13 June 2006

WC: USA 0-3 Czech Republic

What a disappoinment for the US. It's a given that the Czechs would be more talented. It's perhaps not surprising that they were better organized and more creative. What's so disappointing was that the US were so static and unenergetic.

The signs were bad from the start, with Koller's goal coming at 5'. Even some threat on goal would have brought the Americans back into the game, but they created very little opportunity, until after Tomas Rosicky had scored again at 36'. From there the rout was on. If Claudio Reyna's fine shot goes in, then perhaps some US pride would surface and they would fight on. But it didn't. The US failed to mount any sustained pressure until later, and after the third goal it was all for pride anyway.

The Czechs had a defensive, counterattacking game plan that was supremely frustrating to the Americans, with aggressive tackling and a no-fly midfield. That left the US at a loss for how to slice into the last third, without the precision passing they needed to move the ball the way they intended. After the early goal, the Czechs could afford patience and an opportunistic attack that the US generally was able to handle... except fot the two times it didn't.

I don't want to be too negative about it, but there wasn't much to applaud among the US players. Despite the ABC hype, Landon Donovan was missing for most of the match and was probably the biggest disappointment. I will single out Eddie Johnson as the brightest light for the Nats, with some good opportunities and some useful runs. He's still a bit raw but it's probably time to work him into the starting lineup. Maybe his speed will give the Italians some trouble.

So a tough road ahead for the US. With the Italy victory over Ghana, they'll need to win on Saturday if they want to have a chance to advance. Even a draw is little help, though it would at least salvage some self-respect. And that frankly would be a good step at this point.

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