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Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Clash of Champions" on Gridiron Stripes? USA 2 x Brasil 4

This game was billed as "The Clash of Champions" But the USSF and US Soccer never learns. Today at Soldier Field in Chicago, the pitch was adorned with American football gridiron stripes and yard markers. The ground crew did not even attempt to cover them up efficiently. It appeared that they were spray painted green, or used green lime to lessen the effect of the white stripes.

Champions deserve a real field without adornments from other sports. Would the Chicago Bears, or any NFL team, play on a field with soccer markings prominently displayed?

I have said it before and will say it again. American soccer will never be taken seriously until the sport is respected. If the USSF could not find a solution, they should have played this match, with Brasil, on an official soccer pitch. Not one that looked uneven from the college football game the night before, too narrow, and with the awful markings from another sport.

There are no excuses for this amateur and disgraceful attitude. We see it continually in MLS, and now at the highest international levels. It detracts from the game, and is the ultimate form of disrespect to a nation that has won the World Cup five times. Even the team benches were not in normal positions. You don't put teams and their coaches directly behind billboard advertisements.

I watched the game on Univision. They complained about the gridiron markings. "It's against the regulations, and the players don't have a proper frame of reference with those markings." The game itself was predictable. Brasil is Brasil, and the USA always plays top competition with distinction. And the referee was watching another game.

Take away an unlucky own goal by Oguchi Onyewu, along with an injury time penalty kick due to a foul by Michael Bradley, and the US played one of the best national teams in the world almost on level terms. The first American goal by Bocanegra appeared to be a hand ball, but Clint Dempsey's second was a clinical finish. Kaka' and Robinho ran by and around their American defenders, and a free kick goal by the master, Ronaldinho Gaucho, gave the public what they came to see. Lucio and Elano scored their other two goals. It was Brasilian artistry, especially their constant movement, at its best. Although sadly showcased on a playing surface not suitable for children.

A friend of mine watched the game on ESPN. He told me that their announcers, Dave O'Brien and Eric Wynalda, made no mention of the pitch.

To view video highlights, please click here.

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