turn in another stinker. And when you’ve made the effort to fly across the ocean to support your team, that’s not a comfortable feeling. For a lot of people, I think the result last night justified the entire trip.

–Of the course, the absolute best part of the post-game scene was the band playing at the main Fan Fest: Bon Jovi tribute band BONGIOVIO. Uh huh. That’s right. Bongiovio. Tough not to believe that was an omen.

This crew rolled tight

I Don’t Know The Italian Word For “Diving”

I couldn’t be more proud of USA.

That Italian team was a disgrace. Their supporters should be ashamed.

A proper response is coming tomorrow, but from where we were sitting, it really didn’t look like we didn’t win that game.

It’s really late here. We just spent the last hour and a half at the train station. We got really lucky with a cab.

Also: I can’t believe I have to root for the Italians in the next game. It’s wrong on so many levels.

Sam’s Army May Be in Germany, but US Army is Shut Out in Iraq

SamsSo apparently US soldiers in Iraq won’t be able to watch the World Cup due to a licensing dispute. Turns out that the rights holders (Swiss-based Infront Sports and Media) want to get paid for their content (imagine that!), and the Armed Forces Network (the US military’s TV network) doesn’t have budget to pay for sports rights. Apparently, US domestic sports leagues comp the AFN licenses.

In another article, one US soldier complains: “‘I feel the people who own the licensing are not supporting our country and our troops,’ said Spc. Steven Selph of Charleston, S.C. ‘It’s the World Cup; we should all be able to see it.’ ” Um. I guess it turns out that the Swiss, what with their centuries-old policy of neutrality, don’t want to give subsidies to US military ambitions abroad? Who knew!

Some thoughts here:
1. Is anyone in Iraq able to watch the World Cup? I imagine that there are a couple of TV stations up and running there. Were they unable (or unwilling) to buy World Cup rights? If they do have World Cup rights, why can’t US bases get these feeds?

2. Apparently, Infront Sports and Media offers free licenses for non-commercial group viewing of World Cup games to places in Germany like churches and beer halls. Why wouldn’t that exemption apply here? It’s not like the AFN it a for-profit enterprise.

3. So we know that the US is sending billions of dollars to Iraq each month. They don’t have a few grand for World Cup rights?

OK, back to watching Ger / Pol.

Cup Is Empty for Many Members of Military [New York Times]
Troops in Europe have options for World Cup viewing [Stars and Stripes]

Scenario analysis: We’re not out of it yet!

US Soccer Logo
Pop quiz, hotshot: What do we know after the first set of matches in Group E?

a) That the US looked outclassed by Czech
b) That both Italy and Ghana looked better than the US
c) That it strains belief that the US could win a goal differential tie-breaker at 1-1-1
d) That the US needs victories over both Italy and Ghana to get through to the knockout round
e) All of the above
f) a, b and c only

The correct answer is f.

At this stage, the most realistic chance that the US has is not to win against Italy and Ghana – I would argue that it would be foolish for the US to come out attacking too hard against the Italians, exposing their back-line to the kind of 2-on-2s that Czech brutalized them with. Nor is it to win on goal differential – at minus 3 after 1 game that ain’t gonna happen.

At this point, what the US needs to get through is:

1. Earn a draw against Italy
2. Beat Ghana
3. Have Ghana beat Czech
4. Have Italy beat Czech

Final Group E standings in this scenario:

1. Italy 2-0-1 7 pts
2. US 1-1-1 4 pts
3. Czech 1-2-0 3 pts
4. Ghana 1-2-0 3 pts

Note that this is not a crazy scenario. Any questions?

Sniping in the clubhouse? ALREADY???

What You Got, Bruce?So all it took it was one lousy game (and OH MAN was it a lousy game) and we’ve got sniping and chaos in the USA locker room?

Following the loss, Bruce Arena decided to “motivate” the USA squad by calling out Landycakes (“Landon showed no aggressiveness”), DaMarcus Beasley (“We got nothing from Beasley on the night”) and Kasey Keller (for “putting the ball upfield where we have nobody” on the first goal). Yikes! Landycakes agreed with Arena, but Beasley wasn’t quite as polite: “I was always defending the whole time. That’s how the game went. Next time I will leave the guy and play as a striker instead of a midfielder and then we’ll see what happens.”

Umm, is that a threat? I suspect we won’t see Mr. Beasley in the Starting XI on Saturday.

I have no idea what Bruce Arena is thinking throwing folks under the bus in public like this. Also, as noted by the folks on BigSoccer, I would have preferred an Andy Reid-esque mea culpa from the coach at some point (“This loss is all on me, I didn’t get the guys prepared, I didn’t do a good enough job getting the team ready…”). What, the Czechs scored first and that crashed your tactics so it isn’t your fault? You saw that your team struggled to break down a defending team against freakin Morocco, you didn’t have a plan for what might happen if you went down a goal against the Czechs?

Just imagine if we had real media covering this thing instead of the U.S. Soccer lapdogs.

Either way, this doesn’t feel like the sort of team spirit we needed to get results at this tournament.

Arena’s men left with scars and strife [Soccernet]
A Different World For The U.S. [Washington Post]

Craptastic USA loses 0-3 to “Pretty Good” Czech Republic

Oh crapSo that didn’t work out well at all.

I haven’t seen the second half yet, but whoa, that really was not the way you want to open the tournament. Not just the loss, but giving up the three goals — makes it really really tough to win tiebreakers when you’re down three in the goals column. Yikes. And to make matters worse, Koller got injured, making the tasks of Italy and Ghana that much easier.

The USA really didn’t look like they knew what to do with the Czechs. You wonder what might have happened if Reyna’s shot had gone in, but, in all honesty, the Czechs just had a ton more class out there. Yikes. I guess they were more “experienced” than “old” today. And they scored some beautiful goals.

This will require further scrutiny tonight after work. Until then, I’ll be watching Italy – Ghana and hoping for freak non-serious injuries.

And F.C. Camena is live from Gelsenkirchen

mastro.jpgJust got a call from the folks over in Germany. They are live from the stadium, in the upper deck, over one of the corner flags. The official F.C. Camena flag is in effect. You could hear people chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” (which is actually as close to acceptable as it gets in the context of footy) in the background.

Needless to say, we’re pretty excited.

The lineups are up. Mastroeni, Reyna, Beasley and Convey get the start in midfield for the US — meaning no JOB. I like this midfield a lot, especially the part where Mastroeni is out on the field. We need someone to enforce some justice out there and keep Reyna out of the nasty tackles. Landycakes looks like he’ll partner McBride up top. I also feel very good about this. Landycakes needs to be in space, running at people — not trying to be a distributor in the middle of the field. For the Czechs, there’s no Milan Baros. This is a good thing.

Let’s go U-S-A.

‘Twas The Night Before The Czech Republic

You tell 'em, ClaudioAnd we are fewer than 12 hours from kickoff. Much like Milan Baros, I’ve had something of a late injury scare and it looks like I’m not going to be able to watch the match live in its entirety. Day job. Sigh. But I have a feeling I’ll be able to keep an eye on it from afar.

F.C. Camena already has some boots on the ground, though. We have reports trickling in from our folks who are heading to the first game. We can only hope we’ll hear from them as we head closer to game time.

As for the actual game, I’m cautiously optimistic about tomorrow. I wish we were opening with Italy (because I’m convinced that their act is not quite together), and I wish we were playing a team that wasn’t going to have a chip on its shoulder (which I think that Czechs do). Also, it’d be nice if they didn’t have quite so many good players, or if their good players were more prone to doing dumb things on the pitch.

But whatever. Game time beckons! And if Eric Cantona thinks we have a shot, who am I to argue?

(In other news, I have a really odd feeling about Australia. I think they’re going to make something happen.)