World Cup: How the USA got it so wrong against Ghana
Tactical decisions cost the USA team dearly in this World Cup, and they could not make up for those to beat a solid Ghana team.
Of all America’s exits from the World Cup, this one will go down as the greatest opportunity missed.Skip to next paragraph
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Flawed though the USA was – fatally, as it turned out – there lingers the sense that the team left its own story at this World Cup unfinished. For the first time, perhaps, the USA is going home when it not only expected more, but seemed capable of delivering it.
Yet there is no doubting that Ghana is a team that the USA could – and maybe should – beat with some regularity. And in that fact lies the USA’s disappointment.
Never in four World Cup 2010 matches could the USA summon for 90 minutes the defensive team effort that it summoned in last year’s 2-0 win over then-world No. 1 Spain.
But never was this so evidently the coach’s fault as in the loss to Ghana.
The sports maxim says that “players must come ready to play.” Saturday, however, was a lesson that players are often only as good as the system in which they are placed.
And in the first half against Ghana, it must be said, USA coach Bob Bradley got it totally, catastrophically wrong.
He as good as admitted this in taking off Ricardo Clark after only 30 minutes – an extraordinary decision – and replacing him with the player who had excelled in the two previous matches, Maurice Edu.
Feilhaber’s range of passing and ability to retain possession were crucial.
Yet, perhaps more important was how his introduction changed the shape of the USA on the field.
More than anything else, it allowed the USA players to take control of the game.
In short, Feilhaber gave the USA a platform from which it could be more flexible and inventive, making it harder for Slovenia and then Algeria and then Ghana to know where key USA players would be, while at the same time providing more defensive rigidity.
In soccer parlance, the change appears minimal. With the introduction of Feilhaber, the USA switched from a 4-4-2 to a 4-4-1-1. Gone were two central forwards, playing far up the pitch. In their place was the one remaining central forward, Jozy Altidore, paired with Clint Dempsey, who took up a roving role in “the hole” – that undefined area between forward and midfield.