June 18, 2010

After playing an awful first half, the USA stormed back early in the second with a great goal by Landon Donovan and later tied the game with a goal by Michael Bradley, the coach's son. The officiating was brutal throughout as every call went against the US including a yellow card against Findley which will knock him out of their next game against Algeria. As the game was winding down, the US scored what looked like the game winner by Edu, but for some inexplicable reason the official waved it off.

One man who's happy soccer isn't as much of a national passion in the United States than it is in, say, Colombia: Koman Coulibaly. The Mali referee called ... something on a late goal by Maurice Edu that would have given the Americans the win. It was a call that, to these eyes, was worse than anything Jim Joyce or (sigh, it's true) Don Denkinger ever did; coach Bob Bradley afterward confessed he had no idea what the call even was. We don't know either.
You don't want to blame the ref for a draw, particularly when the U.S. pretty clearly deserved to lose the way they played the first half. But after such a stirring comeback, after a thrilling, epic game ... well, as Joe Posnanski wrote in SI last week, in soccer, every goal is a kind of miracle. When you go through all the trouble of scoring one, of coming all the way back, only to have it disallowed for reasons that still nobody understand ... well, Koman Coulibaly is lucky you won't know his name the way you know Jim Joyce's.

Coach Bradley started the second half by making two key substitutes and it was coaching magic.

But U.S. coach Bob Bradley sent his most offensive lineup onto the pitch for the second half, moving stars Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan up to the front line to mount an all-or-nothing attack that would likely determine his fate as the titular head of American soccer.

By the end of the game Mr. Bradley and Team U.S.A had lived to fight another day. Its 2-2 draw on clutch goals from Mr. Donovan and Michael Bradley, the coach's son, salvaged not only the legitimacy of U.S. soccer but its chances to advance.

The second half was as good as it gets. We'll take the draw, but should have had the win and three points. It'll come down to their last game against Algeria and chances are they need a win to get past group play.

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