There is so very much to talk about after the United States’ crushing, last-minute elimination Monday from Olympic soccer. The longer-term “this” and bigger picture “that” must be addressed following the latest qualifying clunker at a sub-national team level. Surely there will be reckonings, and hopefully a thoughtful plan of how to make things better.
The short-term issues are all more stark and biting, fresh wounds of the moment:
The roster wasn’t good enough. The coaching wasn’t good enough. The leadership and problem solving fell short.
Heck, even the choice of venues from U.S. Soccer proved imprudent. (How nice would it have been for the United States, given the opportunity to choose its facilities, to have a packed, smaller house absolutely coming apart at the end, urging and helping the home team to grind out the last few exhausting minutes? We’ll never know; tens of thousands of empty seats is no recipe for whipping up a “stirring cauldron.”)
Nonetheless, it was thrilling and breathless, El Salvador’s 3-3 draw at LP Field. El Salvador moves into Saturday’s semifinals, and credit to the small Central American side for prolonging its own Olympic dream through a night of gritty belief.
For the United States, Olympic soccer from London in the summer of 2012 will be a TV event. Here are some things to initially consider from Monday’s heart-breaker.
- El Salvador was quicker, smarter and more committed over the telling first half, taking a well-deserved 2-1 lead into the break. Why? U.S. manager Caleb Porter and his men will need to answer that one. With so much on the line, the U.S. seemed content to “pretty” its way through the game initially – while the Salvadorans gave the home side a lesson in desire.
- The best U.S. spell: Between the 60th and about the 90th minute, when the desperation finally kicked in, proving once again that a U.S. side backed into a corner is a U.S. side at its best.
- Leadership and experience were sorely missing in the end, when U.S. players went diving emotionally into tackles at the telling moment. Rather than managing the final Salvadoran attack through shape and balance, American haste at winning the ball created the gaps that permitted the shot … that Sean Johnson bobbled so costly.
- The American goalkeeping situation was shockingly poor. Five goals against in two matches, with at least two the product of mismanaged back-stopping. Bill Hamid’s meek moment led to a crushing goal against Canada. But Johnson’s fumbled effort in the dying seconds Monday was equally inept. These two, remember, have been in Jurgen Klinsmann’s full national team camp. We all expected better.
- Playing three matches in five days is an absurd schedule; both teams looked spent toward the end Monday. So you have to wonder why Porter left two substitutions on the bench until it was almost too late? The Americans were dying for fresh legs.
- The United States defense was a mess from the start of the qualifying tournament, and never got any better. Not once in the tournament did center back Ike Opara look up for the job.
Borussia Dortmund substitute and USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic subbed into Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League match versus Real Madrid and made a difference.
Given 17 minutes to work, Pulisic needed about 10. The 18-year-old American sent in a cross that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t volley but fell to another BVB player.
[ MORE: Big Sam canned ]
That was Andre Schurrle, and the ex-Wolfsburg and Chelsea man lashed a shot behind Navas to make it 2-2 at the Westfalenstadion.
Pulisic does well here, real well, and had a chance to make it 2-2 himself that was smothered by Navas.
A 67-day reign as a national team blown up by allegations of corruption? We’ve seen similar situations in world soccer, but certainly not at a high-profile, traditional headline-grabber like the England national team.
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English legend Alan Shearer called the Three Lions a “laughing stock”, adding that, “I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m staggered at the misjudgement from a guy who admitted this was his dream job.”
The UEFA Champions League’s group stage hits its second round of matches Tuesday, with two Premier League teams in play and a bevy of big names from outside England.
[ MORE: Dempsey out for 2016 ]
Leicester City 1-0 Porto
The chemistry between Algeria and now Leicester City teammates Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani is very real.
The former fed the latter for an opening goal on Tuesday in UEFA Champions League play at King Power Stadium, as the Foxes have opened up a 1-0 lead on Porto.
You can imagine the visitors aren’t too pleased with having to meet up with Slimani, who they just managed to see out of their league only to watch him arrive in their UCL group.
And how about the mad dabbing kid shown just after Slimani’s celebration? Wild nights in Leicester.
CSKA Moscow 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Spurs are controlling the play, but have yet to find a goal in Russia.
Dinamo Zagreb 0-2 Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic have the goals for The Old Lady.
Borussia Dortmund 1-1 Real Madrid
Cristiano Ronaldo got on the scoresheet, though the hosts have been by far the more dangerous side. USMNT teenager Christian Pulisic is on the bench for BVB.
Thomas Tuchel’s side threatened to score through a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rocketed a shot just over the frame, and the Gabonese man made it 1-1 soon after when Keylor Navas punched Raphael Guerriero’s free kick off Raphael Varane. Aubameyang touched it over the line for an academic marker.
Here’s Ronaldo’s goal:
Sevilla 0-0 Lyon
Monaco 0-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Copenhagen 0-0 Club Brugge
Sporting CP 2-0 Legia Warsaw
The Seattle Sounders may yet make a playoff appearance, but it will be without Clint Dempsey.
The USMNT star recently returned to training with the team after dealing with an irregular heartbeat.
[ MORE: Big Sam canned ]
Sounders general manager Garth Lagerway made the announcement on Tuesday.
“If we prioritize this now, hopefully we can get Dempsey back in 2017.”
That does not seem to bode well for his participation with the United States men’s national team, which has October friendlies with Cuba and New Zealand before the first two matches of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in November.
Fortunately for the Sounders, both Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro have their upped their games in his absence, and Andreas Ivanschitz has been decent as well.
Seattle is five points back of fifth place Sporting KC, and three back of sixth place Portland. The Sounders have played two less matches than both sides.