Twenty minutes to kick-off and I'm sitting here shaking like a leaf in a gale. Perhaps it's the four cups of coffee I needed to get my jet-lagged body going this morning. It might be the DTs after nine straight days of no-holds-barred pub patronage. But I'll put my money on the unrivaled excitement of a World Cup. I am in Full Giddiot Mode.
I just got done watching the TiVo'd Australia-Japan match, the Socceroos getting three in the last 6 minutes to win 3-1. What a rush. Except, of course, for the fact Shep Messing is the color commentator. Shep Messing? Really? That's the best we can do for soccer announcers, a mediocre goalkeeper from 30 years ago? I could offer more interesting commentary about a prostate exam than what ol' Shep had to offer on the game. I could enunciate better with a mouth full of marbles. Apologies for be-fouling such a historic event with a rant at ESPN.
8:52: Here they come out of the tunnel. Looks like McBride will be the lone striker with Donovan tucked in behind in a 4-5-1. Convey appears to get the nod on a wing over O'Brien. He certainly deserved it. He's been the brightest player on the pitch during the run-up friendlies and had a great season at Reading. Mastroini in the holding role behind Reyna and Donovan. I fully agree with this lineup. Well done, Bruce.
8:54: Czechs have some injury woes. Koller is in the side, but didn't see erstwhile Liverpool striker Milan Baros. Apparently Nedved limped off this week, but I won't believe it until I (don't) see it. Smicer already ruled out for the tournament.
8:56: Nice. ESPN cuts away for commercial after the Star Spangled Banner. Screw the Czech anthem. Now in the director's chair in Bristol, General George Patton.
9:00: Let's get it on! There's Nedved. Told ya. ESPN says it's a 4-4-2 with Donovan up top. I don't believe it, especially with the Czechs in a 4-5-1.
9:01: Koller vs. Onyewu. Clash of the Giants.
9:03: Just don't do anything dumb in the first 15. Settle in. Easy balls. Get a touch.
9:04: Early yellow for Gooch. Not good. Stay aggressive, big fella.
9:05 Fuck. Free Koller header from 5 yards. 1-0 Czechs.
9:05: Too easy. Terrible. Worst possible start. Let's see, how much more negative can I get?
9:10: Better. US really should be able to get loose on the flanks. Couple of good balls in from Convey and Lewis.
9:13: Reminiscient of the US opener against Germany eight years ago. Giving up a cheap early goal to strong European competition and having to chase the game. It's not a role that suits us, though we have better players this time. I have no doubt they'll get chances, but beating Cech AND not making more mistakes in the back make this a tall order.
9:16: We do have a considerable pace advantage in several areas of the pitch.
9:17: Beasley's bad first touch wastes a chance. C'mon DMB. Play with confidence.
9:19: Less important than the score (in the grand scheme) is finding a rhythm right now. Plenty of time.
9:22: The early goal eliminates the counter from the US game plan. Czechs getting 11 behind the ball. Gonna make it increasingly tougher.
9:26: ARRRRRRRRRRRGH. Reyna hits the post. Cech was beaten. But that's exactly what they have to do. Got a turnover in midfield and went forward with speed. That's our main advantage, maybe out only one. A nice move.
9:30: US is pulling itself into the game, but that early goal is just a killer. You don't draw up a game plan that includes conceding after 4 fucking minutes. Margin for further error is nil.
9:35: And there's your football match. Poor clearing header and Rosicky shows his class from 35 yards. 2-0 Czechs.
9:37: They were always gonna have to play a perfect match to have a shot today. Didn't happen.
9:45: Nothing like two years of qualifying and months of anticipation being killed within 45 minutes. I think I'll do my laundry.
9:50: Well, there is some good news: The A's swept the Yanks in the Bronx over the weekend.
I had a great fucking time in Scotland and Ireland. I know this is a (very) common theme in this here blog, especially over the last few months, but it's something that always bears repeating: the best part about these experiences is the people you get to share them with. It's less about what and where than it is about who. It's difficult to explain how rewarding it is to spend time with my friends and I think that's partly because we have such a long and deep connection. I could not convey how hilarious it is just to be around these guys. And as impressive as I found the Cliffs of Mohrer, as beautiful as I found the Irish countryside, none of it would have resonated with me as much as it did if I didn't get to experience it with Donny, Schott and Kool Breeze. I give you all an A+.
(Not to mention making the acquaintance of Div and his Merry Band of Scots, that champagne-swilling, re-buying group that made my nights--and early mornings--memorable. Thanks to you gentlemen as well)
9:57: Expect more filler in the second half.
9:58: Today I have to go to the Dry Cleaner.
9:59: And clip my toenails.
10:00: And call my mom.
10:01: The thing I hate most about this is the World Cup is really the only chance for the game to gain a foothold in this country. I'm certain we'll never approach the levels of fanaticism in other parts of the world, but it can't be denied that a US team making waves in a global competition piques the interest of the general public. This is what makes fans. Not a huge percentage, but some. Along with that, such a dismal start gives more fuel for the ignorant in the media (which is only about 90% of the country's columnists) to burn the game and the club.
10:02: Eddie Johnson and Johnny O'Brien in as the US switches to a 3-5-2. Smell that? That's desperation.
10:05: Beasley looks a mess. His touch is poor. His ambition to take guys on is missing. Funny game. How quickly it can disapper. Not that I've ever been out of form, myself.
10:13: C'mon, Speaker, you say. Where's the optimism? Where's your Yankee Can-Do spirit? You're right. The US can pull off a miracle and come back to get a result. If they do, I'll eat my own poo.
10:14: Nothing like looking forward to thirty more minutes of hopeful long balls. Yes, I'm bitter.
10:16: I'm paying my bills.
10:24: They're toying with us now. Men vs. Boys. Exhibit A.
10:25: Rosicky bangs the bar. US goal differential breathes a sigh of relief.
10:26: Bring on The Azzurri!
10:28: Eddie Johnson with a couple nice efforts. Consolation prizes.
10:29: I would rate this as the second-worst performance by a club so far in the Cup. The Chicken Swedes retain bottom spot.
10:30: Commentator Marcelo Balboa being correctly hard on the boys, especially in regard to their passivity. How you don't come to play in a game like this is beyond me. Maybe they just had no belief and the early goal cemented that feeling. Again, I didn't expect they'd take the game to the Czechs, who have shown their class and experience. I would have preferred a better performance, one I know the team is capable of.
10:33: If it wasn't a laugher already, it is now. Nedved and Rosicky carve up the back three for a simple finish. 3-0.
10:34: Gonna end this right here. Wholly disheartening. If anyone needs me, I'll be over there. In the fetal position.