In 1990 the USA made the World Cup for the first time in 40 years. It was a team comprised mostly of wide eyed collegiate players. In their first game they ran into a an immovable object known as Czechoslovakia. They gave the USA a clinic on the field and gave them their worst ever lost, 5-1, in a World Cup.
Now sixteen years later the USA team is comprised of professional players with international experience. Half who play over in Europe where the soccer competition is top notch. Again they run into the Czech Republic. It's almost like déjà vu. Except this time they gave the USA their second worst beating ever 3-1. Weren't we supposed to make progress after all those years and not regress back to square one?
This was the worst possible result. The USA was exposed as pretenders. The buildup and excitement to the first game ended quickly five minutes into the game when 6'7" Jon Koller scored. He's the huge guy up front who the USA was well aware about and knew he had to cover.Yeah so much for months of preparation.
A win against the Czech was unlikely. The most disappointing aspect was just the manner of how they lost. They showed no urgency. No aggressiveness. Their top two forwards, Landon Donovan and Brian McBride combined for zero shots. That's like Shaq scoring 5 points. Even the head coach, Bruce Arena, who rarely calls out players, called out Donovan for doing nothing today. They didn't leave anything left on the field.
USA still has two games left but this loss pretty much printed the return plane ticket. The ink is wet but it's drying very quickly. In 14 all-time World Cup matches, the Americans are 3-10-1 on European soil. They've lost all eight matches against European teams by a 23-4 margin. Up next? Eleventh-ranked Italy. And more ugly statistics.
No U.S. team has advanced after losing its first match in group play. In fact, only one team in the past two World Cups, Turkey in 2002, has moved on after a first-game loss. Turkey lost to eventual champion Brazil in their first game. Then they tied Costa Rica and beat China. Not the same as facing Italy and Ghana in the next two matches.
The game will be replayed on ESPN Classic on Monday. Were they watching the same game I was? Where were the classic moments? Even that game wouldn't qualify as a classic in Czech Republic.
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