It was a collapse for the ages. Now it’s white-knuckle time.
Well, for you glass-half-full types, at least now the Germany game means something.
1: Michael Bradley. Had you told me before the tournament started that at this stage Bradley would be one of our weaker links I’d … well, first off I wouldn’t have believed you. But if I did, I’d figure we were done, 0-2, and the German match coming up would be a meaningless exhibition. That he has been this disappointing and we somehow have four points and are still alive, that’s just remarkable.
Bradley was a bit more influential today than in the Ghana match, but he missed a sitter – he had a wide open net and he managed to hit the desperate defender in the knee. He’ll have nightmares about that one tonight, assuming he can get to sleep. Then, at the 94:22 mark he picks up the ball in midfield. He’s immediately knocked off the ball and 11 seconds later the ball is in the back of the wrong net. You might argue that he got blindsided, but in that situation you simply must secure the ball. Get it to a teammate. Smack it down the field. Knock it into the seats. Anything will do. You might defend Bradley, but I promise you he won’t.
It has been argued – persuasively – that Michael Bradley is the best outfield player the US has ever produced. But his performance in this tournament so far is the kind that leaves a lasting stink on one’s legacy. The real MB needs to show up Thursday.
2: Geoff Cameron. He gets an assist on that Nani goal, right?
3: Tim Howard. Many think Timmeh is one of the five best keepers in the world, and there were times today that you saw why. Holy Oliver Kahn, Batman – did you see that falling backwards desperate parry save? Absolutely fucking epic.
That said, he owns some of the responsibility for the first goal. While it was a point-blank screamer set up by a blown O-ring moment from his defense, on replay you can see that he goes down too soon. If he stays upright, keeps his hands up and makes himself big, he has a chance of making the save. With his lips, maybe, and it’s not a huge chance, but at that point you take every scrap of faint hope you can find.
It’s the sort of technical mistake we don’t often see from him.
4: Clint Dempsey. A few inches lower and he’d have scored that goal with his Willie. Note to Demp: that isn’t what they mean when they say “get a head on the ball.” But hey, #byanymeansnecessary.
5. Omar Gonzales. Going into the pre-tournament camp at Stanford a lot of people thought Gonzo might be one of the starters at center back. Now, you see him standing on the sideline waiting to sub in and it’s like that moment in bad ’80s horror movies when one of the high school kids says “hey, did you hear a noise? I’m going to go outside alone in the dark and check it out.”
6: Jermaine Jones. We knew Jones was our best defensive midfielder. Who knew he was also our most dangerous attacking option? He was a constant threat against Ghana, and his thunderbolt tonight was an absolute stunner.
7. So, now what? The US is still alive, and the team still controls its destiny. Here are the FIFA laws.
5. The ranking of each team in each group shall be determined as follows:
a) greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
b) goal difference in all group matches;
c) greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.
If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their
rankings shall be determined as follows:
d) greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the
e) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams
f) greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams
g) drawing of lots by the FIFA Organising Committee.
- If we beat Germany, we win the group.
- If we tie with Germany, we take second in the group on goal differential.
- If we lose to Germany and Portugal wins or ties with Ghana, we finish second and advance.
- If we lose and Ghana beats Portugal, it’s down to goal diff. Right now we’re +1 and they’re -1. If they win by more than we lose by, we go home. If both games are by the same margin, we go to next criterion, which is…
- …goals scored. Right now Ghana has 3 and we have 4. So if we lose and they win by the same score (say both games are 1-0, for instance), we tie again. But if they win by, say, 1-0 and we lose by 3-2, we advance on goals scored.
- If not, if we’re still level,then it finally comes down to criterion d – which despite the wording means “head to head result.” We beat them, so we’d advance. You’re thinking hey, why isn’t that the first criterion? I feel your pain. But this is FIFA. We’re lucky the first tiebreaker isn’t the number of unmarked bills in the briefcase we slip Sepp Blatter under the table while we’re blowing him.
In sum, if we get a result against Germany or Portugal gets one against Ghana, all is well. If not, it comes down to a razor-thin goal margin. Which is not optimal.
Worse, the smart money says a Germany that needs a win to take the group (and avoid Belgium in the round of 16) beats the US. And nobody who has watched any of these group matches would bet a stale doughnut on Portugal nicking a point off Ghana.
It’s nervous time.