The improbable run has come to an end.
The U.S. National Team came away from the Confederations Cup second best, losing to Brazil 3-2.
This loss probably should have never happened. Consider that the U.S. limped their way past the group stage by beating Egypt 3-0, plus getting some extra help from the team they faced today. Then consider the U.S. faced Spain, on a 15 game winning streak, a 35 game unbeaten streak, and FIFA world No. 1 ranking, in the semi-finals.
The Americans were never supposed to win this game.
Finally, consider that at half time in the final against Brazil, the U.S. was winning 2-0. A lead it never should have relinquished.
Brazil started the second half in full force, and within two minutes had struck on target 2-1. The Brazilians were only encouraged by their early goal and continued to bring intense pressure, equalizing in the 74th minute, and taking the lead in the 84th.
The Americans were beaten in the second half, badly. They let themselves down, but so too did the coaching staff.
Almost every time the U.S. team loses or suffers a setback, the “experts” around the world immediately begin using the phrase, “learning experience.” I hate this term because is most cases it doesn’t really apply.
The U.S. team has faced top competition in tournaments such as the Confederations Cup and World Cup in the past. They have advanced past the group stages of these tournaments before. They have played the Italys, Spains, and Brazils of the world, and they have played them on neutral or unfriendly grounds. The fact is that the learning stage should be done. They are past that.
However, on this occasion, we can safely say that this truly was a learning experience. For the first time, the U.S. found themselves playing in a final of a major international tournament, and best of all they were playing the five-time world champions, Brazil. This was new experience, one completely foreign to U.S. players, and despite this final score, there are plenty of positives to take away from the game.
There are, however, plenty of negatives to be addressed as well, which I will do in a later post. But now, we must give praise where praise is due.
The first half of the game was something of a dream. The Americans were playing for keeps, playing with purpose, passion, heart, and courage. They were taking it to the Brazilians, and they were coming out on top. In the first half, the U.S. dominated. They were, in that moment, the best team in the world.
Landon Donovan’s goal may very well be the best goal I’ve ever seen from the U.S. team. The best part is that was almost identical to the way Brazil scored against the U.S. on a break in their group stage match earlier in the Confederations Cup.
Jonathan Spector has been pure class at right back. Clint Dempsey has found his club team form with the national team. I could keep going down the list of virtually every single American starter and heap some form of praise upon them. This tournament did a lot for them, and while they couldn’t quite make the improbable dream a reality, they did themselves proud.
The Americans have had moments where they have shown flashes of brilliance against top opposition. These moments always bring on the discussion of the U.S. being one of the top teams in the world. I say the U.S. is now there.
They are one of the top teams in the world, but as with anything, they must keep earning the right to placed amongst the elite. They have shown the world what they are capable of: greatness.
Bring on 2010! The prospects look great!