I've been able to repress thoughts of the US crashing out of Germany in 31st place. Italy and the Czech Republic have legitimate expectations, and not getting past group play for either (though Italy especially) would be considered disasterous, and players lives (again, especially in Italy: see this story about Inter's players) will be made miserable should they return home in disgrace. Ghana is not a gimme. I suspect the US braintrust is hoping to draw with the Czech Republic, draw with Italy, beat Ghana, and snag 2nd (giving them Brazil in the knockout). Fat chance.
Last night's 1-1 draw between USMNT and Jamaica was depressing on many levels. Yes, it was an MLS-only based team and Yes, it was a friendly and Yes, Arena was giving players who probably weren't going to make the team a last chance to impress, but weaknesses were exposed that the inclusion of European-based players and weeks of training once the final 23 are set won't fix.
The US is slow. They couldn't get around the flanks of Jamaica's defenders while Jamaica's wingers constantly got around the US defenders' and delivered crosses to the box. If the team Arena put out last night was playing a mid-table Premiership team they'd have given up at least three.
And this most crucially: they have no world-class strikers. Twellman, Ching, Wolfe, Johnson, McBride are all poachers: none can create a shot out of nothing. The only USMNT players who can create their own shot are Donovan and Dempsey and Beasley (midfielders all), and you don't think Italy and the Czech Republic and Ghana don't scout? The USMNT offense is going to hinge its hope on set pieces, balls into the box for headers - where else will the goals come from?
In a game of crucial importance to the World Cup hopes of many players, the US looked uninspired, uncreative, and so very slow as to make me believe the obituaries that will be written about the summer's USMNT catastrophe in Germany will miss the point of how far soccer has advanced in this country. The US is a better soccer country now than it was after the success in WC02, it's just not going to be reflected in WC06.