Strip Club–X Factor Edition
Starting this post with thoughts on the shirt. Here are my thoughts from the USMNT kit series I did ahead of the 2014 World Cup:
Top five for sure. Navy blue. Check. White sash that contrasts nicely with the rest of the shirt. Check. I own this one, have it personalized (Junior #7) and wear it a lot. Love it.
Not much more to say than that. The shirt looks and feels great, and the all navy blue strip is solid and one of Nike’s best efforts. It made my top 5 US kits and is in the top 10 of my personal collection.
For a little history before USMNT players pulled the shirt on . . .
I remember watching the US game against Mexico in the summer of 2009. Charlie Davies scored early and there was a brief moment when it looked the Azteca hoodoo might be broken. Unfortunately the Stars and Stripes wilted in the heat and lost 2-1. Despite that result, the US ended up winning the Hex, and the World Cup draw months later saw the Bob Bradley’s men drawn in a group with England, Slovenia and Algeria. Hopes were high as there were far tougher groups at the Finals.
For this post, I wanted to know what kind of changes, if any, there were from the Qualifying Roster to the Final 23 for South Africa. The resulting research was quite remarkable. Based on records from US Soccer for 2009, Bob Bradley used over 50 players for Hexagonal Qualifiers, Confederations Cup, Gold Cup and friendlies. Some players I had never heard of before: Logan Pause, Sam Cronin, Ugo Ihemelu, John Thorrington, Chris Wingert to name a few. What I found really interesting was that several players who put in big minutes getting the Stars and Strips to South Africa didn’t get a ticket on the plane. Charlie Davies and Brian Ching stood out while Hejduk, Casey and Kljestan were notable absentees. Davies did not participate because of the injury due to a car crash right before the last Qualifier but I would need some USMNT experts to explain the rest. Another stat I came across was that Robbie Findley, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, and Marcus Hahnemann, were not used in 2009 yet made the team. Seem to remember that Findley and Buddle were doing well in MLS that year and Hahnemann was the third keeper with a lot of experience.
In thinking back to the group opener against England, all I could remember was Robert Green’s howler for Dempsey’s equalizer. Watching the highlights again, I was stunned by the finish from Gerrard. Hung around the edge of the penalty, saw the chance and the flicked it with the outside of foot. There were plenty of chances in the game and both teams had chances to win it but players fluffed their lines (looking at you Heskey and Altidore).
The second game saw another European opponent in Slovenia. (Highlights) Birsa found space between the lines and punished the US early and then the Slovenians doubled their advantage right before halftime. It appeared as if the US was booking a plane back to the States when Donovan roofed in the first goal. The proceeding pressure resulted in a second goal from Michael Bradley. Then came the moment of controversy when the referee waved off Edu’s apparent winner.
Algeria was the opponent for the final group match. If I recreated this right, a win for the US would have sent them through, draws in both matches would have seen the US through on goals scored (unless England had a high scoring draw against Slovenia), and a loss would have out them out.
W D L P GF GA
Slovenia 1 1 0 4 3 2
US 0 2 0 2 3 3
England 0 2 0 2 1 1
Algeria 0 1 1 0 0 1
Everyone remembers Donovan’s winner but I don’t think fans remember how close the US came to getting knocked out early when Algeria hit the cross bar and England went up early against Slovenia. Watching the highlights I was struck by how close Dempsey was on several occasions. The narrative is one of Donovan as last minute hero, but Deuce could have been the main protagonist in the history books with a little more precision and/or luck.
In the round of 16, the US met Ghana, who had survived a group of Germany, Serbia and Australia. Five minutes into the match Ricardo Clark got stripped by KPB and he hit a grass cutter past Tim Howard and for the third time in the tournament, the US was behind. During the highlights I noticed that DeMerit struggled in this match and was reminded that Robbie Findley was part of this squad. Whatever happened to him? As time ticked on in the second half I wondered if the equalizer would ever come. Fifteen minutes in, Dempsey won a penalty which Donovan confidently converted, hitting it home off the post.
Kingson had a good game in goal for the Black Stars as the US had lots of good chances in the second half, but the 90 minutes ended deadlocked, which meant that an additional thirty minutes would be required. Just minutes into extra time Asamoah Gyan split Bocanegra and DeMerit and slammed the ball home to put Ghana up again. The Yanks had no more bullets in the chamber and bowed out to the Africans.