U.S. soccer booted out of World Cup | SierraSun.com

U.S. soccer booted out of World Cup

Alex Close
Close Range

The U.S. national team slipped into World Cup obscurity where it belongs yesterday, as Bruce Arena’s boys put up little fight in a 2-1 loss to Ghana ” the lone African squad to advance into the round of 16.

To its credit, Ghana has a very potent side, boasting speed, a very tight, controlling midfield, a goalie who controls his box and dangerous attackers.

However, the Yanks never seemed to muster up enough heart to pose a threat to any of group E’s teams.

While DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey finally managed to create a legitimate goal for the U.S. ” the only one of the Cup ” the rest of the game was pretty much nonexistent for the Americans.

Kasey Keller continued to provide little help between the posts, so called super star Landon Donovan was all but invisible throughout the game and storied veteran Claudio Reyna was solely responsible for Ghana’s first goal.

While head referee Merk Markus continued this Cup’s habit of atrocious officiating ” even with his very controversial penalty resulting in Ghana taking the lead back just before half ” the fault of the game cannot be put on Markus, as head U.S. coach Bruce Arena implied in a press conference after the game.

In fact, most of the blame for the Americans’ horrible overall showing in Germany should fall on Arena himself.

Of course, Arena has done much for U.S. Soccer, but in Germany his boys showed no heart and played like a team that felt it deserved to win.

Some of that could be chalked up to a largely sophomore team that did very well in its rookie World Cup in Korea.

However, as the camera pans to Arena on the sideline, an arrogant smirk on his mouth and the look of someone who has been wronged in his eyes, one wonders if Arena is responsible for his players’ lack of effort and heart.

On a team in a do-or-die game, a must-win situation, players should be flying up and down the field, sticking tackles and making runs until they puke from exhaustion. The coach should be pacing the sideline, throwing clipboards and flailing his arms, the bench should be constantly jogging, always ready to be subbed into the action.

Instead, we saw a U.S. side swinging the ball casually around the back line even into the closing minutes of the five-minute injury period. Meanwhile, Arena was leaning on the bench box, smirking as if he knew his team was better and that’s all that mattered, as if basically getting routed thrice and scoring only one goal was a fluke.

When that whistle blows and the ball starts rolling, a coach can do little more than read the game and make changes to put players in positions to make good things happen (which arguably is something Arena did not do, i.e. waiting to put Eddie Johnson in and allowing Beasley the opportunity to play at all). But perhaps one of the most important duties of a coach is to inspire his players.

Obviously, Arena did not do that.

The boys in white should have come out of the locker room flying after halftime, the locker room having been left in shambles from Arena yelling and screaming, throwing water jugs on the floor and generally firing up his team after it played like a team assured of advancement instead of one trying to realize the impossible.

However, one can hear Arena’s Igor-like lazy voice telling his boys to “play their game, keep the ball and the chances will come.”

In a way they did come, two of them throughout the whole half ” not enough for a legitimate threat.

In the end, the U.S. deserved to lose. It would have been unjust for them to advance past a far superior team that played like it cared.

Alex Close is a sports writer with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at aclose@tahoe-world.com.