The United States, in their loss to Argentina, showed one thing: they don’t have the capability to compete against better opposition. They don’t even have the ability to fight on a respectable level. Michael Bradley arguably had his worst game in this competition. But, then again, when was the last time we saw the real Bradley? The one that can rule the midfield and thread needle-like passes? Too long a time ago to even remember.
Granted, Argentina are the number one ranked team in the world, and the U.S. are 31st, but to be clear, no one in their right minds thought that we were going to give them a drubbing. However, everyone in their right minds were expecting the USMNT to put up a fight and at least get a goal against the runners-up of the World Cup. Expectations are obviously too high for this team, given the country it is situated in and the status quo of the other sports within it, but for a nation of roughly 319 million people, it shouldn’t be too high of an assumption. It should rather become a regularity.
For goodness’ sake, Iceland, a country of 330,000 people, made it to the knockout stages of the Euros. When we have 967 fold their population, is it really that wrong to think we can do 10 times better than the fight that Strákarnir okkar (Iceland’s alternate name, meaning ‘Our boys’) put up against Portugal?
Obviously, circumstances cannot be interchanged and we cannot face Portugal instead of Argentina in the Copa. The point is, Portugal is a much tougher opposition to Iceland than Argentina are to us.
Nonetheless, the 70,000+ people in the stadium in Houston cheered on, as they always do, until they saw there was no point. The faces brimming with excitement at the beginning of the evening was now filled with slight grimace, though most remained behind to see if the men representing their country could at least register a goal. The fact that the U.S. failed to put a single shot on target could hardly have surprised the attendees and the viewers by the end of the 90 minutes.
Moving on, this team now faces a rematch versus Colombia for a claim on the highly coveted third place in this tournament. Their first match, which was the Copa opener, ended in a 2-0 loss to the U.S., with a goal conceded from a poorly defended set-piece and a rather poor handball by Yedlin to gift the opposition a penalty, which James duly converted.
It was clear in that game that the U.S. weren’t prepared and focused for the start of the tournament, though they eventually recovered and went on to remain unbeaten until facing Argentina. It seems that the mentality and focus is right this time around, as Michael Bradley said after the semi-final loss, “When you lose 4-0 you’re not talking about anyone not on the field. Plain and simple.” Good. The acceptance of blame is the first step towards recovery. Now let’s see if they can follow through.