The Agony of Defeat

Well, that was disappointing.

As sports fans, we’ve all had this peculiar morning-after feeling countless times. On this particular morning, it comes with the special bitterness of knowing that we’ll never see precisely this team again. Next year is four years from now.

For what it is worth, it was fairly won by the Ghanaians. We had our moments, but they beat us twice with the same ball and exposed the central defense as our true weakness. Both goals were wonderfully struck, but the first was all on Tim Howard, I hate to say, and the second was on the skipper, Bocanegra, who was carrying tired legs and an earlier yellow card when he couldn’t put himself into the path of the onrushing Gyan.

As if to level accounts, the refs seemed to do us many favors this time, including granting the penalty that provided our only goal. Bob Bradley is being heavily criticized for some of his lineup selections, but that’s what happens when you lose. There just isn’t anything else available to criticize about coaching. Truth is we looked to have run out of gas after the emotional highs and lows of the preceding week.

So now we look to the future, and hope springs eternal. Qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be just around the corner. With that in mind, here are five questions coming out of South Africa 2010:

  1. Will Bob Bradley stay on as coach? Before the World Cup, Grant Wahl said that Bradley could only stay on if we died a noble death in the second round, whatever that means. If that is the standard, I’d say it was met. I’d also say that Bob should get to stay if he wants to. His players apparently love him, and he has consistently produced results with his first choice squad. But both of those things were also true of Bruce Arena after the successful 2002 World Cup (more successful than this). Arena stayed on, only to lead the dismal 2006 campaign in Germany. Sunil Gulati has a tough choice. I predict that Bob goes.
  2. What of this team will be back in 2014? Altidore will still be only 24, so he’ll be there. Tim Howard will be 35, but he’ll probably be there too. Spector, Torres, Edu, Holden, Findley and Bradley fils will be well under 30 and likely just peaking in their careers. They have four years to get better and, except in the case of Bradley, try to find a role with the national team, whoever may be coaching it. Bradley is my bet to be the next captain, especially if his dad isn’t the coach. As for the current captain, Carlos Bocanegra probably has a few good years of club football left in him, but this was his last World Cup and maybe his last performance as national team skipper. Dempsey and Donovan will be 32-ish next time around. They’ll be there in 2014, but not to run 90 minutes and lead the team again. For Buddle and Gomez, sadly, their national team flower will have bloomed too late. This was their one shot. Gooch is an interesting question. For a player with such promise four years ago, I’m afraid to say we may have seen his last World Cup, and the central defense, which once looked a strength, is now a clear weakness. Which brings us to the next question…
  3. Where is the next U.S. soccer star? Hopefully at home, getting ready to watch the England v. Germany game this morning with his mom and dad while eating a good, healthy breakfast and then going out into the sweltering heat to kick a soccer ball around all day and pretend he’s Landon Donovan. As the Beverage discussed in the World Cup lead-in, demography is destiny, and continued attention to soccer in popular culture will inexorably produce the first great American soccer genius. This World Cup will not make soccer an everyday topic of conversation at the collective American water cooler (see question no. 4), but it is just enough to keep the ball rolling, so to speak. Somewhere out there some freakish specimen of a 15 year-old is trying to decide between the baseball select travel team for next summer or the soccer developmental residency camp, and maybe he saw the flashbulbs and the girls and the soda commercials and thought, this World Cup thing is cool.
  4. Does this mean soccer has now hit the big time in America? Not by a long shot, but more is always better. People will not turn out in droves for the MLS games next fourth of July weekend or name all of their babies Landon. And it is a good thing, because they’ve built nice, tidy suburban stadiums for all of these MLS teams that only hold about 25 thousand people, and the crowds would overwhelm them. But 20 thousand or so will turn out, in cities across the country, to watch professional soccer, some of which is televised live nationwide, in color and HD. Aspiring for even that much was deemed folly 20 years ago, and the trend line has already carried soccer past hockey, whether anyone cares to acknowledge it or not. If we had gone out against Spain in the semi-final instead of against Ghana in the second round, things might have lurched forward a bit more, but this is good enough for now.
  5. What should the Beverage write about now? There is the previously promised Apple TV streaming movie post forthcoming, but I’d appreciate any suggestions for new topics. We are now in the full throws of BBQ season, and we may be planning a neighborhood whole-pig pit burying for next weekend, which could make for a good multi-media culinary post.  Half-n-Half is out of town and not yet aware of the pig burying plan hatched yesterday evening, so no promises…

3 Responses to “The Agony of Defeat”

  1. 1 Gary, The Bartender June 27, 2010 at 9:57 am

    In the spirit of the blogoshphere, I have selected a new ‘nome du comment.’

    A few thoughts:

    Agreed, Bradley should stayon the ‘merits,’ and even on theperception side he should stay, at least through the beginning of qualifying next time, assuming we succeed appropriately in the interim. It will help build the brand. Delaying coaching controversy until the next round of qualifying will also help ratings, so to speak. [As an aside, Grant Wahl has been covering B Bradley since 1995 at the Daily Princetonian]

    As for the criticism of Bradley, the complaints seems to be that he tried sh!t and that we consistently started flat on D, giving up early goals. The former is a net positive. The latter, a real issue.

    For further growth of US soccer, two ideas come to mind. 1 – at the national team level, take on the Boise State/Utah model. Play anyone anywhere, and pay to get people to come play you at home in primetime, even on thursday, so to speak.
    2i at the MLS level, and similarly, get match-up b/w MLS squads and euro clubs squads.

    As for future topics for The Beverage, and skipping the obvious (but requested) such as gadgets and oil spills, golf comes to mind as does food, both as a gastronomic enterprise as suggested by your BBQ idea and as an economic/political topic.

    Of course, American Football begins in relatively short Order.

    In a final note, I still can’t believe the Krauts had the balls to go back to Deutschland Uberallis as their anthem. God Save the Queen.

  2. 2 Telly Fathaly June 27, 2010 at 11:14 am

    John Harkes sounds like Mary Carillo.

  3. 3 Half-n-Half June 27, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    From my plane…I endorse pig burying.

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