June 13, 2006
Yesterday was supposed to be a day where the US took on a top European team on European soil and announced that they had arrived as a world soccer power. Unfortunately, things don't always work out as you had hoped.
It only took five minutes for the Czechs to take over the match. Zdenek Grygera got loose down the right side and whipped a cross into the box. Eddie Pope cut in front of monster Czech forward Jan Koller and tried to clear the ball. Unfortunately, Pope saw the cross fly over his head and Koller finished the chance with a strong header past Kasey Keller.
The US did have one chance to make a game of it. About twenty minutes later, US captain Claudio Reyna took a shot from distance that got past Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech. Unfortunately, the ball struck the left post and US was still trailing in the match.
In the 36th minute, Tomas Rosicky pretty much cinched the match for the Czechs. Oguchi Onyewu attempted to clear a ball out of the box. Unfortunately, the clearance wasn't high enough to get out of danger. Rosicky had loads of space and fired a cracker from distance that beat Keller to his left.
The Czechs weren't getting loads of chances, but they were clinical in their finishing of the chances that the US gave them.
Trailing 2-0 at the half, the end result was pretty obvious for all watching the match.
Bruce Arena was unwilling to pack it in and just play to keep the goal differential down. Personally, I loved the moves he made coming out of the locker room as he replaced holding midfielder Pablo Mastroeni with John O'Brien and right back Steve Cherundolo with forward Eddie Johnson. The only difficulty that caused was that it forced Eddie Pope to play out wide right and he didn't have the attacking skill that Cherundolo brings to the table.
Eddie Johnson was the lone bright spot for the Americans in the second half. Eddie had one shot that just missed the left post and he also just missed getting on the end of a Bobby Convey cross.
Rosicky was able to take advantage of the US's pushing everything forward as he was sent free in the 76th minute on a beautiful through ball from Pavel Nedved. The pass was in the absolute perfect spot as neither Pope, Onyewu, or Keller were able to break up the play and Rosicky was able to finish for his second goal of the match.
Afterward, US manager Bruce Arena claimed that changes would be made in the team's starting eleven. He called out players such as Landon Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley. Honestly, outside of Johnson and perhaps Convey and Reyna, it was hard to really point to any of the US players and say that they had a good game yesterday.
And that is the most disheartening thing to me. This was supposed to be the best US team ever. Bruce Arena was supposed to be the genius coach that could work miracles. This was supposed to be our time.
And the US team was a no show.
Hopefully Bruce and the boys can get this match out of their heads quickly and they can regroup before taking on Italy on Saturday. This will be the true test of the will of this group of 23 men. They've just taken a huge punch. No how will they respond?
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the Rochester Rhinos or SoccerSam.com. Feel free to send any comments or complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org. James promises to read (but not to respond) to all of them.