Monday, June 15, 2009

You Can't Win With Ten Guys

Imagine playing basketball, and one of your teammates fouls a guy pretty hard at half-court sometime during the second quarter. The foul is so hard that your teammate is not only kicked out of the game, but you can't replace him. For the rest of the game you're forced to play a man down, and you're going at your opponent four-on-five.

Yeah, it's a little different because of the numbers, but in soccer losing one guy has about just as much impact as it would it another sport. Soccer people know that when you lose a guy to a red card, as was the case with the United States and Ricardo Clark today, it's pretty much hard to come back from that if it's early enough in the game. This red card happened at the 33 minute mark, which is still fairly early.

The play in question was a hard tackle from Clark, and should have been a yellow card for sure. But a red card was crossing the line, especially as there were much harder fouls during the match as it progressed. Nothing you can do about it though.

The U.S. did buck in the odds when Landon Donovan nailed a penalty kick a short time later, but Italy would control the second half and pound shots mercilessly at U.S. keeper Tim Howard. Howard played a great game, but still gave up three goals as Sam's Army lost 3-1. The first two goals were long shots too, which is always disheartening. ESPN's Alexi Lalas said after the game that playing a man down can be no excuse for those goals, because you usually play a man short on offense, not on defense. Good point by Lalas. (Sidenote: This is the 3rd straight game Donovan hit a PK.)

The problem though is that when a goal is allowed, it's very tough to score with only ten men. It's hard enough to score as it is in soccer, and that point was proven today. The loss to Italy isn't a surprise, but the U.S. really needed a draw to have a shot at advancing in the Confederations Cup. Next up is Brazil on Thursday, and a loss would definitely make their Sunday contest against Egypt meaningless.

Update: Here's video from Awful Announcing, until the YouTube gods take it down anyways.


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