Christ. On. A. Bicycle.
The U.S. Men’s National Team took on Antigua and Barbuda tonight in Antigua. To say that this game wasn’t of the most important in the U.S. quest for World Cup 2014 would be a lie. Pretty much all of the USMNT fans today were a nervous wreck about what tonight would bring, especially when we found out Fabian Johnson would be out with the flu and Landon Donovan and Brek Shea would be left home due to injuries.
But, I’ll be honest, when the line up came out about an hour before the match, I didn’t find myself too worked up about it. I was a tad concerned about Graham Zusi, only because of his lack of USMNT playing time. But anyone who’s seen a Sporting Kansas City game knows this kid has talent.
Then there was Eddie Johnson.
Now, this has happened to me before with one Geoff Cameron. When he was named in the starting line up earlier this year, I can admit, I was pretty terrified. But he’s stepped up and proved he can be a top notch player for the USMNT.
When EJ was named on tonight’s starting line up, I had the same mixed feelings. And again, I was happy to be shown up by Mr. Eddie Johnson. The brace of headers he notched were fantastic, and, well, the last one pretty much saved the USMNT’s necks.
So – as it’s been tweeted by several times tonight – Major League Soccer, in the form of Zusi, Johnson and Alan Gordon, saved the U.S. Men’s National Team.
But let’s get down to the grit.
That game was ugly. No, it was more than ugly. It was brutal and terrifying.
And out of this, one basic fear emerges, yet again. Our midfield.
One can point out that our defense collapsed on the play that allowed A&B to score. I won’t deny that. But the midfield shouldn’t lose possession as easily as they do. I don’t like to knock other teams because I don’t like to count anyone out. But let’s get real here. What should the score have been tonight? Definitely not 2-1.
Grant Wahl made an excellent point in his after-game post; Mexico would have beat Antigua and Barbuda 5-0. The U.S. should be doing the same.
And thus here we find the sum of all our fears.
A friend of mine and I were talking about the game on Twitter and the point was made that even though the U.S. won, it was a scary win. When the USMNT play teams like Antigua and Barbuda, they should be doing one thing and one thing only – dominating. They should not be making it to the 90-minute mark barely escaping with the skins on their backs.
With this take-away win, the U.S. fans and the team can breathe a sigh of relief. A tie in Kansas City next week will get the team through to the hexagonal.
But really, things shouldn’t have been this close. Things shouldn’t have gotten this scary. I feel sick to my stomach when I think about what could have happened if the U.S. hadn’t gotten those three points tonight.
I believe in Jurgen Klinsmann and his plan. I believe in an attacking mentality and I believe the U.S. can be that type of team. But I admit, if the USMNT can’t get things under control, things might only get uglier. Here’s hoping the ugly is over and the up swing can begin.