I said it and wrote it earlier in the summer after a 2-0 dismantling of Panama and 1-0 win over Honduras — this edition of the United States national soccer team might be the best collection of offensive American players in my lifetime.
In the old days, any attempts by the U.S. to push forward and create scoring chances would have been deemed “offensive” by those with a trained eye for watching international soccer.
Now, the United States is dangerous with the ball and displays gobs of flair and touch when they’re around the goal.
Who are these guys?
I’ll tell you who they are: They’re the U.S. soccer team heading to the World Cup.
With their 2-0 throttling of Mexico on Tuesday night and a 2-2 draw between Honduras and Panama, the red, white and blue will be heading to Brazil next summer for World Cup 2014. And, they still have two games to play in the CONCACAF qualifying round, which gives Jurgen Klinsmann 180 minutes of more on-the-job-training without the pressure of winning, something that should be of great value to him as he evaluates his roster for WC14.
This U.S. team has been greatly helped with the return of an interested-and-engaged Landon Donovan, who remains the best American player of the last 20 years and continues to show that he’s a true difference maker when his chakras are in line and he wants to perform at a high level.
Even without Michael Bradley on Tuesday night in Columbus, OH, the Americans penetrated a desperate Mexican defense with sharp through balls, effective switching of the play and a calm patience on the ball that hasn’t been seen from an American team in…well…as long as I can remember.
The 2002 U.S. World Cup team that fell to Germany in the final eight was the best American side I had seen, with all due respect to the upstart 1990 squad and the ’94 edition that captalized on their home-team role and made it through the qualifying stage.
This team, right now, is better than the ’02 squad. Offensively, they’re better by light years. Unfortunately, there are still defensive question marks heading into WC14 that would even the playing field a little bit if ’02 and ’14 met in a best-of-3.
Yes, for once, we head into a World Cup with a complete, full head of steam. We have a real coach. Offensive imagination. Players with experience in big game situations.
This isn’t a great backline unit, although they were stellar on Tuesday vs. Mexico, but perhaps this will be the occasion when the best defense is a best offense when the squad heads to Brazil nine months from now.
Players play and coaches coach, but you have to really wonder about the way the Orioles have used Kevin Gausman.
His performances have ranged from outstanding to poor, and most of the time he sees both of those levels within any given outing. Case in point on Tuesday night when the Yankees couldn’t touch the rookie in the 7th and then exploited him in the 8th to put up a four-spot in a 7-5 win.
No one could quite figure out why Buck left Gausman in after A-Rod doubled to lead off the 8th inning. He had done his job by then, getting the O’s through the 7th and into the 8th with the lead.
Even the five hand-picked media members the folks in Orioles PR allow to ask questions in the post-game press conference pressed Buck for the answer: Why leave Gausman in after the A-Rod double?
Buck’s answer, while creative and fancy, had holes in it if you ask me: “Well, Frankie (Rodriguez) has difficulty holding runners on base…so we just thought Kevin would still be our best option there.”
A-Rod walks around like Fred Sanford. You think he’s stealing 3rd base if you bring in K-Rod in that situation?
Come on Buck, we’re not managers, but we’re smarter than that.
They’ve used Gausman in a peculiar way this season and it was magnified on Tuesday night when they left him in there in one of the biggest games of the year against one of the most well-coached offensive teams in baseball.
I don’t think it’s damaging the kid’s confidence, but Buck’s continued trust in him is damaging the Orioles and their playoff chances.