Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Win and In

The US soccer team has a clear path to the 2nd round of the World Cup today (10 am EST)... win their game against Algeria and they advance... but unfortunately, this isn't the first time they've faced this same scenario, and their record is less than sterling:
Everyone remembers 2002, the high-water mark of U.S. Soccer, when it blew away Mexico in the second round and was unlucky in a quarterfinal loss to Germany. But who remembers the fortuitous way second-round entry unfolded? With a win and a draw in pocket, the Americans needed a result against Poland in the group-play finale to secure passage. They looked rather tame in a 3-1 loss but were rescued by results elsewhere.

Go all the way back to 1994. That team of busy overachievers needed a result against Romania as the first round closed. Tony Meola gave up a goal at the near post, the offense went limp and the side had to be yanked from the breach by other results as well.

Of course, the more recent (and much more similar) scenario comes from Germany four years ago. Ghana was the opponent, and the United States needed nothing less that a win. Fortune abandoned the U.S. camp that day in Nuremberg as captain Claudio Reyna crumbled in an injury-giveaway double whammy, and a dubious penalty kick called on Oguchi Onyewu crushed any U.S. chances.

The Algerian team is not particularly strong, but they do have players on European clubs, so they're not exactly North Korea either. What would be super awesome? Not giving up an early lead for a change. Both teams should be playing to win, since Algeria could advance if they beat the US, so it would be a pretty good game to watch. Hopefully I won't end the first half as disgusted in their effort as I was against Slovenia.