To paraphrase John Harkes, if South Africa has a Powerball lottery, Bob Bradley should go buy a ticket. It was the opposite of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. It was, in fact, a series of very fortunate events.
The United States had the slimmest of margins to get through to the semi-finals yesterday, yet they did. Brazil beat the crap out of a really rather disinterested Italy squad by a score of 3-0. But the final goal, the one that helped put the US through, was an own goal off the foot of defender Andrea Dossena. And every Liverpool fan jumped as one and shouted, “See?!? We told you he was terrible!”
And what of the US-Egypt match? The US scored 3 goals? Really? Are they really that good? Short answer? Hell, no. Is Egypt that bad? Maybe, but I doubt it.
I’m having trouble assessing the US here. They played one good half against Italy and then got trounced by a combination of Giuseppe Rossi and Daniele de Rossi. They were completely and utterly outclassed by Brazil for 90 minutes. Hell, they were probably outclassed in the dressing room, at the pre- and post-match press conferences, and on the ride over from the hotel. The Brazilian hotel likely outclassed the US hotel. That match was a complete and utter destruction. There are no two ways around it.
At the same time, Egypt looked if not good, at least competitive where the US did not. So what happened? I think the Pharaohs ran out of gas, honestly. The one thing that really struck me about the underdogs was the lack of depth. Look at the Spanish, Brazilian, and Italian rosters (okay, Italy’s a bad example, but stay with me): the thing you notice first is that every single player would make the first XI of Egypt, South Africa, New Zealand, Iraq, and the United States. Every single one.
So how do I explain the US in the semi-finals. The easiest answer is luck. Sheer shit luck. The other answer is that they finally put together a good 90 minutes; I think that’s true. I don’t think, however, that Brad Guzan is the new starting keeper or that Conor Casey is the answer at striker. Similarly, I don’t think we’ll get any answers when the US gets annihilated by Spain on Wednesday. The US remains an enigma, one of the dominant teams in CONCACAF but nowhere near the elite on the world stage. Perhaps the next two matches will reveal some pearls of truth.