USMNT: The Joy of Hex
Austin Fido’s latest looks back to the future of USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying antics…
If you can’t be pretty, at least be interesting.
That’s what my parents advised me when they realized the pooling of their genetic resources hadn’t reached the aesthetic heights for which they had hoped.
Suitably, it’s the philosophy currently guiding Jürgen Klinsmann’s helter-skelter stewardship of the US Men’s National Team.
If you want to see USMNT smoothly waxing their CONCACAF rivals on the way to a slick Brazilian finale, Klinsi’s boys are not for you. The Yanks’ World Cup qualifying (H)exertions to date are a throwback to football’s au naturel heyday, before soccer gave itself over to B-licenses and camera angles and every broadcast turned into an animated coaching manual.
Instead, we’ve had soccer in extremis: Juan Carlos Garcia’s exhilarating acrobatics in the sweltering confines of San Pedro de Sula; a trip to Azteca which saw USMNT soundly thrashed, yet not beaten; and the caper in Colorado, a snowbound frolic impersonating a football match.
The latest installment was a tussle with Jamaica at the Office in Kingston. Set to the jubilant discord of those wretched vuvuzelas, the match was messy, disjointed, frustrating — and thrilling.
USMNT scored first: a retrospective tribute to the virtues of having a winger who can beat a defender and get a cross in, and having a center forward who can use his head.
Jamaica’s riposte was an 88th minute equalizer from a rough-and-tumble set piece that left Omar Gonzalez on the deck and the ball in the net.
Offside? It appeared to be, but the game needed another goal. Because without it, Michael Bradley might have been content to keep the ball in the corner during injury time instead of threading a pass to Brad Evans.
Evans, receiving the ball with his back to goal (and enough time to refinance his mortgage), might have preferred to hold up play. However, the prospect of snatching three points for his country trumped anxiety over balloon payments.
Evans thumped in the winner, ensuring he will have a fresh bundle of endorsement deals to take with him to his next meeting with his accountants.
Savor this last one now, USMNT fans. There will be ample to time to lament USMNT’s manifest limitations during the next year or so. Indeed, the next match looks a likely candidate.
Having started the same team twice for the first time in his tenure as head coach, Klinsi is forced to juggle his line-up once again tonight. Graham Zusi is suspended, and will probably be replaced by Eddie Johnson. Jermaine Jones — the scuffling, hectic poster boy for this curse-through-sludge of a campaign — is concussed.
If an involuntary change of personnel invites stilted play, a coarse playing surface virtually guarantees it. The good people of Seattle have graciously consented to stick a cover of natural grass on their slick, plastic turf.
Yep, USMNT is headed to the dewy forests of Cascadia to play Panama tonight on a merkin.
If you’re hoping for the delicate touch of tiki-taka, and yearning for the tease and flutter of a false-nine, you’ll need to pick a different team to follow. Another round of vigorous, unkempt, unruly Hex is on the cards, folks.
I can’t wait.
USA vs. Panama
Tuesday, 6/11 at 9pm cst on ESPN
OTF’s Austin Fido advises against image searching “merkin” while at work. Follow him @canetop.