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Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Best Team You Have Never Heard Of? Brasil 4 x USA 0

The title of this post was the marketing promotion for the US Women's National Team. As in most marketing plans with regards to American soccer, it was another example of expectations not matching reality. Along with a dose of arrogance by sometimes wearing gold colored shirts that have nothing to do with our historic traditional colors.

Tonight, Brasil removed any doubts about American superiority courtesy of advertising campaigns or untraditional team kit. For this historic loss, the Americans wore their traditional white. As they should have.

Before the game, Coach Greg Ryan, who was unbeaten in 51 games, created some controversy by benching goalkeeper Hope Solo for the veteran, Brianna Scurry. He should have been more concerned with the players in front of the keeper. Brasil outclassed this good but limited American team. Technically, tactically, and creatively there was no comparison. Marta is the best women's player in the world, and her teammates showed that playing with passion and verve is much better than the sterile robotic American approach that is the hallmark of our programs. In recent memory, I can think of only one American national team that showed signs of creativity, technical prowess, and tactical vision: the men's U-20 team of Thomas Rongen, who was born and raised in the total football oasis of The Netherlands.

We over-coach and over-train our young players of both sexes. They lack creativity on the ball, and tactically, have not been prepared to encounter different styles of play. Because our coaches will not admit their own limitations. In years past, they were able to defeat technically inferior opposition due to athleticism and conditioning. But in the last two women's World Cups, the USA was defeated at the semi-final round by teams that had never won anything on the international stage (Germany in 2003). The rest of the world has caught up to the high standard set by the past American women's teams who won two World Cups and two Gold Medals.

This will be an unwelcome wake-up call for the USSF. We have been accustomed to goals and glory with the women's program. We need to see young men and women kicking a ball around among themselves without all of the pressure of elite training programs, screaming parents, and other American methods that restrict creativity and passion that is part and parcel of why they should be playing. Passion, technique, and creativity are the keys. You saw it tonight on the Brasilian side. It was woefully missing on the US team. One can lament the poor call for Boxx's second yellow that put the US down to 10 women for the entire second half. But realistically, with 11, the US would have lost this game.

Well done, Brasil. An own goal by Leslie Osbourne, and then two by Marta and one by Cristiane, propelled the Samba Queens to the final on Sunday against Germany.

"I think he made the wrong decision. Anyone who knows the game of soccer knows it was wrong. I have no doubt I would have made those saves... You can't live in the past or who won the Olympic gold medal three years ago." Hope Solo, the former first choice keeper for the USA. Ms. Solo had not allowed a goal since the opening game with North Korea, and Coach Ryan's decision will be discussed for a long time. We should credit her passion, candor, and self-confidence. Although for a professional athlete, there is an unwritten code against publicly criticizing your coach and/or teammates. Her comments may have fallout. In my opinion, regardless who was in goal, Brasil would have won.

"The final score of the semifinal was 4-0, but it could have been far worse. An own goal, a red card, flawed goalkeeping by a new starter Brianna Scurry and an inability to keep pace with Brazil resulted in the Americans' worst defeat in the program's 22-year history and ended an unbeaten streak at 51 games, a run that began in November 2004." Steve Goff, Washington Post.

To read his full game report, please click here. By the way, Steve and the Post were one of the few domestic media outlets covering this global event. As usual, his coverage was superb.

Marta's last goal was phenomenal for its artistry and sheer technical skill. "There are not words to describe the goal by Marta." A quote from the highlight video in Portuguese from Brasilian TV. For me, she is better than any American soccer player. Male or female. Because her vision and creativity far exceeds anything that could be developed here. Our system is too "English," and relies on brute force over ball skills, imagination, and tactics. Look how many times Marta stood over the ball and danced? Many Americans and other scribes said that was taunting her opposition. But they don't understand excellence when it is right in front of them.

To view the highlights, please click here.

Here were the statistics courtesy of ESPNSoccernet:

Match Stats

United States Brazil
Shots (on Goal) 7 (3) 18 (7)
Fouls 11 11
Corner Kicks 2 4
Offsides 0 0
Time of Possession 37% 63%
Yellow Cards 3 2
Red Cards 1 0
Saves 7 3

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