Actually everyone knows what’s been happening to the U.S. team, but a few readers have wondered whatever happened to Power Line’s coverage of that team. One even suggested (jokingly, I trust) that my lack of commentary about the teams “success” betrays an underlying indifference or worse.
In fact, there is no real success to report. The U.S. is in last place in its group. We were terrible in the first match against the Czechs and mediocre in the first half of the second match against the Italians. Our only goal came on a piece of luck — a misplay by an Italian defender — and we showed no cutting edge even when the Italians went down a man. To be sure, we played inspired desperation soccer after we went a man down in the second half, but one half of good football in a match that has lost its shape doesn’t inspire me.
But it’s not my lack of inspiration that has kept me silent — it’s the fact that readers can get coverage of the U.S. team from multiple news outlets and blogs. I just haven’t had any unique insights about our team to share, and thus have focused on other aspects of the tournament.
I do have a few thoughts about our upcoming must-win match against Ghana, though. Ghana team may be that African surprise package I was looking for before the tournament started. They are quick, powerful, and reasonably well-skilled. If they have a weakness, it’s probably at the back. They gave up two goals to the Italians and, although they kept a clean sheet against the Czechs, they were helped by the fact that the Czechs played only one man up-front and (due to injuries) he was only their third best striker. In addition, some of the aging Czech stars looked a bit weary.
To be sure, the U.S. has not been much of a goal-scoring threat so far. However, I believe that if we can maintain a decent share of possession, we will score against Ghana. And since Ghana needs only a draw, they may not be as intent as they should be on denying us possession.
The U.S. will have to play without the suspended Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope. Mastroeni will be missed in the war against the powerful Ghanian midfield. Essien, Appiah, and Muntari have made up one of the very best midfields in the tournament (fortunately, Muntari is suspended too). However, if Bruce Arena replaces Mastroeni with John O’Brien, and if O’Brien is fit, it could give us the creativity we need in a match we must win.
I’ll also be interested to see who replaces Pope. The obvious choice is Jimmy Conrad, who filled in well against Italy. But my choice would be to move the more experienced Carlos Bocanegra into central defense and reinstate Eddie Lewis at left back. Before the tournament, I expressed concern about Lewis as a left back (he isn’t one), and he had a terrible time against the Czech wingers. However, I haven’t seen much of a threat from Ghana on the right side, and I believe that in a match where we have to score, Lewis’ ability to run the flank and his delivery on set pieces could make the difference.