And so the US Men’s National Team has done it. They have made it into the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup.
With one win.
And two losses.
Hardly the triumphant march down the Via Appia one would dream of in getting to the final four of any tournament. In fact it took the soccer equivalent of Deus ex machina “goals for” column to decide who would make it into the round of four.
That’s the good news. The bad news is, they face the current European Champions and World number 1-ranked Spain in this round.
Is the USMNT good enough to beat Spain? Of course they are. And if Bob Bradley has them where they need to be mentally, his players will tell you so themselves. That’s if they can get the ball off the Spanish long enough to string two passes together. The Spanish squad is decidedly miserly with the ball when they are in possession. So much so Scrooge would pity their opponents.
There is hope, though. The Egyptians, yes, the same Egyptian team they thumped in order to make it to the semis, provided an invaluable lesson in how to baffle superior opponents. High pressure and soaking up midfield space saw them squeeze by the Italians and almost share the spoils with Brazil.
And therein lies the keys to the US’s success. If the US is to have any chance at all, they will have to play spoiler ball in the midfield – a midfield that has been woefully under performing since the 3-1 beat down by Costa Rica on June 3rd.
This young US squad will be mercilessly flogged by a superlative Spain if they allow them to play the sweeping game that has made them so successful. If all else fails, I hear that Tonya Harding is looking for work.
In his interview yesterday, former National Team regular Desmond Armstrong posited that perhaps a more positive strike force would see Landon Donovan playing a Totti-like role behind a strike duo and using his distributive genius in setting the attackers up.
Not a bad idea. Except Donovan don’t do D. It’ll be hard enough to get the ball off the Spanish as it stands, so an already beleaguered midfield will need the services of someone that is more willing to get the ball away from an opponent than one who waits for it to come to him.
Say what you will about how they got there or how they will do now that they are there, in these competitions it doesn’t matter how you got there only that you are. And it is no small feat that they are there. And with that in mind, if ever there was a time for a US fan base to get excited about their Stars and Stripes, this is it.
Kick off is at 2:25 pm tomorrow afternoon.