So, the saga of US soccer continues and it isn't pretty.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_CONCACAF_G...
The Gold Cup (Copa Oro, apparently, not de
Oro) is already looking pretty tarnished, and alas, it's not even over yet. The officiating throughout has been very spotty, much like the play of the top-seeded but struggling teams US, Mexico, and (shudder, flinch) Costa Rica. (Is Bryan Ruíz ill or what? Pobrecito.)
The worst example was tonight, by a US referee who I had previously (naively?) thought was not that bad, Mark Geiger. He apparently gave a Mexican player a yellow card when it obviously should have been red very early in the game, and then compounded his error by giving a Panamanian player a red card that should have been yellow not long after. Panama, even playing with only 10 men, scored a really lovely goal off a free kick when the US barrier failed to jump. (Isn't jumping pretty basic?) But then a Panamanian player (the captain) fell heavily after a collision in the area and the ball was, unfortunately, under him. The ref called it a penalty, though everyone else in the stadium and all the commentators (at least on UniMás; Fox, curses be upon them, didn't even deign to broadcast the game on network TV) agreed that it wasn't, because (so far as I understood it in Spanish) he obviously didn't intentionally touch the ball. After half the Panamanians threatened to walk off the field, and the situation escalated into a near-riot that lasted 10 or 15 minutes (though only 5 minutes' extra time was awarded, and not even that much was played), the PK eventually allowed Mexico to tie and send the game into overtime, during which both teams were exhausted and accomplished zilch, except that there was one more penalty called correctly against Panama, which was also converted, making Guardado into the 2nd leading scorer of the tournament even though many were on PKs.
Earlier today, the US had appeared in the other semifinal against Jamaica, and were apparently mentally undone by having two goals scored against them fairly quickly. They got one back, but missed several other opportunities. One Spanish-language commentator said Dempsey might as well have stayed in the locker room; that seemed a bit harsh, but it was true that the US never found much of a game.
The bright spots of the whole tournament have been the Caribbean teams. Even poor Cuba, which had 4 or 5 players defect before even getting onto the field, managed to score one goal and make it into the elimination round, which was better than some Central American countries. Haiti showed some of the prettiest technique and most comfortable ball-handling in the whole tournament, even though they didn't make it past Jamaica. Trinidad and Tobago, likewise, gave viewers a lot of really nice soccer before going down to Panama in an agonizing match that was only decided after 18 people had taken PKs.
To me the really sad thing is that, after all that agony, the US media will hardly even cover it. There'll probably be an anodyne sentence or two in tomorrow's wire-service articles. 'Despite complaints about the officiating, Mexico managed to advance.' Which leaves out everything that really mattered -- the fans throwing so many bottles on the field that some of the players were injured. The referee anxiously chewing gum and having to be escorted off the field by security. The Mexican coach (whose job may be on the line) saying honestly afterward at the press conference, Yes, it wasn't a penalty, No, we didn't play well at all. But that's what soccer is, it's not ideal. Yup.
I"m glad Spanish TV didn't show Klinsmann at any press conference. They faulted him for a lot, especially as far as the lineup against Jamaica went, taking Beckermann out too early, waiting too late to sub Yedlin in, etc. I've wondered if, as a former offensive player, he maybe just isn't as good at coaching defense -- but isn't that why you have a whole slew of assistant coaches? And, unspoken, that American-German back line, which keeps proving so porous. They don't say it, but you can hear them thinking, Why did he insist on bringing these foreigners over? I hate that. I wish the Germans could do better, which I'm sure would make them happier to be here. The commentators do keep saying that Brooks is in there for his height and his ability to win headers, and that's true, he has won some. I miss JJ, who used to be a spark of energy. I think Johnson has done pretty well against a lot of tough matchups. But I also like some of the homegrown younger players, like Bedoya and Yedlin and Zardes. Even though they don't always do the right thing, their energy has to count for something. Energy is one thing that the Jamaica coach, one Winfried Schäfer, also from Germany, has in abundance -- the Spanish-language commentators were reminded of a character in 'Back to the Future,' but he seems to suffer and rejoice along with his players, even if they don't necessarily seem to like it.
The other sad thing is that most of the US public won't even have been paying attention. There are the hardcore fans, like the 'American Outlaws' who brought an extremely obnoxious trombone to the game in Dallas (or rather, Frisco -- where is that besides a rich white school district?) and made the match nearly unwatchable because the noise was such a horrible racket. (I wondered if Klinsmann would manage to send a note around to the trombonist: Thanks so much, but please just stop.) But the vast majority of US viewers who are interested in sports at all won't even have watched this. Which is why there will only be a paragraph or two about it in tomorrow's newspapers, and the stands will still be half empty at the next tournament, which the US may not even manage to get into.
And of course, any of you who follow international soccer won't have watched it either, because it's only a blip on the radar compared to the really big European and South American tournaments. So why am I even writing this? Good question ...