Lack of killer instinct and nightmare officiating hurt USA

Something wasn’t right.       

There sat the ball in the back of the net, but the looks on the faces of the American players didn’t match the exuberant levels we were expecting. Then they showed a close shot of Maurice Edu, and his expression alone was gut-wrenching.       

The goal had been disallowed, and no one knew why. Not the broadcasters, not the coaches, or the players from either team. After watching the replay, it’s hard to believe the ref even knew why.       

After the game, Landon Donovan said that they repeatedly asked the official what the call was, and that he simply ignored them and walked away. He also noted that the ref hardly spoke English and may not have understood what the Americans were asking.       

“I don’t know how much English he speaks but we asked him numerous times in a non-confrontational manner to explain his call, but he just ignored us,” Donovan said. “Or maybe he just didn’t understand.”       

However, what I have found is a site (which I believe is Egyptian) that had a piece about the referees for the Africa Cup of Nations Tournament. Translated through Google Translate, the site says Koman Coulibaly, the referee in question, “Speaks French and English as well as local language of the country.”       

A bloodied Brian McBride in 2006 vs. Italy

No matter what happens in the final match, this game will be remembered in a number of different ways. For some, Coulibaly’s name will go alongside Jorge Larrionda’s in the annals of history and this will be marked as the second consecutive World Cup in which the U.S. was plagued by poor officiating.       

For others, it was a second half to remember. Slovenia was faced with an onslaught of attacks for the better part of 45 minutes and were lucky to escape with one point still in their pockets. As controlling as they looked in the first half, the United States were the enforcers in the second half and imposed their will on the European side. The desperation and intensity shown in the second half from the Americans is what we have been waiting for all along; the only downside is that we had to be scored on twice to wake up.      

What the USA needs to do in our final match with Algeria is come out with that same energy and reckless abandon that we had in the second half last Friday. We need to stop playing like this is some throw away game up in Rochester and realize where we are. We are competing in the world’s largest sporting event and, with a win, we will advance to be one of the top 16 teams. We weren’t playing bad soccer before we were scored on in the first half–passing well and didn’t look nervous–but there was no desperation. No forward runs, no defenders pushing up. We seemed almost content to knock the ball around long enough for the other team to screw up and then we would take advantage of it.      

This is the World Cup! Nobody is giving our freebies. The lack of killer instinct was maddening… similar to the Sabres power play against Boston. I’ve liked Bob Bradley as a coach so far, and the changes he got out of his team after the break really make it seem like he has a handle on his squad. All that’s left now is simple: win and we’re in.      

Other thoughts:      

I was very impressed with the play of Bob Bradley’s son, Michael. Even before he scored, he got himself involved and was committed to make a difference in the game. He was also the most vocal American in the moments after the disallowed goal and after the final whistle blew. Much like Tyler Myers sticking up for Ryan Miller, you gotta love a young guy with that kind of spunk.     

It was one heck of a strike by Donovan for our first goal, but honestly, what was their goalie doing? Instead of coming out to cut down the angle or at least make himself look big in the net, he got out of the way and hid in the goal. Not saying I would have wanted to get in front of that shot either, but… come on. Weak effort.    

With one game to play for each team in group C, all four teams are still alive, and three can clinch a spot with a win. For the downers who want to point out that we only have two of a possible six points, think about how some other fans have it; fans whose teams are normally a lot better than ours. England is a traditional soccer powerhouse, and they could be knocked out even if they tie their final game. And how about France? The runner-ups four years ago now look to be in complete dismay as they have earned only one point through two matches and dismissed arguably their top player, Nicolas Anelka. The day after he was released from the team, but rest of the players refused to practice in protest of his departure, and that led to France’s team director straight up quitting and going back to Paris. (More info here.) Not even last World Cup’s champion Italy is doing well, drawing both of their matches against much lower quality teams.    

Coulibaly was back on the field today as a fourth official, so it doesn’t look like FIFA will be banning him from other games. 

Vuvuzelas are awesome, and you too can own one for just $7.99. If you overhear someone talking about soccer and you want to know if they are a legitimate fan or not, the vuvuzela proves to be a good litmus test. If they don’t like the horn, well then they just aren’t a real fan. Simple as that.    

*******     

In a completely unrelated note, Mets’ pitcher John Maine made a rehab start Friday for the Bisons. He gave up only one hit in 4.1 innings of work with four strikeouts and three walks.  Never looked comfortable on the mound but got results; had a no-hitter through four. 50 strikes out of 88 pitches is a good ratio for a rehab start, but that’s too many pitches to throw over that few innings. Should make at least one more start with Buffalo.

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