Saturday, June 27, 2009

On tap: Confederations Cup final

I'm a bit under the weather and The Distracter is making me rest, so I will be back before you all get up in the States with my full blown USMNT v Brazil prattle production - but I figured I could go ahead and open up the reading room.


Okay, game day... no... championship day has arrived and the 'Nats will be hoping to put on another magic show for the folks down in South Africa. Is anyone else ready to tackle world icons Brazil? To raise that first FIFA trophy amid Red, White & Blue confetti today?

I get the feeling that, today, we all are probably stretching and doing that little boxer-about-to-fight bounce while wearing the official "Jay DeMerit - Serious as a Heart Attack" brow furrow. I'm sick, it's almost seven hours 'til kickoff and I've been doing it for an hour already.

It's almost as if we are all suiting up against Brazil - writers and fans who have been dreaming of a final since as far back as 1990, please help prepare the newbies culled from shaming Spain what this means. Get them ready. We need all the Gooch glares we can muster.

As a mere one-off game, the Americans are definitely up against. Yes, this edition of the Seleção is quite beatable, but they are still Brazil and this is still their 11th FIFA final - seven of which they've won.

They haven't come to the South African dress rehearsal tourney with all of their stars, but of course, that well is rather deep - a Brazil "C" team would be one of the favorites at any time. As is, the backline looks susceptible to both crosses from the flank and slicing passes up the middle.

Naturally, even if you score, the main concern will always be keeping them out of your net. Pressure is inevitable because they are so good with the ball. Aside from halting their cute combinations that puncture your area from every angle, the U.S. will need to be extra vigilant on set pieces coming from the right side.

Losing Michael Bradley for the final is big, perhaps the biggest possible single player loss besides Tim Howard. With Benny Feilhaber expected to step in, a load of pressure goes onto his Brazilian-born shoulders.

Whether by smartly executing in the attack half or by proving wise to their machinations at the defensive end, the AGF man has to be the calm maker. He's a very different player than Bradley, not even a defensive midfielder, but he does need come out at least even in his battle with Felipe Melo... and Kaká... and Gilberto Silva. Benny needs to smooth us out, direct traffic, release pressure, and if he gets around to it, set up a beauty.

For about a second, I wondered if Carlos Bocanegra (who'd played a bit of tidy defensive midfield at Fulham) might not be shuffled again, opening up a place for Jonathan Bornstein or Heath Pearce, who played well against Brazil in Chicago back in 2007. I also wondered if Charlie Davies could be replaced by Sacha Kljestan (or even Freddy Adu), with the U.S. lining up in a midfield-clogging 4-5-1.

In the end, though, I figured coach Bob Bradley would stick with his program. On that September day at Soldier Field, the empty bucket did well for about 73 minutes (as it will do against most elite teams that dominate possession in cutting style - Argentina, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands).

It can do the job again today, provided there are more otherworldly two-way performances from Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan. And central partners DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu. And the skipper, likely up against scary danger man Maicon. And Howard. And a big play or two from Jozy Altidore and/or Davies. And another big final display from Feilhaber, who decided the 2007 Gold Cup final against Mexico. And avoiding 'making a huge mistake'.

I thought the USMNT would get close against Spain, but wasn't quite confident enough to think they'd avoid defeat. Today, the momenum is going their way. The hearts are beating loud and proud. They want this so badly. And, good grief, they surely can't be shown any more red cards... right?

So here's my prediction, and I can't believe I'm going to do this: 2-1 USA. It's time for their second win against Brazil. It's time to get mainstream America eagerly talking about soccer. It's time to lift a cup amid the colored paper and jump and jump and jump as a team, as a nation.

I always used to say: "The quickest way to get an American to do something was to tell him he couldn't do it." It's time I said that again. So, in other words... yes, we can, so let's.


Quick note: I will not be doing a LIVE, but I will be here with a big wrap-up post afterwards and I will have my Player Ratings up at S365 in the morning.

I did, however, read that Frankie Hejduk will be taking part in NSC pal Jonah Freedman's live blog of the match (I think this is the right place). Wow, Dr. J & The Dude... it's like a very special episode of Scooby Doo.

UPDATE: As I expected, it's a simple case of Feilhaber in for the suspended Bradley. The rest of the line-up card looks the same. Enjoy the game, everybody!

So then, we adjourn to our respective comfy chairs by the open window, where I've added dozen or so links to the bottom of the list...

- USMNT match notes
- match preview
- SI's Grant Wahl previews the final
- BBC match preview
- South African outlet's preview
- Canadien press: Brazil needs to improve
- Coach Bradley eyes a championship
- Wary Dunga hopes for early goal
- Feilhaber tipped to spell Bradley
- Gooch: Reaching final is big boost
- Coach Bradley takes South Africa notes
- Kaká vows: We will be better Sunday
- USMNT maintains perspective (NYT Blog)
- Pop Bradley on Michael missing final (NYT Blog)
- Bernie Miklasz talks to U.S. asst. Mike Sorber
- Chhun Sun says 'Nats can redefine soccer in America
- South African blogger roots for USA to beat Brazil
- People's princes for the fairy tale (a ka USMNT hotties ooh lala!)
- Paul Oberjuerge's Top 10 USMNT wins
- ProZone stats from Spain victory
- USMNT ready to go for it
- Donovan after 'amazing' upset
- Jay DeMerit's wild ride
- Dunga: We respect the U.S.
- FIFA investigating Bradley tunnel conduct
- South Carolina pride at USMNT run
- GolTV voice Phil Schoen has a good feeling
- NSC radio pal Brian Zygo toasts U.S. fans
- Golden Ball finalists named (erm... where's Gooch?)
- Last minute USMNT Blog primer notes
- The betting lines (in U.S. terms, we pay 7-1 on a regulation win)
- Rennes checking out Clark (in French)

Aaaaaand a few video clips for ya:

Brazilian-born Benny on playing against the Samba Kings.

ESPN recaps how the U.S. arrived at the final.

Finally, Weezer all-star Rivers Cuomo sets the scene for Sunday with his USMNT ballad anthem. The song's not new (written in 2006, I believe), but the video is. I'm tellin' ya, one of these days I'm gonna pin Rivers down for a soccer interview.

UPDATE: With credit to NSC reader Chad (and apologies that I don't have this on mp3), we add a little extra Cut of the Day groove with this Mos Def spiritual. Gotta have something goin' if we wanna beat that big statue that overlooks Rio..

- Greg Seltzer


Chevis Ryder said...

How'd you miss this one Greggy?

Greg Seltzer said...

I didn't... that video was posted yesterday in the "Video Friday" post. :)

Chevis Ryder said...

my bad...

AdamTheRed said...


I heard on BigSoccer (aka most reliable source ever) that Mix scored in Cairo and dominated midfield.


Max Zeger said...

that video/song is fantastic

bhamhawker said...

FIFA is investigating Michael Bradley's alleged confrontation with referee Jorge Larrionda after the Spain match.

Greg Seltzer said...

Yup, that one's in the reading room links. :)

Chevis Ryder said...

fyi Greg, when you just edit a previous post and add new info to it, it doesn't show up in the rss feed as "new story" (well, assuming google reader goes by the rss feed) I'm late to this update cause I didn't think there was one...