Germany 3 US 0
An exciting game, end to end action and a great effort by both teams. Team USA had plenty of realistic chances to put a goal or two on the board, but Germany managed to thwart them in every instance. Ultimately, a battle of two great teams can yield just one winner and in this one, it was Germany. All the second guessing and "analysis" and rehashing aside - itís just as simple as that. Thatís sports - one team wins and one team loses even when both teams play well enough to come away with the victory. That said, I am going to rehash - itís what I do for every National Team game and this one is no different. There are some issues, though, on which you must concede hindsight is 20-20, and at some point you have to trust that the US National Team coach is the one with better information and insight concerning which of her players is gassed and which is healthy enough to play - so Iím not going to question a lot of the issues that folks are wondering about in the aftermath (e.g., should Boxx have come out, should Mac have come in, whatís up with Danielle Slaton, did Cindy Parlow come out too early), because I honestly wasnít thinking about those issues during the game. They lost this one because they didnít finish, because Germany did on a set piece early and because Germany did a great job facilitating the US "not finishing." It's probably not a lot more complex than that. I do have two issues though, if I didnít have any issues, this would be very short and well, why would anyone read: and these are two issues that I would be ranting about even if they had won - one caused me great concern even before the game started and the other became apparent to me and something I started to feel very very strongly about, about 30 minutes into the game.
First issue: Team USA was coming off a defensive performance that was probably as organized and disciplined as any performance since the good captain (Carla Overbeck) retired. They were not only strong defensively but providing support to the offense up the flanks. Why, why, why in the world would you want to change that? Pearce had a very strong outing against Norway, Pearce has played in games like this before, Pearce is faster and has better ups than Bivens, Bivens was shaky at right back in group play (strong in the right midfield, shaky for the 45 minutes she played on defense), so why in the world would you make that change. I just donít understand it - you never ever change your defense when itís working well - you donít make a sub, you donít start an inexperienced, less athletic player. If the US had won this one by 8 goals, I would still wonder why this decision was made - especially since it would have been really nice to have Bivens on the bench to bring in for Foudy. Which brings me to my second issue: Why wasnít Foudy subbed out? Sheís hasnít had a strong tournament and in this game, she went from "not strong" to very poor. I saw enough of her by the time we hit the 30 minute mark. I understand sheís the captain and Julie Foudy wants to be on the field at the end - but itís not about Foudy - she consistently underperformed in this tournament (Norway was a solid performance that probably seemed better than it was because of the subpar performances before it) and once it became apparent she was having a tough go of it once again, a better/fresher/different player should have been subbed in.
All right - thatís my intro, thatís my criticism, thatís my beef. If those two things had been as I wanted them, would Team USA have won? Who the heck knows - the thing about second guessing is that you never have to prove your theories - maybe things would have gone better and Pearce would have been fronting Garafrekes or prevented Germany from earning the corner in the first place or maybe the Foudy sub would have put the perfect ball up to Abby or Mia . . . then again, maybe Pearce would have turned the ball over right in front of goal, and the Foudy sub wouldnít have connected a pass - who knows. Thatís the benefit of doing commentary from my sofa - like all "armchair quarterbacks" I never have to prove my point. Like I said at the outset and will say again later on, all the second guessing aside and trying to figure out "what went wrong" - if they play the exact same game, but simply finish one or two of those chances, no one is worried about any of it. Itís the way the game goes sometimes, itís the nature of this sport - almost every single possession results in failure, so looking back there are always a half dozen ways that they could have done it differently - itís why itís so fun to rehash soccer matches. But in the rehashing of this one, I think youíve got to step back, look at all the chances the US did create, look at how well the defense played and how exciting this match was. The further away I get from this game, the more Iím appreciating what a fun one it was and what a tremendous effort it was by all involved.
All right - as I go through the players Iíll try and throw in some more commentary on what I think may have been "wrong" with the offense, but ya know, I donít think Iím going to have any answers other than the very simple one: they just didnít finish. With all of those very realistic chances - Lilís screamer Silke saved, Tiffís just wide, Tiffís she was just an inch or two too short to reach, Abbyís off the post, Abbyís near post Silke saved, Miaís she took an extra touch on, the PK call that just didnít happen and probably should have - with all those chances, and Iím sure there were some others Iím not mentioning - with all those chances (thatís a lot of chances sports fans), itís hard to say there was a problem with the offense with a whole lot of conviction. I think this one was so heartbreaking and everyone on the fan front is so upset about it because it was so close, because Team USA was playing well enough to win and because even though it wasnít always the prettiest effort, this team was playing hard, they left it all out on that field and sitting at home you could almost feel how hard they were trying to net one. But ultimately, and this is the thing that keeps getting lost in the aftermath: the Germans were doing the exact same thing - they were playing hard, they were playing well enough to win, and even though their defensive effort wasnít always pretty, they did what they needed to do to get a body on US players, disrupt passing lanes (even if at times that disruption was ever so slight) and win balls. Something had to give - someone had to win and someone had to lose and in this semifinal it was Germanyís time to win. Congratulations to them. As for Team USA - congratulations to them too - they put it all out on the field. I have no question about the effort in this one - even a couple of players who had been underperforming earlier in the tournament came on in the second half and put it all out there and created the types of chances for which theyíre known. Iím going to dismantle this a bit in my amateurish way (for whatever thatís worth) in a search for answers that Iíll concede at the outset probably donít exist and donít need finding, but donít let anything I write (or have already written) take away from the fact that Iím proud of this team, Iím proud of the effort, I believe on any given day theyíre good enough to beat any team in the world (and I believe Germany is just that good as well) and I truly believe they left all they had on that field. And as a fan, thereís really not anything more I can ask from them than that.
Formation - 4-3-3, back-front, right-left
GK - Scurry; Def - Bivens, Fawcett, Reddick, Sobrero; M - Foudy, Boxx, Lilly; F - Parlow, Hamm, Wambach. Wagner in for Parlow and they seemed to switch to a 4-4-2; Milbrett in for Bivens and they were playing with 3 at the back without much shape at all.
Scurry - My goodness - those saves on the corner early in the second half were phenomenal and kept Team USA in the game. No need to mention anything about Briís day other than that. Just incredible. The Germans were taking great set pieces in this one and the US on those set pieces was not as good as it should have been marking up, but Bri was outstanding. As for the goal - there was absolutely nothing she could do - it was a perfect set piece. It would have been nice if someone had been fronting Garafrekes, but they werenít and Bri was caught. As for the last two goals - she was hung out to dry - the US flung everyone forward and it was just a matter of time before Meinert and/or Prinz broke through. It was a race for the next goal - for either the US to score and pull someone back on defense or for Germany to put the game away and Bri was at the mercy of what the game became for the last 15 or 20 minutes. Another strong performance from Bri. The pace of this one was absolutely frenetic at times and she held up well. She had a great tournament, I look for her to finish it out strong on Saturday.
Bivens - I do not understand why she was in there at right back - I do not understand why you disrupt a defense that performed as well as it did against Norway to insert a player who is inferior to the one she was replacing in every aspect of the game (speed, offensive ability, ups, experience, 1 v. 1 defending, reading the game and on and on and on). When I saw she was playing, I was holding out the hope that she was in for Foudy (even though I knew in my heart of hearts that wasnít the case) because Bivens really did perform well in the right midfield in the opening rounds, but she was in on D - and she was even shakier than she was in group play. Her touch was off, she was getting beat up the right side and forced to touch balls out (or at least thatís what she did with them in a slightly panicky way that showed that she just wasnít equipped to be in there in this game) that would have been routine clearances upfield for Pearce, she wasnít heading balls well, she was providing little support to the attack and minus one or two instances, she wasnít even providing much of a tackling presence. I really donít want to harp on it too much, because the work rate was there and she was trying and itís not that she was awful because I donít think she was, she just was in over her head - in my opinion she never should have been put in that situation. Not a great Bivens outing - at this level, I definitely like Kylie better in the midfield. In the 4-3-3 with Lil at the point (although I donít know if they really had that shape like they did against Sweden - maybe that was part of the problem with the offensive flow in the first half), she would have been perfect manning the middle third of the field, right behind Lil, with Boxx.
Fawcett - I thought she had a strong outing. The defenders really didnít give up much, especially in the first half. Joy was great in the air, good with the double team and strong covering for Kylie, having to clear a ball that got away from Kylie more than once. The defense wasnít as organized as against Norway, but I think that was as much a personnel problem as it was a problem with the defense. I have very little here - Joy had a great outing - the central defense was very strong in this one and as usual, a backstop in the air. I didnít notice that there was a ton of good service coming out of the back (until about midway through the second half when they were flighting balls out of there to get them up field fast), but they were getting the ball up to the midfield and forwards who were dropping back, I just think the ball often was lost after it got to that middie or forward and then won back and then maybe lost and won back and this was a lot of the reason there was no flow - the Germans were playing the passing lanes as much as the players and itís tough to run your offense when theyíre doing that. Germany was putting some pressure on them offensively at times so more of the balls off defendersí feet were clearances out of play than we were accustomed to seeing in this tournament, but you canít be cute on defense with Germany - once youíve taken 3 or 4 touches and 4 or 5 Germans are in the attacking third, the ball needs to be cleared out and Joy did well making that clearance. Thatís about it. Nice game from Joy - they shut Germany down in the first half and in the second, it was all about getting the equalizer and they held tough until stoppage time.
Reddick - Like Joy, I thought Cat was rock solid. She was also very good in the air, making nice reads and working well with both Kate and Joy. Didnít notice that she was using her leg a whole lot in the run of play - the midfield and forwards really seemed to be moving the ball forward more in the first half. There were a couple of restarts I wish sheíd taken, but the ones she did take seemed to be going a little bit long - that might have been a little bit of nerves. There was one free kick about 5-10 yards outside of the box in the second half that I was just dying for Cat or Aly to take - I realize Miaís the vet and Mia wants (and gets) the ball, but I knew she wasnít going to go for goal with it (she kind of lofted it in - it may have skidded off of Abbyís head or just gone over the endline on itís own, I forget) and Iíve seen both Aly and Cat score on balls from that spot so it would have been nice to let one of them try for it. As hard as Mia was running up top the whole game, late-ish in the second half Aly or Cat (who wasnít running quite as much in the first half as Mia was - Germany was much more dangerous in the second half - as the US pressed, the Germans pressed back) probably would have been a bit fresher to take it. Other than that, I have very little. I think I would have like to have seen Cat on the wing - for at least a half, as had been done in a couple of the previous outings. She provides much better support to the attack than Kate. I realize the US was going at the left side/left central of the German defense, but in a 4-3-3 you really need the wings to get involved in the attack to stretch the field a bit, especially since as this incarnation of the 4-3-3 goes, Lil is supposed to be playing centrally right behind the forwards most of the time - if they had been able to stretch the German defense a little, the center of the field would have been less crowded and maybe Team USA could have held possession and connected their passes a bit better in the early going. Anyway - as it was, she had a very strong outing and I expect that she will be a mainstay of this defense for years to come.
Sobrero - Defensively sheís outstanding. Thatís not even an issue - she made some very nice plays in this one, some nice 1 v. 1 defending out wide and provided some good help for the central defenders. There were a few balls they were having some trouble clearing but I didnít notice Kate having any more trouble with this than anyone else. So - as usual, my issue isnít so much with Kate as it was with where she was playing. Zero support was provided to the attack from the left wing position - nothiní - the US simply wasnít using half of the field in the first half. When Cat plays out there, we donít see that - sheíll make a run forward and deliver the occasional ball either into a midfielder or into the box. Kate doesnít. If youíre not going to send wings forward, or play people at the wing position who can effectively get forward, then the 4-3-3 might not be the best formation to play. The center of the field was packed, shots and passes were rushed because of onrushing German defenders who never seemed to be too far away, even when a US player got behind them. I think shrinking the field thus, shrinking the area into which youíre attacking really limits the time and space the midfielders and forwards are going to have and I think this was at least part of why the offense didnít flow. There were a lot of turnovers and it seemed some folksí timing was just a tad off. Anyway - great defensive outing for Kate. She really is one of the best 1 v. 1 defenders out there and like I said earlier - the defenders held the German attack well throughout most of the game. They picked on Kylie a bit, but Kate handled her side of the field beautifully.
Foudy - OK - I like Julie Foudy very much, sheís always been a favorite of mine, so I donít know where to go here. Iím certainly not going to write in this report what I was yelling at her as I was watching things unfold - just knowing that I was yelling uncomplimentary things to her should be enough to convey my opinion of her play in this one though. I just didnít see a thing from her, she was getting beat defensively, losing possession of balls, a couple of touches out that she should have been able to put upfield or hold, a ton of giveaways, and she didnít take charge of an attack that desperately needed her calming influence in the early going. Wasnít making sure the ball got out to Lil, wasnít really connecting well with anyone. It just wasnít a good game for her - she wasnít sharp, she had some really careless touches and at times it seemed she got caught ball watching a bit - and Foudyís not a player who can get caught flat footed - sheís not going to be able to recover. Cindy Parlow was the workhorse out right, Mia provided some support. As CP was doing all that hard work, Foudy needed to be trailing and providing support but it just seemed CP got left hanging far too often. Not much chemistry with Kylie either - maybe itís because they havenít been out there together a lot. All right - thatís all Iíve got - I didnít enjoy Foudyís performance and that Aly had to be brought in for the express purpose of holding the ball in the offensive end and bringing a little composure to the midfield so they could get some sort of a concerted attack going and get some balls through really speaks to the fact that Foudy was highly ineffective performing the duties that she generally performs quite well. Maybe it was fatigue - maybe itís just that simple. I donít know - but I sure would have liked to have seen her subbed out at the half - either straight up for Aly or TR, or put Pearce in and move Kylie up into the midfield until the next sub needed to be made - maybe they could have eked out another 10-15 minutes from CP that way and gotten Aly into the game all at the same time.
Boxx - I thought she had a very strong defensive game. She was clearing up a lot before it hit the defense and was doing well in the air. And as much as Iíve talked about the lack of offensive flow from Team USA, I think Germany was having an even tougher time connecting their passes and finding their flow in the first half and Boxxís play was a big part of that. They shut Meinert down for most of the first half. Some of Boxx's passes were a tad errant, and like I mentioned in previous outings, she really needs to be more aware about getting everyone involved when she's in that holding midfield role. She's behind the offense in the center of the field - she's got the best view. Offensively, I think Wendy and Tony were spot on regarding this one - she was holding the ball too long. Sheís not the player you want with the ball at her feet dribbling through the midfield - she got dispossessed or turned it over because the pass was rushed quite a bit in the first 20 minutes. To her credit, as the game wore on she was playing a bit faster. She still had the occasional misguided displays of dribbling the ball through the German defense (she was actually pretty good for about 30 yards then I think she realized that she was all alone with nowhere to go, Germans had pretty much spotted her and were surrounding her and she had no idea where to put the ball), but for the most part she figured out where she was going wrong and improved. Gotta like a player who can make adjustments like that during the game. As for the second half - well, when the pace picks up like that and it becomes end to end, break neck, good lord we must score a goal attacking soccer, I think the newbies were revealed a bit - they were completely inexperienced and unprepared for such a high speed of play and for the pace of the game to be jacked up like that and I think at times it was tough for them to keep up. When allís said and done though, this was a strong effort - Team USA shut down a very potent German attack in the first half and even while flinging numbers forward for most of the second they held the Germans down well enough to prevent any goals until stoppage time - Boxx has to get some kudos for helping in that effort. I think sheís had a terrific tournament, she had a strong defensive performance, improved through the first half offensively and itís experiences like this game that will help her improve and help her to have a long future in the US midfield.
Lilly - As usual, Lil had her moments to put this game away - Lil always has her moments. This time however, she didnít hit it wide or high - she hit it brilliantly - sadly, Silke was just a little bit better. That happens sometimes - sometimes no matter how good you are, someone out there is just a little bit better. As for the rest of Lilís game, well, the workrate was there, she was playing tough defense all over the field all game long, but I didnít think she had nearly enough touches. If Tony would have been quiet for a couple of minutes (professional coach, amateur commentator, can we get him outta there for the final and consolation matches please), Wendy could have fully explained that the US was supposed to be playing with a midfield shaped kind of like a wedge with Lil at the point and Foudy and Boxx playing holding midfielders (and Wendy knows what theyíre supposed to be doing, even when itís not getting done - her husband is the assistant coach - she knows) - unfortunately, what we saw out there in this one was that they really didnít hold that shape like they did against Sweden. Thatís part of the reason why Lil was bordering on the invisible in the first half. While she was in the center of the field a bit, she really wasnít the focal part of the offense, and sheíd drift left out of the picture at times. Another part of the reason Iíve already touched on. When she did drift left to stretch the field a little, there was no support up the flank from the wing defender - they simply werenít spreading the ball left. Back in the day, when Brandi played behind her, Brandi would be responsible for sending one of those "fetch it Lil" balls up the flank to the endline for one of those patented Kristine Lilly crosses. I donít think we saw even one endline run by Lil the whole game. I donít know if Iíve ever seen a game in which thereís not even one of those. And the last reason why Lil wasnít as involved in the attack as she could have been was simply that Team USA saw the weakness on the German back line and spent most of the first half picking at it and picking at it and picking at it. Even against Argentina, even before Steffi got hurt and the German defensive ranks got that much thinner, it was apparent the left side of that defense was the soft spot - or at least the softest spot - donít know if any part of that German team is actually soft. And Team USA was going right and right central to try and take advantage of that. I think by not getting Lil terribly involved they froze out Abby a bit (also playing left most of the game and very much in need of service most of this one) and of course made as compact a field for the US offensively as the defenders pushing up made for the Germans offensively - the Germans could cheat off the left and flood the center of the field. Probably should have gotten Lil involved a bit more, or Lil should have gotten herself involved a bit more to keep them honest. In the second half, she was part of the break neck pace and is one of the few players out there who is at her best when things get really crazy. She created some nice chances, had a lot of takeaways and was tracking back on D. Thatís about all Iíve got - I thought she had a fairly strong game, I just wish sheíd had more touches and gotten more involved a bit earlier on.
Parlow - Best field player for Team USA in this one. Working that right side like nobodyís business - getting chance after chance for her teammates, tracking back defensively, showing dazzling technical skill on the ball. Absolutely brilliant. And itís seeing Cindy Parlow play a game like this that makes me so crazy when I watch her at times. I donít think any player in the US player pool makes me crazier than Cindy Parlow. I have very recently been accused of being a Cindy Parlow basher - and maybe I am. But ya know - if I didnít think she had the talent to be one of the best players in the world I wouldnít bother. The thing is, I do - she has technical ability on the ball surpassed on Team USA probably only by Tiff and Mia, sheís got great size . . . and when she wants to . . . she knows how to use it, she is an outstanding finisher in front of goal . . . when sheíll pull the trigger, and she can be a tremendous defensive and ball winning presence . . . until she wears down. Sheís got the talent and ability to be one of the best players in the world - in fact, in this game, for this day, she was one of the best players in the world and I think Iím so hard on Cindy Parlow because Iím sick of hearing the excuses why she doesnít always play like this (or at least more consistently play like this) and why sheís not fit enough to go more than 45 minutes. I guess maybe I just want her to want to be the best as much as I want it for her. But I digress - I do think someone needs to do something to light a fire under her though - maybe all the hype about Abby will do it - sheís got to be sick of hearing it . . . and if she can turn it on and consistently provide the kind of effort and the kind of play she provided in this one then the two headed attack of Cindy Parlow and Abby Wambach will have Team USA playing deep into international tournaments for years to come - especially if Heather OíReilly develops into the third head we think/hope she will. I thought Cindy was outstanding in this game, I thought the criticism of her final touch in the early going was overstated - it was extremely early in the game when they pounced on her and it generally takes just about everyone 10-15 minutes to warm up with the kind of passes she was trying to make especially since was making them on a dead run - and Germans were running into the passing lane and intercepting the ball as well. She did sharpen up about 15 minutes in and sent in many balls, dribbled some up herself and was the most potent weapon in the attack for the first 40 minutes of the game. As for subbing her out - well, yeah - that was going to have to happen - in the first half, I first noted she was struggling a bit at about the 37 minute mark - generally youíll see April leave her in for the first half, I assume CP gets a bit refreshed at the half, and then sheíll go about 10-15 minutes in the second half, and it would have been nice if Team USA could have earned a set piece or two more before she had to go out, but if April needed to make a strategic adjustment, with only 3 subs, CP had to go - that wasnít an unreasonable call. It was a valiant effort, and I donít get the opportunity to say this nearly enough, but there is no doubt in my mind that she left everything she had to give on that field. Great game - thoroughly enjoyable outing by Cindy Parlow.
Hamm - As always one of the hardest working women on the field. Tracking back on D, winning balls and holding balls through the midfield and up top, pressuring German defenders trying to cause turnovers and blowing by Germans like they were standing still. Great effort. In the first half, I thought she was providing great support to CP and was doing a good job getting her the ball. In the second half, I think she took on the CP/starring role a bit more and was trying to punch through the right and center of the field herself. My one pet peeve with Mia is the one Iíve been harping on for the last four years: step and shoot, Mia, step and SHOOT!!!!!!!! Why does she hesitate, why does she insist on trying to dribble through things - step and shoot, if the keeperís down, step and chip. How do you give her the confidence to take that shot - sheís the most prolific goal scorer in history, how can you make her understand that there is simply no better option than her shooting the ball less than 15 yards from goal. Anyway - great effort, she was in there fighting to the end - I would expect nothing less from Mia Hamm.
Wambach - They found a way to stop Abby - donít even try. They didnít play Abby, they played the ball to Abby. Germany simply denied her the ball. They cut off her passing lanes on the ground (Team USA helped with that as Iíve mentioned above - Lil didnít have the touches, the ball just wasnít in Abbyís general vicinity a whole lot), they intercepted crosses (Silke made some daring excursions off her line to get to some of those crosses) and they gave her no space and no time the few times she got to the ball. So Abby didnít have the kind of dominating game weíve seen this tournament. They took her at her word - she said earlier that teams playing her physically and pounding on her actually played right into her hands and put her in her comfort zone - so Germany simply didnít do that. And it worked. All that said, she certainly had her chances to put her mark on the game - the ball off the post, the through ball by Aly, the ball she put through to Mia, all potential game breakers and all beautifully played - they just didnít finish. As for the coverage on the corner - Foudy was closer, Abby was behind Foudy probably thinking she was going to clear the ball out of the box when she should have been thinking about playing a German instead of playing the ball, I have no idea which of those two should have been on her, but looking at the two of them it really didnít look like anyone had any plans to front her - and the only thing that would have stopped that goal the way the corner kick was placed, was to front her, not have her on the backside. So even if Foudy or Abby had been on her, theyíd probably have been between her and the goal (not an unreasonable place to be), so it probably wouldnít have mattered. Maybe hanging off her she wouldnít have been able to get up, but sometimes coverages get missed and sometimes Germans take a perfect set pieces and I think both things happened on the German goal. Anyway - a solid effort, as with the entire team, the workrate was there, she was still winning balls all over the place, holding the ball at times and pressuring German defenders causing some panicky touches and turnovers. I just think defensively Germany gave her a different look than sheís seen this tournament and it took her awhile to adjust to it. Solid effort, I hope she gets the chance to finish on a high note against Canada. Thatís a team thatís going to hammer her - if thatís what she wants, if thatís when sheís at her best, well, we should get to see her at her best one last time before this WWC is over.
Wagner - Now thatís a nice game by Aly. They needed her to come in, bring some composure, provide a controlling offensive organizational presence, hold the ball in the attacking third to let the offense come to them rather than forcing it and put some balls through to the frontrunners and Lil so they didnít have to work quite as hard for everything they got as they did in the early going. And for 20 minutes or so (until it just became a long ball fest bashing the ball forward with reckless abandon trying to beat Germany to the next goal) she provided all of that for Team USA and they had some of the best chances of the match. Mia was getting through, Abby got sent through, Lil was getting the ball quite a bit more, everyone was involved. It wasnít highlight reel stuff, but she provided a calming force and an offensive spark all at the same time. Nice game by Aly, I really hoped sheíd be able to help them get one and she almost did. Sheís another one for whom I think this one has been a great learning experience and I hope she gets the opportunity to finish on a high note against Canada.
Milbrett - Not to repeat myself, but: Now thatís a nice game by Tiff. She was a little spark plug from the minute she got in. By the time she entered the match it was a track meet - back and forth, attacking soccer each side trying to score before the other - and Tiffeny Milbrett couldnít have looked more at home. She was darting in getting chances for herself and others and just seemed omnipresent in the US box, crashing in and making things happened. Iím not much for the ref deciding games, but that PK should have been called - Iíve not seen such obvious takedowns in the box that werenít called. Itís a shame - again, I realize the US has gotten some sketchy PK calls this tournament and you really donít want to determine a WWC semifinal match on a PK, but dang, this wouldnít have been sketchy - I didnít think it was close. As for the other moment that stands out in my mind with Tiff, it was the cross into the box, and seeing Tiffeny Milbrett positioned perfectly, and jumping with all of her might to try and get it but just not being able to reach it. A friend of mine called it heartbreaking, but for me, thinking back, it is the lasting image of this game. Itís just a metaphor for the performance of the entire team - a team trying with all that it has, with every bit of effort it can muster and coming so close to success, but in the end just coming up . . . a little . . . bit . . . short . . . .
Well - thatís that. A whole bunch of typing and I could probably sum it up with "they just didnít finish," "Germany defended well," "Germany had some great goalkeeping" and "itís sports, one team wins, one team loses and on any given night you never know which end your team is going to be on." As for what comes next - well Tony DiCicco spent a ridiculous amount of time talking about the USA mentality - I think he was discussing it to the point that it became insulting to just about anyone who isnít Team USA - now, we get to find out whether itís myth or reality. On Saturday afternoon at 3:25 ET, we get to find out the stuff from which Team USA is made. After the 2000 Olympics we thought we knew and we talked about how gracious in defeat they were. But they only had to keep on a happy face for a few interviews and then they could go sulk in private if thatís what they wanted to do - now, however, theyíve got to come out and play. In 1999, I didnít much like what I learned about some of the Norwegian players, especially a notable very tall striker who left her teammates hanging by saying that she was "too exhausted" to play and therefore didnít start. What do we learn about this team. I certainly hope we learn theyíre the players and the people we think they are - the fighters who play for their fans and for each other and that theyíre going to go out there and take it to Canada just like theyíd take it to Sweden if it was the final match. Because one thing weíve learned about Canada in this tournament - theyíre certainly going to take it to Team USA. For the Canadians, the consolation match is an achievement, for Team USA itís a disappointment - can the US team make this game matter, can they want it more than Canada? I sure hope so - I sure hope my last match report of this tournament is again talking about the brilliant effort of every player on the pitch, how they played with heart and how they left nothing out on that field. If it stopped today, thatís who this team is to me, I hope after Saturday, thatís who they still are and that weíre treated to one last great match by Team USA on the WWC 2003 stage. The vets especially owe it to themselves, to each other and to the fans who realize this is the last we get to see of them on this particular stage, to exit the platform in glorious fashion - even if itís not in the game in which they ideally would like to be playing.