The United States Wins, But There Is No Joy in Mudville
When does a huge win feel a bit like a deflating loss? When everybody is left wondering why the U.S.' dramatic 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda had to be so difficult.
BY John Godfrey PostedANTIGUA—At the end of most soccer matches it’s easy to distinguish the winners from the losers. One group of players tends to hang their heads in a defeated posture, or perhaps stare around with a glazed expression thinking about what they could have done differently. As the final whistle blew on the United States’ 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Antigua and Barbuda, all 22 players on the pitch looked as if they had lost. There were no outward displays of exuberance or joy from the victorious Americans—just a lot of slumped shoulders. The team had won an incredibly important match—on Eddie Johnson’s dramatic stoppage-time goal, his second tally of the night—but the mood within Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds was anything but celebratory. United States Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati sat slumped in a chair a few minutes after the match, clearly drained from the experience. Asked if he wanted to make a comment, Gulati looked up and quietly declined. “Maybe after my B.P. comes down a bit,” he said. Even Jurgen Klinsmann, one of the most upbeat and affable people you will ever meet, was not willing to sugarcoat his team’s performance. He did not crack a smile at the post-game press conference. “Do we have to play better?” he asked. “Absolutely. We are not happy with what we saw. There will be a couple of things we will discuss internally that we need to do much, much better in Kansas City.” Foremost among those objectives: creating a sense of urgency within the squad that begins at the opening whistle and continues until the end of the match. “It’s something you always try to reinforce but it has to develop within the whole group,” Klinsmann said. “And especially in away games. We just need to be better than that. We were winning in Jamaica after one minute and then suddenly we dropped back. And we had said from the outset, ‘Don’t drop back! Stay high up! Keep playing the same game!’” It was more of the same against Antigua and Barbuda. “At halftime we said, ‘Guys, we have to step it up here. We have to play faster. We have to play 1-2 touches more often and find spaces behind their fullbacks. That’s something we have to work on, mentally.” There is plenty to work on physically, too. Herculez Gomez, usually deadly with his chances, had an awful game. (And, to his credit, he admitted as much via Twitter.) interactive Infographic. It’s a great way to tell the soccer world how you feel.
October 13, 2012
October 13, 2012