Okay which statement does not fit? I would say the 4-1 Argentina victory. Had you watched the game on Gol TV and listened to the talking heads on the broadcast you would think that it was a miracle that the Argentines eked out a 3 goal victory. Let us come back to reality for a second. Before I start with my comments, I realize the US sent a young, experimental squad, but I honestly believe the difference between the "b" squad is not that far in talent from the "a" squad.
- International football rarely witnesses 6-0 or 9-0 drubbings anymore. Even minnows such as Andorra can hold football powers such as England to "small" 3-0 victories or Georgia can "only" lose to France 1-0 (I realize the Germans did put up 13 goals against San Marino....but San Marino? I think the US could take them). International football has become a truly global game, with players moving all over the world to play in a multitude of leagues. Even players from nations such as Georgia find themselves on power houses in the Italian league. So the fact the US is heading in to a game against one of the world's true football powers as an underdog is not a surprise, but to think the US would take a 6-0 trashing is a bit of a stretch. I am the first one to criticize the hype that can surround the prospects of the US national team, but I am also not naive enough not to recognize the improvement and advancement of US football compared to what the product resembled 25 years ago. I remember days when the US national team would play Racing Paris and lose 7-0...those days are behind.
- Football games follow a similar pace - cautious first half, adjustments at half time and second half attack or defend depending on the desired outcome. The game last night followed this pace....granted there were two early goals. But the score was level after 20 minutes and the first half then followed suit. The US played 5 defenders with a covering midfield and looked to spring Twellman or Johnson on the break. But otherwise they let the Argentines control the ball, the second half demonstrated the still gapping difference between the two nations. 3 crushing goals from the world class team was a true demonstration of their class. The combination between Riquelme, Messi and Crespo demonstrated the difference in skill. The fact the Gol TV commentator, Ray Hudson, kept babbling about the fact the US was unlucky, that had the ball bounced a couple of inches one way the US would not have given up the goal....wait a second....aren't world class players suppose to make plays that weekend warriors, mere mortal professionals, and other hopefuls can only dream of? Someone needs to slap some common sense into Hudson, I realize he is a fountain of over exaggerated drivel, but yesterday was ridiculous.
- The bottom line - the US got man handled by the Argentines. Were it not for a penalty shot (and I have seen that "foul" waved off by plenty of officials elsewhere), the US would have been shut out. At one point in the second half the US were being out shot 14-4...ouch...and I cannot even recall the 4 shots the US got off. The US played as a defensive block for 60 minutes, but a game is 90 minutes, someone needs to remind Mr Hudson this as well. The US strikers looked pedestrian. Twellman who plays well in the MLS or against CONCACAF teams looked over matched going up against the Argentinian back line (thanks to Brett for that analysis). Johnson used his pace to give some semblance of being dangerous, but once he came close to the scoring zone he would timidly pull the ball back and look to pass rather than look to challenge Heinze, Milito or Ayala. Strikers who also have ridiculous pace - Ronaldo (the Portugese not Brazilian), Henry, Messi, Owen (during his early days) - would run at defenders, force them to defend, attempt to pull in another defender before passing the ball or if they only had one on one defending would look to beat said defender. It does you no good to be the first on to the ball near the 18 yard box to only slow down and allow the defense to regroup. Had Johnson made the Owen run from 1998 he might have pulled the ball back inside the 18 to allow Scholes et al to catch up......
- These types of games are good for nations such as the US, this is a learning process. Get some of the youth a taste of what it is like playing high level international football. But let us not get ahead of ourselves...Mr Hudson....holding Argentina to a 1-1 draw for 60 minutes is not an indicator that UEFA should start engraving the World Cup trophy with United States of America just yet. And had Donovan and Beasley been present I am not sure the game would have been much different. I actually think that had Donovan been there the US might have looked even worse....would Landon play any defense? Would Landon's "pace" and skill been highlighted after one - two booted tackle from Heinze? Or would we see the Donovan of big games, the talented player who avoids contact and who disappears. I have a feeling we would have seen the Donovan of the Ghana game who rather than attacking the goal when he had no one between himself and the keeper he decided to pass the ball to the penalty spot where the entire Ghana defense was waiting......The one player that might have made a slight difference would have been Dempsey, I think his willingness to dribble at players and take chances may have given the US a glimmer of hope to threaten the Argentinian goal.
- Finally...Messi is scary. The pass he gave on the goal to Crespo was outstanding (and it was not "lucky" per the GolTV commentators). He was well defended in the first half but you could tell that at some point he would break down the defense, which he did. Before we start talking about Feddie Adu as the next Pele and potentially the best footballer in the world, take a look at Messi. Oh yeah, and only 2 years separates the players in age, but in footballing maturity I would say closer to 10 years.