After the US national team suffered a 4-1 defeat on Wednesday night, coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he wanted his side to be “nastier” and "step on their toes."
That assessment didn’t sit well with at least one respected voice in the American soccer community.
Soccer America columnist Mike Woitalla described Klinsmann's remarks as the "most repulsive words" he's ever heard from a USMNT manager. Woitalla’s main point? The US doesn’t need to play that way, especially after creating a boatload of chances against a talented Brazilian side, and it certainly isn’t a good look for a side (and a manager) that seemed focused on playing toe-to-toe with the world’s best, not treading on them.
Even after dropping the second of this current five-match stretch — the US will play Canada, Antigua and Barbuda and Guatemala in the next two weeks — the general consensus was that the 4-1 scoreline was flattering for Brazil, as both sides missed plenty of chances and the Americans experienced some uncharacteristic lapses on set pieces.
“It’s maybe a harsh scoreline, but in the locker room, we know that it was a lot better than a 4-1 game for us," Landon Donovan, who was shackled for much of the night by Marcelo, told MLSsoccer.com. Added Tim Howard: “I’ve been in some games where 4-1, 4-0 and you feel you got pasted. Tonight wasn’t one of those games. We were dangerous on set pieces, but at the end of the day we got caught a couple of times and that’s what happens.”
One point of contention was the hand ball that was called on Oguchi Onyewu that allowed Brazil to open the scoring. Replays showed the ball did hit the US defender's arm, but the Americans weren't so sure that the play merited a spot kick: “I don’t know any other country that’s getting a penalty called on that [hand ball] 10 minutes into the game and at home – anywhere in the world," US captain Carlos Bocanegra said after the match.
Herculez Gomez scored the US' lone goal just before halftime in his first start since the 2010 World Cup, a special moment for him after arriving late in camp and wondering if he would get his long-awaited chance: “I was kind of behind the eight ball,” Gomez said. “I came in, and literally an hour after my flight I was doing fitness testing. So I knew if I had any chance of trying to play in these games, I had to give it my all during the training sessions. Thankfully I got an opportunity.”
As is the norm following a US match of this stature, player ratings flooded in as media looked to grade the performances of Klinsmann's charges ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying. MLSsoccer.com's Greg Seltzer, ESPN Soccernet's Jeff Carlisle, SI.com's Avi Creditor, The New York Times' Jack Bell, Goal.com's Zac Lee Rigg and Fox Soccer all gave their account of the players that saw the field Wednesday night at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. You can also watch Bob Ley, Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller give their thoughts on the match or check out the thoughts of the MLSsoccer.com's Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle, Fox Soccer's Ives Galarcep, the Sporting News' Brian Straus or Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl.
On a lighter note, The Washington Post followed Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III as he posed for pictures with a number of US players and watched the match in his own personalized jersey.
The US may not have been able to slay an international giant on Wednesday night, but another US Open Cup upset followed the David-and-Goliath script perfectly thousands of miles away.
Cal FC, coached by US soccer legend Eric Wynalda — just don't call it "Wynalda's team," please — pulled off one of the greatest upsets in US Open Cup history, knocking off the Portland Timbers 1-0 in extra time. It was the eighth MLS scalp taken by a lower-tier side in the 3rd round to the 99-year-old tournament.
The upset was nothing short of incredible considering Cal FC, who are based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., play in the fifth tier of American soccer and currently sit ninth in their league, Gran Liga de Oxnard. According to Wynalda, the team barely had a chance to practice in the week leading up to the biggest match in their history: “We got one practice in this week,” he said. “I don't have the resources to be able to train every day. We've somehow figured out a way to get here and it's nothing short of amazing.”
Wynalda took to Twitter after the match to celebrate the victory. For the Timbers, on the other hand, the loss was nothing short of an “unmitigated disaster” according to one local reporter. (PHOTO ESSAY)
Coach John Spencer fielded a strong side, Portland outshot their opponent 37 to eight and Designated Player Kris Boyd blasted over the bar a penalty kick that would have won the game. All of which led the Timbers Army to take out their frustrations with a string of chants directed at their squad.
For his part, Boyd acknowledged that the Timbers, including himself, needed to take a long, hard look at themselves after blowing a chance to take on Seattle in the next round: “Everybody in the forward areas needs to have a look at themselves, and we must score,” Boyd said. “When you have that many chances in a game, you must score. It’s as simple as that. It’s impossible to have that amount [of shots] and not score. We ain’t happy with it.”
After the match, Spencer – as you would expect – didn’t mince words when discussing the loss: “I don’t think there’s any explaining it,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in a game playing or coaching where we’ve been beaten by an amateur team. I’m bitterly disappointed. You don’t use the word ‘embarrassed’ or ‘humiliated’ too much in your career. Tonight I felt both.”
Up the road in Seattle, the Sounders took care of business with ease, dispatching the Atlanta Silverbacks 5-1 with help from two goals from striker Sammy Ochoa. Unlike some of their MLS counterparts, Seattle have had no trouble in the Open Cup, winning the competition the past three years and searching for another trophy this season. That's likely down to coach Sigi Schmid and the approach he takes to these kinds of matchups: "It's a game that you can never take too lightly, because the moment you take it lightly, that's when you're going to get caught," Schmid said after the victory.
Across the pond, Liverpool announced former Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers would take the helm, ending an important coaching search for the American ownership group. Another American, Randy Lerner, at Aston Villa is also in the process of replacing his manager. Should Wigan's Roberto Martinez get that job, Steve Bruce is rumored to take his place.
International action continues on Thursday, with Mexico taking on Bosnia-Herzegovina (9 pm ET), Armenia facing Greece (2:30 pm ET), Germany tuning up for Euro 2012 against Israel (2:30 pm ET) and France doing the same vs. Serbia (3 pm ET).
Finally, Bob Bradley and Egypt will open their World Cup qualifying campaign at a military stadium with no fans in the stands to avoid any chance of violence.
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