Eating My Words: A Reflection on Two Gems in Gold Cup '11

Being this is the first “real post,” I thought a quick explanation of how this blog came into existence was in order.  This blog was started on a whim after my roommate Joe and I thought cyberspace would want to know about the useless soccer arguments we continue to get in to day after day.  Admittedly, this was probably a mistake caused by a passing moment of hubris, but here we are nonetheless.  Besides arguing incessantly about which one of our rival Premier League teams is superior, many of our discussions lead back to the US Men’s National Team, and the general current state of soccer in this country.  So, for now, we will start with that topic, but I reserve the right to divert from this theme without notice.  If you’re following this, it is probably because I drunkenly showed it to you, or you’re a saint for giving us the time of day.  Comments are welcome and we hope you enjoy.
Referring back to the title of this post, growing up, my mom always told me to think before I spoke, and it seems I am still having trouble grasping that concept at the ripe old age of 22.  Thinking of myself as a clever fellow (the hubris was still lingering), I posted a picture of Jozy Altidore and Freddy Adu, boldly claiming this blog would be operational before these two reached their enormous potential.  And although it would be difficult to say that Altidore and Adu reached their full potential after one tournament (us who have been following for awhile learned this lesson in 2007 after the U-20 World Cup ), they did show signs that they were back on the right track, and that I essentially stuck my metaphorical foot in my mouth.  After a disappointing first two games for Altidore (yes, even though he scored a lucky goal against the Canucks, he was disappointing), he showed his freakish raw talent with one wonder strike in a must win game against Guadeloupe.  In the ninth minute of play, Michael Bradley played a square ball to Jozy, who, with the confidence that a true striker should always possess, he turned, took two quick touches, and unleashed a thunderbolt from 25 yards out that zipped into the upper 90 of the Guadeloupien (?) net.  Out of nowhere, Altidore showed us exactly why we cannot give up on him.  Not only was it a fantastic strike, he demonstrated confidence and fearlessness in a must win game for the US.  Something that some would interpret as maturity.  Even though, in my opinion, he only shows glimpses of this talent once every Chinese New Year, it’s proof that with the proper guidance and development, he could turn into a lethal striker for the red, white, and blue, and maybe could have affected the final outcome had he not gotten injured.  With that in mind, Altidore cheekishly tweeted yesterday that he needs to buy Rosetta-Stone in order to learn Dutch, hinting at a possible move to the Eredivisie.  This would be a God send, being that the Dutch pride themselves on youth development and have turned out numerous world class players, plying their trade in Europe’s top leagues.  Just think, if the Dutch can turn a short, slow midfielder into one of the top players in the Premier League, imagine what they can do with an athlete like Jozy.  One can only hope.
Transitioning over to the second man in the image I posted, Freddy Adu, may have finally learned how to utilize his incredible, God-given, technical ability to help his TEAM win a game, rather than to sell Sierra Mist.  When Freddy came off the bench in the semifinal against Panama, after zero minutes of playing time in the earlier Gold Cup matches, or the warm-up matches, I can honestly say I thought it was a fantastic move from the start (a post will be coming shortly in defense of Bob Bradley).  Freddy was just the kind of player that the US needed in a game like that against Panama, and boy did he take his chance.  Unlike most of his teammates, Freddy played with energy and confidence, with the belief that he could turn the tide of the match by playing his game, or as Christopher Sullivan likes to put it, by expressing himself on the pitch.  In fact it was this expression that gave Freddy the confidence to receive the ball inside our own half, and then play a superb cross-field through ball to a streaking Landon Donovan, who then smartly assisted Clint Dempsey on the back post to score the goal that put us through to the final.  Moreover, before and after that pass, Freddy was constantly willing to take defenders on and put in passes to teammates in more attacking positions.  By no means was his performance perfect, and he sometimes tried to take on one too many defenders, but the signs of maturity were definitely there, and his display rightfully earned him a place in the starting lineup against Mexico in the final.  Even though the result did not turn out the best (another post will cover my experience at the Rose Bowl on that day), let’s not forget that the US was up 2-0 in the first half, and one of those goals was assisted by a Freddy corner.  Aside from his assist, Freddy was again willing to take defenders on, while still maintaining possession deep in Mexico’s half.  With these two stellar performances, hopefully, like Jozy, he can earn himself some real playing time in some place other than Caykur Rizespor.  With all due respect to the Turkish 2nd Division and the city of Rize, I think our nation’s greatest raw talent may have outgrown the quaint Turkish beach town and should be developing elsewhere.  Let’s cross our fingers and see what this transfer season has in store for our two brightest talents.  Until then, as the great Phil Ball says, “watch this space.”

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