Enough with the blame (and punch) the ref game

At halftime I texted my Total Football cohort Rob with the message, “Surely Bob Bradley alludes to the Confederation’s Cup final against Brazil to fire the boys up.” (For those of you who don’t recall or are unfamiliar with the reference, the United States marched into halftime of the Confed Cup finals with a two-goal lead, only for the final scoreboard to read Brazil 3, U.S.A. 2).

I should have been able to pat myself on the back for my somewhat clever reference coming to fruition… should have. But instead of patting myself on the back, I was repeatedly punching a cardboard cut-out of referee Koman Couilibaly when the final whistle blew. At least that’s what I wanted to do, but I had to settle for putting my hands on my head and staring blankly in disbelief.

I know I don’t need to set the scene – we all saw what happened. And if you don’t know, crawl out from under your rock, develop and semblance of patriotism and start watching the States play in the World Cup. In fact, if you don’t know the scenario, I’d like to kindly ask you to exit our blog. We can deal with the blow of reducing today’s hit count from 7 to 6.

How Maurice Edu’s spectacular, first-time finish was disallowed still boggles my mind, and I know there are World Cup viewers across the world (not just Yanks) who share my sentiments. For once, I think, we had the majority of the world rooting for us rather than against us when they saw the comeback was on. These same viewers and likely you yourself also shared my instant feeling of disbelief, rage, shock, whatever.

Off-sides isn’t an option. Michael Bradley was clearly closest to the net, and when someone is bear hugging you, like the Slovenian defender was doing to Bradley, it’s impossible you’re closer to the goal than they are and thus cannot be off-side. Maybe the referee was calling a foul on the States. But replays show three American players being tossed around in the box like they were in a mosh pit at Slovenian rock band Hic et Nunc’s anniversary show.

It’s absurd viewers and players never got a definite answer from the referee and his team of assistants.

Maybe the worst part of the game is that we all know we can’t blame the referee. I’m crazy, right? Nope. Let me quote the ever-relevant Darth Vader and say, “Search your feelings. You know it to be true.” It’s particularly hard to admit because it’s acknowledging that our boys’ brilliant comeback shouldn’t have been needed.

Yes, at the end of the match the glaring reason for the 2-2 final is the referee’s ambiguous decision, but the Yanks shouldn’t have been in the position that they needed a winner in the 86th minute. Their concession of the first goal was heartbreaking and disappointing. I’m not sure whether they fell asleep or were already thinking about the knock-out phase, but leaving any player at the top of the box and allowing them to tee the ball up and hit it on frame is unacceptable.

And I’m still not convinced Tim Howard couldn’t have gotten a hand to that one.

That goal forced the Americans to surge forward in what was labeled a must-win game, and not much can be said about Slovenia’s strong and well-devised counterattack that netted their second. However, there’s plenty to be said about the U.S.’s chance a minute before.

When Clint Dempsey slotted the ball to the back post to his other half of D&D (Donovan), Donovan should have thrown himself at that ball to get it in the net. I suppose he would have done that if he ever thought the Slovenia defender was going to get to it before he did, but I’d just like to see a self-sacrificing effort there to get the ball in the net and level for your side minutes before half. It was only inches off the line!

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m beyond proud of our second half performance, and the Yanks did deserve the win after a truly disastrous first half. However, it’s a game of two halves, and ultimately, it was our lethargic attitude in the first that kept us from our deserved three points, not the referee’s miscall.

Mr. Donovan, thanks for a brilliant performance. You were our man of the match even without it, but that goal was simply glorious. We’re all looking forward to more of that gusto against Algeria.

Until then, we’ll have our eyes peeled on England’s performance against Algeria, and we’ll bring you the different scenarios to advance the U.S. the next stage.

For once guys, let’s take the easier route and score first! COME ON, YOU YANKS.


One Response to Enough with the blame (and punch) the ref game

  1. Ed says:

    Best article yet.

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