Posts Tagged ‘team usa’

What are the biggest what-ifs of this world cup for team USA? I like this question because, as you’ll see, we tend to focus on the negative instead of the positive breaks…

1. What if Charlie Davies had not nearly lost his life in a car accident last fall?

Charlie Davies was a major contributor as a striker for pretty much the entire world cup qualifying campaign the last 2 years. He had speed and was becoming a solid finisher in international play. But he was a severe car accident in which one female friend was killed and he fractured his tibia and femur along with other life-threatening injuries. He came all the way back to be able to practice with Team USA but was too far off to play in this World Cup.

What happens if we have Davies starting up top instead of Findley (a +/- of -3)? Buddle and Gomez were not entirely effectively either and definitely did not have the finishing touch. Altidore made some things happen but just could not get the ball in the back of the net. Maybe Davies could have added some spark in those dreary first halves.

2. What if Feilhaber had started every game?

Feilhaber came on at midfield for Findley (moving Dempsey up top) in multiple games and ended up having a +/- of +4! You could see the difference versus Ghana. He stabilized the midfield with Bradley, solidified the left side of the field, and simply helped calm things down and allow the US to control the field much better.

What if he starts? Edu and Clark were inconsistent and a little out of control and having Dempsey up top seemed to generate a lot more scoring chances.

3. What if the 2 stolen goals had counted?

This one is funny. If the goal counts against Slovenia, then I think we’re robbed of a fantastic game against Algeria. If the first half goal against Algeria counted, we’re again robbed of a insanely memorable finish. Think about it, if they beat Slovenia, that changes both of the final games. England has less pressure and the U.S. could even afford to lose against Algeria. Maybe then they have more gas in the tank and less of an emotional let down against Ghana. Maybe they finish even stronger against Ghana.

Really though, I’m glad now that both of those goals were disallowed. I will never ever forget that last minute goal by Donovan and the guts the US had to keep pressing in that game. They went from out of the World Cup to 1st in their group with that willed goal in 92nd minute. That made it special.

4. What if Tim Howard saves Ghana’s first goal?

Howard is one of best goalies in the world. He loves Jesus. I love the guy. He’s saved the US team’s rear on many an occasion against some of the best teams in the world. But he did not make hardly a single big save in this tournament and he definitely had a shot at that first Ghana goal. The more replays I watch, Howard is out of position and not protecting the near post. It’s a shot from outside the box where Cherundelo had position to cut off the far post.  But Howard gets beat on a decently hit roller to the near post. What if he stuffs that? Then maybe the US settle down and go on to have another battle like versus Algeria and when they take control in the second half, they get the winner instead of tying it and force Ghana to open up the game a bit.

However, the US had a few wildly good breaks.

5. What if Algeria’s shot off the woodwork early in the 3rd game goes in?

It was a great shot that had Tim Howard beat and looked to be going in. But the US team gets spared by the cross bar and the shot glances off. The US somehow survives the early stages without giving up a goal and go on to win on Donovan’s last second goal. But what if that shot goes in? The US again concede an early goal and have to fight just to tie the game, let alone win the game. Would they have had enough to pull out the victory? It took everything just get one goal let alone two. I think they go home early if that shot goes in.

6. What if Robert Green doesn’t gift USA the goal against England?

The biggest what-if that should encourage Team USA – when Robert Green gaffed on the shot by Dempsey and the ball trickled in off of his arms. Now tied at 1-1, all the momentum changes and the US nearly steal a victory if Altidore sneaks in that goal in the second half (actually a really good save by Green). I ache for Green. That is such a crusher to give up that goal and then for him to not even get a second chance – he did not get to play in any other games for England after that. Numerous other goalie gaffs have occurred so far in this tournament (the ball?) but his got the most attention. I pray that he knows Jesus and can rest in His acceptance despite what he might end up being known for the rest of his career and life even.

But that goal was a gift to the US. If he saves that and the US loses that game, it changes the tournament for them. They likely have more pressure in the Slovenia game and then have to beat Algeria by a much wider margin. On top of that, England then ends up likely not needing points in the game versus Slovenia and the US take another early exit.

Those last 2 what-ifs are absolutely huge breaks for the US that they should be thankful for. Green’s gift likely changed the tournament for them.

Well, that’s enough for the fun What-ifs. It was a good run for the US. As I said previously, the US met expectations, showed a lot of heart and guts, and Donovan gave us an unforgettable goal to send them into the 2nd Round and win their group for the first time in the modern era.

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Why you had to love this US team over the past 2 weeks:

1. Heart, Guts, and Strong Finishing

Yes, they had terrible starts to games, giving up 3 goals within the first 15 minutes of games. Yes, this was due to poor team defense and early mental lapses. But you have to understand, in past world cups, the US would never come from behind. Usually, for them to win or tie, they had to get a few breaks, go up early, and then hang on for dear life. If they went down early or in the first half, mentally they would have a hard time getting back into it and didn’t have the talent anyway.  This US team fought back from 1st half deficits not once or twice but three times. Down 1-0 to England and Ghana, and down 2-0 to Slovenia, they came back to tie the games.

The Algeria game was the epitome of this. After having a good goal taken away in the first half, hitting the woodwork on another, and missing multiple other chances, the US and Algeria were tied at 0-0 late in the second half. The US were about to go home with England winning versus Slovenia. Watching this game with a few friends at a relatively packed sports bar (at 8am!), we thought it was over. We didn’t think they had any gas left in the tank and Algeria was playing hard. Then this happened:

Against Ghana, they were getting pounded the whole game by a much more physical team. They were down 1-0, coming off short rest from the grueling Algeria game, Dempsey was beat up, and they got owned in the first half by a team that seem to want it more. But one more time they came out fired up in the second half, Dempsey earned the equalizing penalty kick goal, and they had a shot to win it.

2. A True Team

This US team had maybe 3 world class players: Donovan, Dempsey, and Howard. Even Donovan and Dempsey have been borderline starters for teams in the English Premier League. These guys are definitely some of the best players the US have ever had but when you look at even a young team like Germany, they have at least 8 world class players. This US team had to win with fantastic chemistry, guts, and relying on their midfielders to finish off goals.

3. Donovan, Bradley, and Dempsey

Donovan showed much more assertiveness, nearly single-handed got them back in the Slovenia game, ended up with 3 goals, and played significantly better than World Cup 2006.

Dempsey lived up to his known creativity and aggressiveness coming in. He seemed to make things happen with every touch and he played a part in 3 goals, and another another worthy goal stolen from him.

Bradley was the revelation. All over the field, Michael Bradley helped control the midfield and start the attack. You’d really have say the US has at least 4 world class players with the way he played in this tournament. At only 22, he’ll be a key cog in the 2014 team for sure.

4. Finally coming through on expectations

People will say this team should have beaten Ghana and taken advantage of the maybe the easiest path to the semi-finals they might ever see, with no traditional world powers standing in their way. However, given the talent level, the poor team defense, the lack of a reliable striker, and the injuries that stripped this team of their depth, they actually met expectations. That is huge for the US because it seemed like every instance prior to this when they were favored or expected to move on, they couldn’t handle the expectations and failed. This team did not fail. This team came through. Yes, they could have gone farther but they came first in their group and then lost a hard fought battle to a solid team that had all of Africa behind them.

I’ll remember this US team for coming from behind, Donovan’s last minute goal, and for beating out England for first in the group stage.

We all want to start well, but the reality of sin means we all start poorly and under the weight of our sinfulness. Through the Cross and the grace of Jesus, we should aspire to emulate the fight and guts of this US team to finish strong and not give up.

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