More later. But....
Landon Donovan's well-earned reputation as a choker was always deserved, but now has been etched into granite. In the 35th minute McBride headed a pass right onto the on-rushing Donovan, and he gacks it wide by yards. In 80th minute he takes a free kick from a dangerous spot, off the corner of the penalty box, and gacks it wide and high by 20 feet each. In 89th minute he tracks down loose ball right of box. All the effing room in the world. He runs into box, isn't challenged for seconds, has shooting lane, has passing lane, he won't fucking do either. Finally he lays it off to Benny who receives the ball so late all he can do is weakly whiff at the ball. Watch Donovan come score two for Galaxy v DCU in RFK this August 26. The choker.
Much will be made of the horrible, simply horrible PK awarded to Ghana in first half stoppage. (The Guardian is already mocking the ref Merk, not only for the PK but for carding Essien out of Ghana's game v Brazil.) Yet the US came out in 2nd half and dominated possession and play until, well until Donovan gacked that great opportunity in 89th minute; at that point it became clear that they might pull one back for a tie, but two weren't coming. Arena pressed the offense as he had to, taking out defender Cherundelo for striker Johnson (who did nothing - why not Ching if the plan is crosses?) and attacking MF Convey for the more defensive MF Lewis. McBride struck post, Onyewu headed over bar. But the PK meant the US had to score three to go through, and the US cannot score three.
Both goals came on defensive goofs, Beasley poking a ball between a bunch of defenders and crossing beautifully (yes, I admit it) to Dempsey who buried it. Reyna was stripped one on one. Horrible, just horrible. A great finish by Draman, but just horrible by Reyna, who surely has played his last international of any importance.
PK or no, a just result in terms of who goes through. Ghana is better. By five points. More later.
One last thought on the PK: regardless of whether the US would have won or lost, what suffered as a result of the PK was the game itself. Think of the energy of a second half started 1-1 with both teams aware that Italy was going to go eliminate the Czechs. Think of the urgency. Maybe Ghana wins anyway, maybe it ends up in tie. But that dreadful PK call took that away. That could have been something really wonderful.
See? More Yet
Here's the latest, updated WaPo article about the game, with Arena quotes, including his statement, when asked, would you want to coach another WC if given a chance: "If you ask me now, probably not."
Here are the player rankings as judged by Soccer America:
SOCCER AMERICA REPORT CARDQuiet Side has pulled me aside and scolded me for harshing on Landon Donovan. That would be the Landon Donovan with the grade of 3 up above. I'm going to Dono-vent here and now and be done with it.
(1=low; 5=average; 10=high)
RATING PLAYER (CLUB/CAPS)
6 Kasey Keller (Borussia M’Gladbach/GER, 36/96)
5 Steve Cherundolo (Hannover 96/GER, 27/ 38)
5 Oguchi Onyewu (Standard de Liege/BEL, 24/17)
6 Jimmy Conrad (Kansas City Wizards, 29/17)
5 Carlos Bocanegra (Fulham/ENG, 27/42)
6 Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution, 23/23)
5 Eddie Lewis (Leeds/ENG, 32/72)
4 Claudio Reyna (Man. City/ENG, 32/113)
5 DaMarcus Beasley (PSV/NED, 24/61)
3 Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy, 24/84)
4 Brian McBride (Fulham/ENG, 34/95)
5 Ben Olsen (Kansas City Wizards, 29/35) (bdr asks, Um, what's wrong with this line?)
5 Bobby Convey (Reading/ENG, 23/42)
3 Eddie Johnson (Kansas City Wizards, 22/20)
I'm not assigning all blame to Donovan, let me be clear: this is not scapegoating. Donovan wasn't responsible for Koller's header or Mastroeni's tackle or Reyna's defensive hari-kari.
Donovan had three clear chances to either score or set up a goal. None were sitters, none were gimmes, but on all three occasions he NEVER MADE THE KEEPER MAKE A SAVE. Maybe a Ronaldinho doesn't score on any of them either, but at least on one of the three he makes the keeper make at the very least an ordinary save. Donovan yakked each of them, terribly.
Maybe Donovan never asked to become Mr American Soccer and maybe his soccer goals and personal goals really are satisfied by living and playing in California and maybe he has the type of personality that, for lack of a better term, stagefrights at crucial and pressurized moments, and if that's the case then he is only partially responsible for gacking on his shoes not only today but at other moments in his soccer career. Since 2002 the USMNT offense has been created and designed to maximize the skills of Landon Donovan, to get the ball on his foot as often as possible in dangerous positions, and they did this fully aware of his proclivity to disappear once a certain level of pressure is reached. Perhaps there were no better options, as a quick glance at the graded players above proves.
I'll stop on Donovan with this update. I just hope, as whatever braintrust digs through the wreckage of this WC and the USMNT, that after the autopsy, as they move forward towards the 2010 qualifiers, that if Donovan is part of that future they don't make him the focal component. I suspect he'll play better as an afterthought complementary player rather than the posterboy of American soccer and the crux of the American offense. That we know he can't do.