Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday 6/23 USMNT Gut-Punch Quickie

*It is a measure of how much soccer matters now in the U.S. that we all were so battered by last night's finish/result.

*It is OK -- even preferable -- to feel dejected (the last second!) or dissatisfied (Bradley!), as opposed to feeling nothing. (Obviously, it would have felt infinitely better to have won.)

*Rationally, I get the whole "If we were the team to tie it up 2-2 in the last second, this would be the greatest moment in US soccer history." I get that 4 points through 2 games is pretty good.

*But it's hard to get over the fact that the game and its impact -- the three points, the guaranteed spot in the knockout round -- were ours, right there.

*Looking ahead to the game with Germany, we have plenty of pathways to get through: Beat Germany, draw with Germany, if Ghana and Portugal tie, if we lose closely but Ghana only wins by a goal, if we lose closely but Portugal only wins by less than 3 goals.

*It does befuddle me a little why the US wouldn't collude with Germany to tie the game, guaranteeing that both teams go through.

*The goal of the group stage -- at least for the US -- is to get out of the group stage. Not to maximize our points. Not to win stylishly. To survive and advance.

*Teams take different approaches to games with the bigger picture in mind all the time -- they rest starters, they try less aggressive tactics.

*In short: They do things that decrease their chances of winning in the short term in order to maximize their chances of winning the larger prize. (Shorthand: You don't play to win the game; you play to win the title.)

*In that respect, it's not unreasonable to evaluate that "Golden Draw" option -- in the same way that yesterday's 2-2 was felt as a sort of loss, a draw on Thursday would be the sweetest of victories.

*It all comes back to this: That we can even feel this way at all -- the dejection, the hope, the bracket-bending scenarios -- is the best sign yet of the ascendance of the sport in the U.S.

-- D.S.

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