Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Live Blog: USMNT v Belgium

I've never done this before, but apparently, in the world of push-button publishing, no prior experience is hardly an obstacle that proves to be insurmountable. Let's do this.

Glad to see the back of you. Photo: David Maxwell/EPA

Looks like the US will start thusly:

Howard, Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley, Zusi, Jones, Kljestan, Davis, Dempsey, Altidore.

Looks a decently strong lineup. If you'd told me two years ago Beasley would be getting his 100th cap tonight as the USMNT's most viable option at left back, I would have slapped you, made you wash your mouth out with soap and warm water, and then led you in a rousing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." But what do I know?  

Belgium's lineup:

Mignolet (Doesn't he look like a 1930s Irish Gangster? Needles Mignolet?), Alderweireld, Kompany, Vermaelen, Vertonghen, Fellaini, Defour, Dembele, Mirallas, De Buryne, Lukaku.

Am I the only one who sees Mirallas and Lukaku in this lineup then skips back to reread our center backs and lets out an audible, lower register "Fuuuuuuuuuuck,"?

Also, how would you punctuate that previous sentence? Period, quotation mark, question mark? Comma, quotation mark, question mark? Quotation mark, question mark? Seriously. I need your guidance.

Enduring Sports Center on ESPN before the kickoff. They're reliving Wayne Gretzky's '93 LA Kings game 7 conference finals game. Two things: Make "Little Wayne's" head bleed. And Holy Melrose Mullet.

God Bless Ian Darke's dulcet tones.

Teams are lined up and about to walk out onto the field. I think Mignolet has been vacuum packed into his jersey. Looks like The Flash. The 1930s Irish gangster version of The Flash.

Looks a decent crowd, but the football stadium rather dwarfs the faithful. Cleveland: Soccer hotbed.

They got #2 from "Austin Powers" to sing the national anthem!!!!!!

[Moment of silence for Oklahoma]

2' Those giveaways clearing out of the back are going to be soaked up by Fellaini.

3' Well done. Zusi. Tracked back well. Altidore needs a goal to get off the schnide, but that shot was poorly considered. Caught the US in transition and sprang the Belgium attack.

5' USA Jozy just showed up in place of AZ Jozy. Trips over a ball he brought down in the box. Meanwhile, in Holland...alternate universe AZ Jozy is celebrating his 1,000th goal...

...followed immediately by Cameron and Gonzalez doing their best underwater soccer impression. Slooooooow.

1-0 Waffles.

11' Cameron ran out of ideas there and apparently decided just to give it back to Belgium. Seems reasonable.

12' Ditto Klejstan.

"Will Fellaini follow Moyes to United?" Yes, Sir Ian. He will. Next question?

16' Great spell of possession for the US there, and then Altidore rocked the cute little Eredivisie touch and the move is over.

I will say this, at least Jozy is getting involved. I've seen too many USMNT matches in which he was anonymous. He's getting into good positions, he just needs to calm down and play within himself a bit more.

23' GOAL!

Great ball back across the goal from Deuce off the corner kick. Waffles got caught napping on the back post after the initial ball cleared them. Maybe that woke up Cameron?


Zusi needs a new haircut. It's less "international soccer player" and more "Omaha soccer mom at LA Fitness." He's got resources. I mean, Dempsey plays at maybe the best hair side in club soccer. Surely he can do Zusi a solid and get him a good hair guy. Am I wrong here?

Ian Darke seriously just said "beautiful" and "Lake Eerie" in the same sentence. He's a professional, folks.

If I'm Belgium and I'm trying to get firmly back on top of this match, I start pressing a little higher, especially when Gonzalez, Cameron, or Goodson are on the ball. They look ponderous and unsure of where their outlets are. Belgium isn't pressing at all and Gonzalez especially is taking so long moving the ball that they're still closing him down.

36' Vermaelen is off and Potonglioliognioloio is on.

I want to see Davis on the ball more. Facially, he's like Stewie from Family Guy and Merry from Lord of The Rings had a kid, but he looks bright and sharp on the ball.

41' Oh, thank God. Dembele is coming off. Oh, fuck Benteke is coming on.

Hazard, Benteke, Witsel, Lukaku, Mirallas, Fellaini. These guys have a chance to be so good they finally put the kibosh on that whole Flemish v French thing.

First half takeaways: Our back four, minus DMB, are too Stoke like. Belgium hasn't put it past third gear yet and Cameron, Gonzalez, and Goodson just look too ponderous, ungainly, and lacking in recovery speed. If they were all superior technical players with flawless positional sense, this wouldn't be that big of a deal, but there were at least three occasions in the first 45 minutes that had one, two, or all three of those guys in a really unflattering Monkey in the Middle situation.

When Winston Churchill described Russia as a "...riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma," he could just have easily been talking about Jozy Altidore in a USA jersey. I'm flummoxed. Can we get Gyasi Zardes in the mix already?

I'm off to grab a Kaliber out of the fridge. You heard me. Kaliber. It's a school night.

Ok, here we go with the second half!

Bring on the subs and let's watch this thing devolve into a disjointed kick in the park.

Worst thing for Jozy? Coming off at half time. What could make it even worse? EJ bagging a screamer.

50' Guzan claimed that fairly easily, but Gonzalez still let Lukaku walk right past him. How do you lose Lukaku? He's like The Predator minus that badass cloaking thingy.

53' DMB played that like a boss. Looked a terrible mismatch and Beasley stayed with him with every turn and won the ball back. Credit where credit is due.

56' Gonzalez and Goodson have been...poor. Twellman calls it growing pains, but that's a mistake in the international game as well as the club game as well as the pub game.

2-1 Waffles.

I just figured it out. Cameron, Gonzalez, and Goodson are in a competition to see who can most quickly go from goat to hero.

64' Boyd on for Davis. Meanwhile, Lukaku is settling into the game now and unleashes a bullet at Guzan. I would continue my Predator analogy, but I don't know what that little three pronged laser thing is called. Also, Fellaini just did what Fellaini does. Fro --> Ball --> Goal.

3-1 Waffles.

69' Besler on for Goodson. Evans on for Zusi.

71' That was too easy. Like way, way, way too easy. I can accept getting beaten by a side like Belgium if it's done with skill, but the old criticism of Klinsy's teams, that they look tactically deficient, is certainly going to be bandied about after this match.

4-1 Waffles.

I'm beginning to think the Kaliber may be a little too soft for me.

Beasley, minus getting walked past for the fourth, has looked good tonight. That's not the Kaliber talking. Or maybe it is the Kaliber talking. Kaliber is NA and I meant that as a stone cold sober observation. Yup, that's the Kaliber talking.

79' Beasley did BRILLIANTLY there. His little tip toe down the line deserved a better ball from EJ. Penalty is a harsh decision.

80' Deuce gets one back from the spot. score looks a little less ugly, but it's still discouraging to see nothing created from the run of play.


81' Holden is on! Bigger news, Holden's hair looks to be in decent form as well.

82' Johnson keeps getting into great positions but can't get the right ball in. Donovan *cough* Donovan *cough, cough*.

85' That looked a clear penalty. Whether Besler got the ball or not, he put himself in jail there with a terrible angle to the first ball.

90' It was only a matter of time before Jones got his name in the book. Probably looked up and saw the clock and panicked.

Well, that happened. 4-2 final score, but I think the score line flatters the US, if I'm honest. I don't think the sky is falling, but this seems to be a pattern under Klinsmann. Really all I can muster at this point is a slew of adjectives thrown on to the page like a bunch of spaghetti on the wall. Here goes: disjointed, tentative, lacking a focal point in attack (ok, that was a descriptive phrase...we'll call that a meatball to the adjective spaghetti), clumsy, faceless. Did I say disjointed?

Other US teams have been less talented, but they've played with a strong, shared identity and they've been better for it. The side under Klinsmann continues to look like a collection of 11 players who are all reading from a different book of music.

Final takeaway: If Belgium doesn't qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, there is no justice in this world. If you're not from Belgium (Flemish or French end), this should be your second favorite team. Also, waffles are delicious.


  1. Thank you, Sir. You flatter me, but thank you nonetheless.