Positive Feedback Loop | Thoughts on USA v. Panama

What an abominable game to watch. Though the US held the advantage for long stretches, Panama probably looked a touch more dangerous when they did come forward. Both sides, however, largely negated each other to make for some terribly dull viewing. The referee, not content to let 30 seconds pass without tooting on his whistle, only made things worse by killing any semblance of flow. with a bewildering array of foul calls that seemed little different from the stuff he let go.

Some quick thoughts before I head off to watch Mexico v. Honduras...

* There was no early defensive frailty as against Guadeloupe and Jamaica, which was a positive. Good thing too, as an early goal might have been too much for this lot to overcome, particularly if Panama packed things in even more. Still, the wobbles towards the end were worrying. Not that balls in the air should be much of a problem against Mexico (there I go, making assumptions...), but quick attackers buzzing about certainly will be. We didn't deal too well with those either.

* Hard to imagine a more pathetic figure than Kljestan, or, as I'm now dubbing him, "Possession Concession Kljestan." Rolls right off the tongue doesn't it? No distribution wide or forward, constantly losing the ball. Maybe he would be more effective deeper, but playing the central role between lone attacker and the Jones-Bradley pivot, he was miserable. That said, Donovan cut a similarly miserable picture before pushing wide to let Dempsey have his shot in the middle. Even Clint had only marginal success before...

* Holy crap, it's Freddy freakin' Adu! No minutes thus far in the tournament, playing second division ball in Turkey, and Bob brings him on to save the day. I'll admit that I shouted "WTF, Bob?" at the screen as the numbers flashed and Adu came on for Agudelo. But, and much as it pains me to say this considering he ran out a lame starting lineup again, Bob made the right choice (though looking at his bench, he had precious few others). Freddy changed the game for the US, providing not only an outlet in the a-mid spot, but one that knew what to do with the ball moving in a positive direction, particularly in setting up...

* The winner. All credit to Dempsey for a great far post run, hugging the line created by the defender at the other side of the six. All credit to Donovan for a terrific splitting ball to find that run. Hell, let's even shovel some credit the way of the linesman for keeping his flag down; CONCACAF refs haven't been covering themselves in glory thus far (or ever, I suppose). But that goal only happens because of Freddy having the vision and skill to find the ball that set Donovan on his way. Can you imagine Kljestan's first look being the diagonal outlet to space on the wing? Me neither. And how about the vision Adu displayed in picking out runs from the deeper holders through the middle? And the running with the ball?

Freddy Adu. Game-changer. Been a while since we've heard that one, eh?

Though I didn't expect it to be Freddy who proved this point, there is a certain logical inevitability about it. Bob wants to play with the double holders, leaving six back and a mobile four in attack with bursting runs from deep when warranted. That style of play, so common now on the international stage amongst the more accomplished sides, doesn't require big, physical players in attack, it requires buzzing, technical types. It also requires a string puller to set those buzzing types on their way.

I'd assumed Dempsey or Donovan (though particularly the latter), would fill this role, maybe Holden when he returns. But Donovan proved exactly what I've been harping on about in my reactions lately. He's not a game-taker-over any more. He's a complementary sort now. You can't plop him in the spot Freddy was in and expect him to walk on water. But give him quality to feed off of and he'll echo the quality in a positive feedback loop.

I still can't believe that quality has "Adu" across its back.

Wonder what Bob does for the final? One thing's for certain: if Kljestan starts, I say sack him at halftime.

Okay, off to see who we'll be facing in the final...


  1. The second game was far more entertaining, until it all fell apart for the Hondurans. More open, more fluid, and a very happy place until a few minutes into extra time. Can you imagine the first referee doing the second game?

    I emailed BDR (who is travelling abroad) right after the goal, telling him that the hero was Freddy Adu. I apparently kilt him, because I haven't heard back yet.

    I, too, will be very happy when the Klejstan experiment is over. Not all that thrilled with Bedoya either, but he's not nearly the same magnitude of disaster.

    I'm feeling like USMNT is really going to have to pull one out of its ear to beat Mexico. It's feasible, I can sort of see a path, even given Bradley's preferred back six (and I'm hard done by for options there, too), but I'm having trouble feeling dos a cero, y'know?

  2. All true.

    I was a bit startled at how well the ref in the second game did, particularly given the packed, biased house and the pace of the game, though I'd rather have seen how much of a mess the Costa Rican fellow from the El Salvador-Panama quarter would have made of it. Picture several tens of thousands of El Tri fanaticos' heads exploding in unison.

    Sad thing about this whole tournament is the stinking inevitability of it all. Mexico destroying all comers to begin then slowly starting to stumble as they progress. The US struggling mightily the whole way but eking out wins enough to get them through.

    I too am at a loss for how Bob and the boys might manage to hoist the trophy, but everything feels so damn familiar. Mexico will batter at the doors, squandering chance after chance, dominating the game until Goodson heads home from a corner. Then somebody, Marquez most likely, will have the inevitable Aztec moment and try to tear Donovan's heart out through his ribs, only to see red as the rest of the match devolves into squabbling and shoving.

    It's not what I'm expecting, you understand? Every logical bone in my body says this ends badly for the US. But I can't shake that weird feeling that we've seen this all before.

    (Watch, now I've gone and cursed everything and a repeat of last time around brings fresh humiliation in spades...sigh.)

  3. Well, I'm not saying I'd argue with superior diving (sorry, man, I know), dos a cero, and a weeping Torado. It's all pretty creepy. I'll be focused on getting home from RFK in time for kickoff, because they finally got the DCU-GC same-day scheduling (almost) right.

    I had a conversation with my wife a few days ago about religion (we're not). She delighted in pointing out that I am an absolute atheist with the exception of believing that she or you or I can jinx sports clubs. Not that she disagreed.

    But it is important, as a fan, to truly believe that you're going down in flames (quite the opposite for the athlete, of course). 40 years of Terps fandom have taught me little but that.

  4. That's what's so worrying about this feeling for me. My default assumption for any sports team I'm pulling for is (a) we're favorites, humiliating failure is coming or (b) we're not favorites, this is going to get ugly.

    My head keeps telling me a slaughter lies in wait, but there's something ineffable that insists, "wait and see, wait and see." Maybe it's my own fence-sitting agnosticism putting one over on me, or maybe I've just seen this film too many times before?

  5. This might get long.

    I work at a restaurant, and (as is often the case) a good percentage of our kitchen staff consists of Mexican nationals. After the group stages, they organized a $10, random-draw thing for the knockout stages, to which I was invited. I suppose I represent the possibility of ultra-precious Gringo Tears, as I'm the one guy who talks to Regino, Elias, Raul et al about 'the futbol.'

    Anyway, the drawing went on; I was next-to-last. Raul, always charmingly besotted, drew Mexico to a chorus of catcalls and jealousy. Costa Rica went - my dark horse! And then, with two slips of paper left, it was my turn.

    Perhaps it was fate that pointed me to the USA slip, or a group instinct to avoid history's villians, or some other dynamic (passed, perhaps, in the sotto voce Spanish I couldn't make out). Whatever mechanism brought me there also brought the slip to my hand: USA written on it hastily in thick kitchen pencil. I held it up to a general chorus of cheers, back-slaps, and Spanish catcalls. The Gringos for the Gringo - perfect.

    Now that the final everyone expected (and all of us in the restaurant wanted) is finally here, the tone is slightly different. I've spent all tournament poor-mouthing the Americans, ridiculing Bradley's fear of creative players and the risks they impose, only to see Freddy Adu get on the pitch change a game. Seriously?

    The Mexicans find their confidence waning. All their firepower hasn't produced goals now that elimination is on the line; is the pressure too intense? Each of my Mexican co-workers has approached me and confessed they believe that USA will win.

    What is going on here? Is this a pattern beyond the field asserting itself? I find myself tempted to root for Mexico, to see if the ancient pattern can be broken purely by metaphor ...

  6. That's it. I'm sacrificing a bunny. A cute, furry little bunny. And I'm putting pictures of Marquez and Dos Santos and Torado on its adorable little funeral pyre.

    I already have to support a France team until the moment it runs up against USWNT (Sonia Bompastor is an awesome young person and we're lucky to have had her playing in our area for two years). I'm in a complete tailspin here.

    In better news, FB, did you see that Davies is paying $1,000 for our point against RSL? While I agree with you wholeheartedly...I'll take the deal.

  7. Strange days indeed. Thanks for that, Sean.

    That makes two fines issued for calls that Terry Vaughn completely missed. Conspiracy theory? MLS HQ is keeping these incompetent whistlemen around knowing that they'll flub calls and mismanage games so much that the coffers will continue to be filled on a regular basis with fines for rough/disreputable play and complaints by players and coaches.

  8. Two fines from one game to clarify...

  9. I missed the other one...please clarify further for the news-impaired?

    It seems the big fines go to organizations--MLS seems aware that there are limits to charitable contributions from players in a relatively money-strapped league, though $1K is a lot less meaningful to Charlie Davies (and $2500K a lot less meaningful to Thierry Henry) than it would be to you or me.

    And while I know you're kidding, I think that the truth is that they keep them around because USL officials and lower-level USSF officials are worse. Just attend a USOC game at the Soccerplex.

  10. Jean Alexandre leaving his foot in on Zayner. Yeah, I've seen a few USL games, though I only remember one being a complete farce. Not that the others were great mind you, but the ref and players were all of a piece.