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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dempsey Downs The Azzurri

Sitting on my couch, rain pelting down from the Honolulu sky I sat, clammy palmed as watched the US National Team defeat the four time world champions 1-0. Forgive the dramatic first sentence as I am reminded by the ever-growing cynic Alexi Lalas that this is only a friendly. I won't ignore this fact because well it is only a friendly, with nothing more than just pride on the line for the Italians. You would expect to see a different result under different circumstances, as the will to win was valued more by the American side and thus put forth the effort. I praise what Jurgen Klinsmann has done with these international friendlies, taking the opportunity to throw his American boys into the fire pitting them against top opposition in Argentina, Belgium and Italy. The threat of a destructive, morale splitting, confidence destroying defeat is their but in the tests that our men have faced, they have looked  at adversity and smiled. 

Dempsey's Goal:

It was once again the American footballing bad- boy Clint Dempsey that made the difference with the goal, but on a whole the team played very well. Some of the old negative habits returned with an isolated attack in Jozy Altidore and poor defensive positioning from Bocanegra and the rest of the back line. For me what separates this game from the rest is the over commending commentary on the what the US does well was actually justified. Often times the commentary team is too quick to commend the US on doing  mundane things... well. Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman in the booth told it like it was, praising what was worthy of praise, and slighting what was worthy of slight. Jozy Altidore did hold the ball up well, especially in the second half, and really was the one worthy of most the fanfare associated with the goal, as he chested, and layed-off the ball for Dempsey's strike. Not letting in a goal masked the ease that Sebastian Giovinco and the Italian attack had in springing the US defense. Lucky for the US the Linesman seemed to have money riding on the boys from the red, white and blue, as every defense splitting run from the Azzuri was called offside. We escaped without any of those chances nestling into Howard's net...but just barely.

I often feel as though as the US suffers from the curse of the commentator far to often. When ever the team manages a coup, the surprise factor spurs constant mention on how this is a huge upset and this and that, to the point where I found myself saying out loud "Darke, cool it with the chatter, your gonna jynx it." Luckily it was not the case this time round.

USMNT Road Strip
With the USMNT registering their first win against the Italians in 11 attempts, bringing Klinsmann's record to 5-4-1 as head coach I can honestly say that this was a huge success for the Yanks. Friendly or not, it was the best performance so far under German rule, No doubt. Done without Landon Donovan, and in a new road strip that looks absolutely brilliant. White sleeves, black stripe across the chest, and a majestic red, white, and blue collar some of the German'd new-boy's had a chance to shine, and shine they did. Fabian Johnson looked really handy in the left-back spot, and when he broke forward with pace opportunities where created. It was his cross that led to the goal, and further down the road looks a possible answer for the spot with a question mark hanging over it in terms of Brazil 2014.

If their was any question over Michael Bradley's place in the squad, their shouldn't be. His work rate, passing and vision is integral to the teams play. Paired with Edu in the center they clogged holes well, and both made some timely tackles in maintaining the purity of the scoreline.

My thoughts, take them as you will.

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