Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Monday, June 19, 2006

USA vs Italia: In Retrospect

First off, I gladly eat my words from the preview on this game, saying a draw would be useless. Miraculously, Ghana destroyed the Czech Republic…nice work guys!

Now that I can objectively take a step back from all the emotion and hype (well, almost completely) of Saturday’s match/battle, I want to make a few points. Sure you’ve heard them all by now from various futbol pundits, but please remember this draw as a great match – perhaps one of the most memorable of this year’s Cup. It is frustrating that we haven’t scored a bona fide goal yet, but with nine men on the pitch for half the match and us only beginning to come into our potential by that point, I think the future (Thursday) is bright. The first game was a wake up call that rightly so put us in our place. We returned to play the next opportunity, as opposed to France ’98 when we were easily the worst team out of the 32 represented there. Bad ref or no, we didn’t allow that to be our scapegoat. Yeah, the Beasley goal was hard to see pulled back, but that was the right call. The cards were a different matter, which I’ll get to shortly, but even that couldn’t stop our heart. We pulled off a few attacks on Italy’s goal with 9 against 10 men. No World Cup team has ever scored with 9 on the field and we almost did it a few times. Although the reverse could be just as true: Ghana, beware.

Now as for our Uruguayan friend who “refereed” this match. At best his calls were hit and miss. There’s the Beasley goal, the red to Italy on the horrid and completely intentional elbow, the offside calls (thanks, linesmen), and him not falling for Italy’s theatrics concerning diving [note to Toni: Hollywood won’t be calling]. All of these things I count to the ref’s favor. Sure, most were not the popular call, but I think well done. Now for the negatives. First of all, if a ref wants to control the physicality of a match with yellow and red cards, he needs to aggressively warn players that he will have no more of what he’s seeing. My recollection of him on the field was that of an observer who would wait until things got bad and then pull out his card. I wonder if there was a language barrier there where he couldn’t say some variant of “Hey, I’m fed up with the rugby match this is resulting in…cut it out!” Just body language can communicate that, for goodness sake! But I saw none of that. A quick whistle followed up with a quickly dealt card. Often this is all that is needed to reign in a match, but the atmosphere and emotions were off the scale. Unfortunately, this referee was not prepared to do his job properly at this level and I would question the amount of his experience. Secondly, the red cards on the US were atrocious. Eddie Pope fouled his man, no question. But you expect to see a precedent on cards and I saw no consistency. Pope did come from around the guy (hard to tell if truly “from behind” – maybe it looked more that way from the ref’s angle) but he touched the ball first. The Italian made a meal of the touch and the ref bit hard on the bait. Often a referee will show some mercy to a man with already one yellow, but he had his mind made up as soon as Pope hit the ground to tackle. Again, there were no words communicated by the ref to the US team as a whole (that I can remember) and so you get a result of him calling foul after foul in a very rough game and then jumping to a card. In my mind, this could have been handled better – in the end this aspect of the game was not handled at all. Finally, since similar Italian tackles were not carded, why shouldn’t I see some bias there?

The Mastroeni red card was the worst call I’ve seen in awhile. I think anyone who is not Italian would see that it was a make up call for the elbow red called against the Italians earlier. That is inexcusable. It was a horrible challenge on Pablo’s part, but again a split decision with no precedent and no consistency the rest of the game. FIFA will of course stand by its man, but a very poor call, no doubt about it. I sure hope the Cup will not see this ref again.

So enough of the past, and on to Thursday. We must win and ironically Italy must win against the Czechs. Or if the Italy/Czech game results in a draw, we must win by a huge margin to make up our goal differential (-2 verses Czech Rep’s +1). That’s 4 goals minimum. Seeing as against Ghana Italy could only put 2 in and the Czechs were held completely (albeit as a completely different team than their first match), we must play to win in the biggest way. But chances are good and optimism, if I can speak for us all, is high. I’d sure like to see more of Eddie Johnson since the air attack with McBride seems to be quite lacking. Even Donovan up front with Beasley in midfield and a focus on quick passing more than dribbling would be a welcome change. We are a goal scoring machine that needs to wake up. On Thursday it’s GO BIG OR GO HOME!

¡Viva USA futbol!

posted by El Jefe @ 9:58 PM  1 comments


At 11:35 AM, Blogger Inka-Wolfy said...

As an objective watcher of this match, I think the ref did a great job. Both red cards were absolutely justified and Eddie's second yellow was pure stupidity on his own part.
Mastroeni's foul wasn't nearly as bad as DeRossi's but it was still a terrible two footed challenge that could have easily resulted in an Italian broken ankle.
Sure, the ref had a "small strike zone" but that counted for both.
By the way, has it ever occured to you that the refs communicate to the captains BEFORE the game what they should expect and what is not tolerated? I am sure this ref did the same and the players just didn't listen. Body language during the match? Nonsense.


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