Tuesday, June 30, 2009

U.S. Soccer Men's Squad Detected on Radar

The Confederations Cup performance of the U.S. men's Soccer team is worthy of the comment it has generated. Though the Confederations Cup itself is of secondary importance, there were several consequences of significance.

First, though, I should review the results themselves for those who weren't following it: after looking like anything but world-beaters in their first two games of the round-robin in their group, losing 3-1 to Italy (after leading 1-0 at halftime) and 3-0 to Brazil, they won 3-0 against Egypt and got through to the semifinals on goal difference when Brazil beat Italy 3-0. Both Egypt and Italy finished 1-2, like the US, but somebody had to go through, and the US ended up one goal better than both.

They took maximum advantage of their lucky result, and I suspect the lack of respect they were accorded, when they defeated world #1 ranked Spain, 3-2. Then, in the final, they almost pulled off a huge win: they led Brazil 2-0 at halftime, but allowed three second-half goals and were nosed out.

The biggest beneficiary was probably coach Bradley, whose job looked in danger after the two losses, which followed some recent less-than-impressive performances in regional World Cup qualifiers. The US team will benefit in being accorded a higher rank for their Confederations Cup result in World Cup seeding, assuming they qualify (about 95% certain at this point). On the negative side, they probably won't be overlooked as easily by the highest-ranked teams that oppose them. I think having those five games against top teams (all eight teams in the competition earned their spots in previuos regional competition) will help sort out those who are really ready for the World Cup competition next year.

Finally, the US team showed some real character, which I would describe as aggressive, fit, increasingly unafraid, and determined to make its mark. We can only salute their success in making the most of their good fortune.

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