Roller coaster. That's about the long and short of it. In the early going, the Dutch looked like the favorites that they were, playing at a level that the US just couldn't seem to match. Babel's opener was fitting reward for the better team. But around the midway point in the first half, passes started connecting for the US, Adu started to get on the ball, and the chances started coming.
Then it was a race to the next goal. The Dutch had their chances to go up 2-0, but the US were creating more, and eventually worked a lovely team goal to put Kljestan through for the neat finish (odds on another Goat crossing the pond in the near future?) on the equalizer. The second US goal was scrappy and carried a touch of fortune and a hint of chicanery, but it counted. Then, just when it seemed that the US had killed off the match, the ancient Gerald Sibon lashed one under a leaping US wall to earn a 2-2 draw for the Dutch.
How about some talking points?
* Frankly, given the technical superiority of the men in orange and how they were pinging the ball about, leaving the US lost at times and starved for ideas, I'm shocked that we got anything from this match. Was it a case of the conditions catching up with the Dutch? Did they get overconfident? Did the US just have to overcome some jitters? Whatever the case, once the US woke up and started playing, and once the game slowed down a bit, the balance of power definitely shifted to a more level playing field. That said, until Kljestan scored, I was thinking, "here we go again--we'll play well, have some chances, fluff them, and the jaded Euro-stars will pop in a second for a flattering 2-0.
* Holden goes hero to zero. After claiming the winner in the Japan game and having a few bright moments in this match, it all came apart in the last five minutes. First, he jets out at the head of a three-man break, the defender tracking him and leaving Kljestan wide open for the little dink cross to the penalty spot, but Holden fails to see the chance and instead dribbles a shot wide. Ouch. But double ouch just minutes later when he clatters into big Gerald Sibon in stoppage time to set up the Dutch equalizer.
* And while we're on Sibon, let me just take a minute to wax bittersweet. You see, the big lout who ruined the US march into the semifinals happens to be an ex-Sheffield Wednesday player, so although his goal hurt my red, white, and blue heart, it did bring a little warmth to the blue and white chamber of said multi-colored organ. But was anybody else wondering if the decided lack of height (and depth) on that US back line is going to come back to haunt us again? Anybody else wondering if it would have been nice to bring on another big body to counter the constant lobbing of high balls to the Dutch forwards as we came closer to full time? Of course, I'll admit that we were doing a pretty solid job of killing things off until Holden's foul.
* But speaking of big, Dutch overage forwards puts me in mind of our very own big, American overage forward. What exactly did McBride contribute to this match? He wasn't getting the service to his head upon which he thrives, his touch looked decidedly leaden, and the kids seemed to be playing at a higher gear than he could get his tired old body into. I have all the respect in the world for McBride, but this just didn't seem to be a game that suited his particular talents.
So that's about it. A good result for the US, but one that could have been so much better. Up next is a Nigerian side that we just need a draw against in order to advance, though a group-clinching victory would be so much sweeter. From what I've seen, they carry plenty of threat up top, but do allow the opposition some chances. With a couple of their defenders out with yellow cards, we might be able to take advantage. Of course, we'll be without Adu and Bradley, though lord knows we've got plenty of central mids to take Bradley's place. Adu will be a tougher ask, though I'd assume we'd go with McBride and Altidore up top instead. Here's hoping McBride is a little more effective if he does get another start.