USA/Spain, A Very Physical Game of Figure Skating

Posted on June 5, 2008

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Chicago Bears safety Mike Brown has compared offseason team activities to “a very physical game of basketball.”  By this he meant that because there were no pads and no tackles, the drills they were running lacked any element of danger and weren’t really football.  The same could be said of the 1-0 loss the USMNT took last night, courtesy of Spain.  There was a ball, to be sure, and lots of kicking.  But the game, the second half in particular, was so lacking in dangerous soccer from the US that, to paraphase Mr. Brown, it was more like a very physical game of figure skating. 

The only major revelation this game provided was the emergence of Freddy Adu.  American soccer fans have been waiting for a game like this from Adu for 5 years.  His time in Benfica has noticeably boosted Freddy’s confidence and skills.  On Wednesday he was the only player for the US who looked capable of imposing his will on a game; he distributed the ball in the midfield with an ease that belied his age, and his composure forced the Spanish players to account for him all over the field, something which no other US player did.  This game was instructive in the way that one transcendent player can alter the quality of a side, and the proof is in the radical difference between the first and second halves.  In the first, the US looked spry and interesting, fully capable of making the Spaniards pay if they failed to take the US seriously.  In the second, minus Adu, the US suddenly looked ragged and out of sorts, light years away from a team that can get out of World Cup group play with any consistency. 

As much of an encouragement as the first have was for the Americans, the overall result remained a letdown.  Little was learned beyond what was already known.  Josh Wolff can’t play at this level.  Eddie Johnson doesn’t possess the scorer’s touch needed for international competition.  Michael Bradley has defensive skills but can’t put a complete game together on offense.  Clint Dempsey continues the trend of enigmatic national team stars named ‘Clint’.  And the disquieting feeling that Bob Bradley doesn’t have the creativity to get the best out of this team won’t be going away anytime soon.  Until these questions are answered, the US will continue to play games like these:  a little bit of soccer, but mostly a very physical game of figure skating.

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