Even in defeat, I'm the proudest I've ever been of the USMNT. Aside from some strong showings in 1930 and 1950 of which I'm not too familiar, this tournament, and the final week of this tournament in particular, was the first time that the US has ever looked to be among one of the strongest teams in the world.
The first 45 minutes was the most I've been excited about US Soccer in my lifetime. I was texting everyone I knew to tell them to turn on ESPN to watch the US make history. Call me the jinx if you'd like, but that run was still historic in my mind.
We finished in second place in a FIFA tournament for the first time ever, and I truly believe that we were the second best team in this tournament. The Spain win was NOT a fluke; we proved that. The chatter on a lot of blogs before the Final was that if the US and Spain played 10 times, then Spain would win 9 of them. That's incorrect. We would have beat Spain again yesterday. And Brazil would have needed fewer than 85 minutes to beat Spain yesterday. If the US and Spain played 10 teams, I think we'd win 5 or 6 right now. And if we played Brazil 10 times, we'd probably win 2 or 3. Brazil looks to be the best team in the world right now, and should be the favorite going into World Cup 2010.
As I said in my previous post, one of the most important things we can take from this tournament is that Bradley is really starting to understand his players and develop his Starting XI. Now I think I'll have to backtrack and agree with Rob from the Comments section of the last post. Brian Ching > Charlie Davies. Davies might be faster and have more dynamic ball skills, but Ching has more vision and better positioning. On a 2v2 or 3v3 fast break, Davies needs to learn to pass the ball to another runner, especially when that other runner is Landon Donovan, who might be one of the best in the world in that type of situation.
Speaking of Donovan though, I'm not entirely sure that I'm satisfied with him on the left wing. We gave Brazil way too many open crosses from Donovan's side. Maicon could have pitched a tent, started a fire, and roasted a few marshmallows before any American player caught up to him with all the space he had. This wasn't an issue after Brazil's second goal when Bornstein was playing there. Not that I would ever think about starting Bornstein ahead of Donovan, but it's something Bob needs to figure out.
Bob is also going to have some difficult decisions to make in central midfield. Ricardo Clark had another decent match in the bruiser role, this time without giving up any hard fouls. And Benny Feilhaber and Michael Bradley have each looked world class in this tournament. I guess the choice against Mexico would be to start Bradley and Clark, and have Feilhaber come on as a more attacking mid in the second half.
I was real curious to see how the local and national media would be covering the outcome today.
Top story with large picture above the fold in the Washington Post = awesome.
Mentioned several times on the Junkies = great.
Second story behind the Nats/O's on NBC 4 = acceptable.
Third story behind the Yankees and Wimbledon on SI.com = eh.
Third story behind Wimbledon and Joey Logano on ESPN.com = disappointing.
If ESPN is going to be carrying every major soccer match from here on out, then they would be wise to promote US soccer as much as possible. The good news is that the water cooler chat is definitely happening this morning. If our finish in this tournament gets the US population of casual sports fans to pay attention to soccer, then it's a win in my book.