Another day, another disappointment. I know, it pales in comparison to the devastation from the Mavs' collapse in the NBA Finals, but in case you were too busy still e-mailing Mark Cuban about the officiating and didn't notice, our national soccer team bowed out of the 2006 World Cup this morning with a lackluster 2-1 loss to Ghana. The Americans, after shocking the world and advancing to the final eight of the world's biggest (most boring) sporting event in '02, were eliminated from Group E play, going 0-2-1. The reason? Simple. No, it wasn't the refs, although this morning's game was decided on a very questionable penalty kick awarded to Ghana in extra time of the first half. But, no, the U.S. played about 280 minutes of soccer in Germany and produced one goal. ONE.
The Americans were shut out against Czechoslovakia, tied Italy 1-1 when an Italian defender accidentally scored in his own goal and managed one lousy goal against Ghana when Nacogdoches-born, Dallas-reared forward Clint Dempsey scored. The U.S., needing to beat Ghana to advance to the Round of 16, was pitifully harmless in the second half--and, actually, throughout the whole tournament. Even to soccer novices like yours truly, there is a huge gap in technical skill, imagination and creativity between the U.S. and the elite. Supposed star Landon Donovan was embarrassingly invisible, and it was veteran captain Claudio Reyna's inexplicable gaffe near his own goal that gave Ghana its first goal. The U.S. is now 0-14-1 in World Cup games in which it falls behind 1-0. In other words, we can't score.
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Not that anyone really cares: ESPN's cameras caught 200,000 people watching the Mexico game on a downtown Mexico City video screen Wednesday and about 200 folks watching the U.S. game in Times Square today. But the U.S. needs to overhaul its philosophy before we dare to care again in 2010. Giving more time to exciting players like Eddie Johnson and even Freddy Adu is the next step. Because, after a loss to Ghana, it can't get any worse. --Richie Whitt