U.S. Men Win, Look Terrible In Process
Before the World Cup, U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann questioned his club's chances.
And before the World Cup, most agreed with the German - sure that the Americans would struggle to even escape their group, sure that a trip to the knock-out round was possible only through a precise string of unlikely events.
That it was a long-shot chance at best.
On Monday, though, in the opening day of group play for the Americans, the pieces started to fall into place. Portugal lost 4-0 to the Germany - a huge result for a U.S. side whose hopes of advancing may rely on a goal differential battle with Portugal - and lost three of their 11 starters in the process.
Then, after the Americans took an early lead by way of a Clint Dempsey goal and saw it erased by an 80th minute Ghanaian equalizer, a John Brooks header secured them the win, and the all important three points.
A better day was not possible for the Land of the Free.
Unless you actually inspect the way they played. Then a better day wasn't just possible, it was expected.
The United States played dreadful soccer on Monday - soccer not worthy of this tournament. Throughout the game's 90-plus minutes, they were consistently failed by their passes and first touches, and failed to control possession in any real way - resulting in complete Ghanaian control. The African side amassed nearly 60% of the game's possession and almost three times as many shots.
In truth, outside of two bits of brilliance from Dempsey and Brooks, they looked disjointed and awkward throughout the match - and all too eager to embrace that style of play rather than change it.
The United States' weakness is their questionable back-line defense. But instead of urging his players to press forward - to put pressure on a should-be scrambling Ghanaian team - Jurgen Klinsmann seemed content to cede possession and let Ghana's talented strikers attack his side's suspect defense.
A counter-intuitive strategy that lead directly to the equalizing goal - that practically welcomed it.
Yes, John Brooks scored late and the U.S. won. Yes, they got the three points.
But they looked awful in the process. And they wouldn't have gotten any points if they were playing Portugal or Germany.
They'll take the result, but they shouldn't take the performance.