Spector DeMerit Onyewu Bocanegra
Dempsey Clark Feilhaber Donovan
Luis Fabiano 46’ 74’
So close and so far. My allegiances were far less conflicted in this match, and no surprise, the result was a bit different. But for a moment there…
The first half was stuff of dreams, even less believable than Victory. The second half was far less surprising, but all the more disappointing given where the US stood at the break. And those Liverpool fans who saw United come back against Spurs a couple of months ago will have felt some déjà vu.
Unsurprisingly, Brazil pressed the Americans early on, but the US was first on the board again, from their first attack. And again it was Spector to Dempsey, and a cross from the right back cleverly redirected with a right-footed volley past Julio Cesar.
Brazil stormed down from the field from the restart, with Howard making the first of countless fantastic saves on Robinho's effort. Two US chances from corners quickly followed after Davies' break, but it didn’t take long to revert to ‘all hands on deck,’ as it was for long stretches against Spain. Notably, Howard had to make two more stops, on Felipe Melo and Maicon, in the 25th and 26th minutes.
And then it was two, with an absolutely textbook counter-attack goal. Donovan broke following a corner and found Davies on the left. Somehow the striker got the ball back to Donovan (seriously looked like he had no angle), Landycakes checked back onto his left at the top of the box, steadied himself, goal. Holy shit.
And the US could have had a third in the 30th, but Donovan’s cross just too far in front of Davies and Altidore, who both looked like they’d beaten the offside trap. From there on out, it was all Brazil, with ESPN helpfully pointing out that the first half possession was 60-40 in Brazil’s favor. Howard made at least three more saves before the break, while Maicon’s deflected cross whistled across the face of goal on the stroke of halftime.
Unfortunately for the US, they suffered the worst possible start to the second half. 41 seconds in, and it’s 2-1. A cross in from Maicon, a wonderful quick turn by Fabiano, fooling DeMerit, and the lead’s halved. If they don’t let it that goal, there’s a chance. A full 45 minutes left with only a one-goal advantage is frightening.
The goal marked the beginning on an onslaught more furious than the one faced on Wednesday. If the possession was 60-40 in the first half, it had to be something like 70-30 in the second. If it wasn’t for Tim Howard, the second goal would have come a lot earlier, and the US would have lost by a few more. First, he stopped a bullet Lucio header at the back post in the 58th before controversy two minutes later when Kaka’s back post header looked over the line before Howard palmed it away.
Donovan and Dempsey shots from distance saved by Cesar in the 65th and 66th were the US’s lone chances during the blitz, while Howard kept the US in front when he took the ball off Fabiano’s foot with the striker through in the 71st.
But the dam finally broke in the 74th. It looked like the crossbar would keep Brazil out again after Kaka’s cross found Elano at the far post, but Fabiano was there for the rebound and his brace. 2-2 after 30 minutes of constant pressure did not bode well, and after DeMerit came up huge against Fabiano in the box, Lucio slammed home the resulting corner. Well, fuck. It was nice while it lasted. There was a glimmer of hopewhen Gooch headed over in the 88th, but it wasn’t to be.
Skeptics will wonder where the hell this team came from. Diehards will claim this is what the Yanks have always been capable of, and they even should have won. The truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in the middle.
As said after the Spain match, it’s a hell of a lot different when you play without pressure. And although there were certainly nerves making the final, against Brazil no less, they still weren’t expected to be there and weren’t expected to win. At the same time, they haven't played as well as a unit in these last two matches since the ’02 World Cup. And the backline was the best I've ever seen from the US.
It’s almost better for the US’ World Cup hopes that they lost today. A win would have raised expectations too high and painted a big target on their backs. This provides incentive and proves they can hang with the big boys.
A win certainly would have caused a media stir, but this’ll still be headline news on ESPN and in local sports pages, and even soccer-haters like Jim Rome will be discussing it tomorrow. And the rest of the world will take notice. It may not be the long-hoped for tipping point for American soccer, but it’s another step in the game’s evolution on these shores.