What a Difference a Year Can Make

Last year this time, I was singing the blues over the US National Team’s anemic performance in the 2006 World Cup and wondering if Bruce Arena had traveled with the team as a coach or merely a spectator.

One year later, I’m watching this immaculate strike over and over and over and allowing myself to dream a little about our prospects in South Africa come 2010.

The US’s come-from-behind 2-1 victory against Mexico in Sunday’s CONCACAF Gold Cup Final may prove to be a watershed moment in the Stars and Stripes’ march toward the next World Cup. Interim-now-permanent Head Coach Bob Bradley has brought new blood and a fresh perspective to a team that was mired in a mid-90s mindset. Down 1-0 at the half, he made the necessary adjustments to shore up a backline that was being shredded by El Tri forward Nery Castillo and stuck with Brian Ching despite a quiet first half. Ching went on to create numerous opportunities up top, including the chance for Landon Donovan’s game-tying penalty kick. To see a coach actually make adjustments rather than merely watch the match is rarer than you might think, even at the higher levels of the game.

But most importantly, Bradley is not afraid to turn his young charges loose on the attack. Rather than hunker down in a defensive posture and rely on the counterattack, the US wasn’t afraid to take the game to the Mexicans and created at least as many chances in the first half even while falling behind. Had it not been for a superb outing by Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez and some spotty finishing on our part in the second half (DaMarcus–we can’t afford to miss open goals), the result could have easily been more lopsided. Oh, and let’s not forget a few acrobatic saves by US tender Tim Howard on the other end.

Benny Feilhaber? You gotta be kidding me. Who’s that?

Exactly. With crusty veteran Donovan–who is all of 25–screaming “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” Feilhaber turned a still-wet deaf ear, stepped up, took it out of the air, and nailed one for the ages. Ah, the impertinence of youth!

What a difference a year can make.

  1. Brady

    Very nice goal. Complete surprise. Loved the Spanish excitement…

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    I’m not sure where that TV feed was originating from, but if it was Mexico, some commentator out there better start watching his back.

    Or maybe the Mexican people simply have an appreciation for a fine GOL!!! no matter who scores it.


  3. Laurie

    Too funny — you just showed up in my inbox in a Google alert for “Landon Donovan.” Small world. 🙂

    And it was a fantastic game. Loved Feilhaber, and Bocanegra impressed the heck out of me.

    It’s good we got this, because we will be killed in CopaAmerica.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy

    Oh no, now I’ve got real soccer bloggers stopping by–I’m going to have to step it up!

    It was a great match, wasn’t it? Here’s a funny fact that I picked up from the US Soccer website: both the US men’s and women’s teams are undefeated over the past 365 days, a combined 31-0-4 since last summer!

    But alas, that streak will most likely end v. Argentina, especially without Donovan and Ching on the roster. But Feilhaber will be there! Never fear, Benny’s here! Maybe he can strike gold twice.

  5. Double vision

    Viva USA!

  6. Mike the Eyeguy

    Heh. I’m sure that’s what the Venezuelans will be shouting when we take the pitch in Maracaibo. 😉

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