Will Parchman goes retro-diarying for The Shin Guardian as the US advances. The pundits exhale.
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It is here. Judgment Day wrapped in the Soccerpocalypse deep fried in an explosion. Win or a draw gets you through. Book it.
We open the broadcast with Bob Ley’s voice bouncing around the walls of the StrongBox as he says, “The US did not play well on the road Friday,” and the camera snaps to an earlier image of Tim Howard clopping down the hall, his earbuds in. As Ley mentions the A&B game, Howard smiles. HOW DID HE KNOW?? There’s only one answer. Tim Howard is divine. Or Bob Ley shouts really loud. This game is redemption.
Alexi Lalas the Greekbeard! There’s so much ginger on my TV screen right now. I like it. Nay! I love it. Winterbeard the Tzatzikiginger! Seeing the highlights of the A&B match is like watching a public access show in Fargo on the mysteries of bermuda grass. “Lads, this is how you don’t plant grass in the ground!” We have a 45-minute pregame show. I’m still amazed by this. I probably never will not be (so many negatives. That can’t be a good sign, but I’m reading tea leaves in everything today. A coworker told me he liked my pants today and I shouted at him NO JERK OF COURSE WE’LL WIN TONIGHT. I am an idiot).
Howard; Dolo, Cameron, Bocanegra (capt.), Parkhurst; Zusi, Williams, Bradley, Johnson; Dempsey, Gomez
A defense divided against itself cannot stand! And Boca on the left in that analogy was like… Jefferson Davis? Maybe? That probably doesn’t make any sense. But it’s good to see Boca and Cameron back together in the middle (Like Bonnie & Batman!). Feel good about Parkhurst too. Deserves a shot.
It’s a 4-2-3-1 with EJ wide left (which will probably turn more into a two-striker format as the game wears on), Zusi on the right, Dempsey in the hole behind Gomez (yes!) and Williams and Bradley pairing on the back shelf. My guess is that Williams and Bradley will rotate around each other, allowing Bradley to occasionally run the channels and Williams to sit and provide more often than not. I want to point out that Bradley has, on occasion, been getting forward for Roma (when healthy) and doing it well. Is anyone else happy Jones is suspended tonight? Kind of like ripping the keys out of a ranting, drunk guy’s hands. Did I just compare Klinsi to a drunk guy? There’s probably something smart in there somewhere. The Williams/Bradley pairing is the future there anyway. Tays comes out swinging on the team’s width tonight, saying there’s little there. Can’t argue too much with him, but I blame the pool as much as I blame Klinsmann. Wingers are not sloughing off tree limbs for us. I pine for Josh Gatt. I pine.
Our first Ian Darke sighting! *Swoon*
Fun moment. Monica Gonzalez, in the process of interviewing Boca during pregame, speaks about Michael Parkhurst and Geoff Cameron: “Tonight is by far the biggest night of their lives.” Haha, what? Not the biggest game but, like, the biggest NIGHT? That… can’t be right.
Whoa! Herc segment.
This is unexpected.
Julie Foudy is alone with Herc in his house. DON’T GO IN THE BEDROOM JULIE, HERC IS IRRESISTIBLE. My takeaways from this: Herc loves cheesy motivational quotes. DEUCEFACE CUTOUT SIGHTING!!!! I am so happy right now. Lalas makes a GREAT point about our pool: we have more talent than we’ve ever had, and we’re beginning to hit the borderlands of new territory. There are only so many spots, and it will begin to come down to fit over talent. That doesn’t necessarily mean all of Klinsmann’s choices have been correct ones, but it’s become inevitable now that a talented player will be sitting at home during these qualifiers no matter what.
Alexi Lalas, the Beardmaster Vermillionhammer, says he’s not nervous. Good enough for me. Leggo. (side note: does anyone else think this cheesy anthem they play when the USMNT walks in sounds like a proposed theme song for the A Team that didn’t make it?)
‘1 – Eddie Johnson and Dempsey already have some interchange up top. I know Johnson isn’t a winger, but he’s been tremendous. Where’s this GAM been before 2012? Quite interested to see if the wider playing surface will get Dempsey more involved.
‘2 – The Jamaica game is not synched. CONCACAF is run by cumquats in suits. Yes, the region is helmed by food.
‘4 – HANDBALL MISSED on Herc’s play-through at the edge of the box. Dempsey was in. Angry words.
‘5 – WHAT WAS THAT. Carlos Ruiz GOAL??? How the FUDGESTICKS was he so open? Cameron is too high, Boca is back and Howard doesn’t come for it. Darke: “Dreadful defending. There’s no other way to put it.” Yes there is, Ian. APOCALYPTIC FAILFACE.
‘7 – US coming back hard, pushing into the box. Dempsey doesn’t attack a cross that wasn’t dealt with. Hope this doesn’t end up being one of those laggardly nights for him. We need a response tremendously. This is worst-case right here.
‘8 – I just saved this Word file as ‘Disaster.’
’10 – BOCA’S FEET OF MAGIC. GOAL USMNT, 1-1. Brilliant movement by Dempsey to flick on for Boca to slot it home. Herc Gomez does so many little things well. Chases down a ball on the end line and earns a corner that ends up leading to the equalizer. It’s such a Gomez-type thing that he won’t show up in the scoresheet for the goal. But he’ll show up in our hearts.
’13 – That goal was so key. I just re-saved this file as ‘Moderate Disappointment.’ If another goal from Guatemala comes, it’ll be on a speculative long ball or a deflection on a free kick. So, in other words, it’s not likely. But not impossible.
’15 – TAYSQUOTE: “Oh, I wouldn’t leave anywhere.” That probably made sense in his head.
’18 – Ruiz is toying with Boca and Cameron. He’ll dive in through one channel, dummy a run and spur on through a different one. He’ll tag along Boca’s back CLINT DEMPSEY YOU BEAUTY!!!! 2-1 to the good guys. What a sequence, what a goal. Incredible ball from Dolo to unhook the D – the unsung movement of that whole reel – Johnson shuttles in a brilliant rolling cross and Dempsey with a deceptively difficult finish through a slide.
’20 – Key bit of info here is that Johnson and Zusi flipped flanks just before that goal. Zusi is shooing inside-out for crosses on the left and Johnson is running on the right. Interested to hear postgame what spurred that change.
’24 – Dempsey is coming deeper. He actually dropped underneath Bradley just then. That’s usually a good sign, that he’s feeling the flow of the game. You can’t script his game.
’27 – Eddie Johnson looks superb. Absolutely on-point. He’s rotated almost into a central midfield role and Herc has shifted out to the right where Johnson was to provide width. Either way, whether Johnson or Herc decides to move wide right, it’s not an ideal situation. And now Zusi and Johnson have swapped places again. Johnson is back out left. What’s this crafty German got up his sleeve?
’31 – Danny Williams is what Jermaine Jones dreams about at night when he dreams about being a better soccer player. Then he sobs silently as he stares into the middle distance before going studs up into the coffee maker. A referee inevitably jumps out of the closet to issue a yellow.
’35 – ZUSI almost goal. He could have splayed one inward but opted to drive one low and hard at the keeper’s feet before it was booted out. He wants that home goal like cray. The StrongBox will lift off if he does.
’36 – OH NOW YOU’RE JUST UGLY GUATEMIZZLES. 3-1 to the Fightin’ Waldos. Gomez (!) plays Bradley through, and Mikey lifts one beautifully over the keeper only for Dempsey to power home the wide open finish. If I’m right, which I think I am, that ties Dempsey on goals with Brian McBride. There are more goals in this game. And once again the Herc Jerk does the heavy digging that few see. Love that dude, even though he was throwing the stank eye at Julie Foudy.
‘36.5 – Holy hell, did anybody just see The Kilnster celebrate that goal? I think his neck just exploded. GERMAN ANGRY. GERMAN SCORE. GERMAN SMASH.
’42 – I love when Darke says “horribly pear shaped.” The guy is just so damn British.
’45 – Slow burn of a finish to this half, which is okay with me after we went all NASCAR the last 40 minutes.
HALFTIME – Far worse things than 3-1 into the break, especially after that disaster start. I feel much calmer, especially now that I can gaze upon the magnificent facial follicles of RedBeard the Vermillion Destroyer. We should ease across the finish line in this one without much trouble, which will drastically reduce the possibility of a coronary. The US had a 77 percent share of possession in the first half and completed 85 percent of its passes to Guatemala’s 64. And it’s been brought to my attention that we have a still image of Lalas in the booth tonight as the second half kicks off.
’47 – Tim Howard is limping after coming up with a charging save. Minor deities don’t limp. He’s sandbagging.
’48 – Darke: “If Guatemala score, they’ll go through.” TAYSQUOTE: “Well then they’d better score a goal.” Nailed it Tays. Just nailed it.
’50 – Minor Lopez has loped (heh) through some openings and taken some pressure off Carlos Ruiz for Guatemala, which looks considerably more dangerous than they did at nearly any point in the first half. Lopez is 6-4.
’52 – Danny Williams is down. Impact injury. Brush it off, laddie. You’re good.
’54 – AARRGGIE Johnson just whiffed badly on a beaut of a cross from Herc. Darke: “Put it on his head, different story.” HahahNOT FUNNY DARKESTICLE.
’55 – Need to point out here how good Zusi has been tonight. Been deadly. The remarkable thing here is that he’s been tremendous on BOTH flanks. He’s put in work on both the left and right sides and his production hasn’t dropped.
’57 – Herc and Dempsey almost connect when Herc breaks loose and loops in a cross that juuuust missed Dempsey’s head. Chance after chance rolling down on Guatemala right now. Hard to believe there won’t be more USMNT goals in this one.
’59 – Wait. I’ve just seen Guatemala’s coach for the first time ambling around the sideline. Was unaware Tony Soprano’s fatter, shorter cousin was a soccer coach.
’62 – Whoa. Antigua and Barbuda just scored against Jamaica. Which means Guatemala has just jumped into the last qualifying spot for the Hex through no act of its own. Did not see that one coming. If the US, which is no longer the story tonight, can score again, Jamaica goes through. Crazy. I do wonder why A&B has outfitted its players with hot pants, but I suppose it’s best not to ask questions.
’64 – Marco Pappa has been incredibly quiet tonight. Let’s keep it that way.
’65 – SachaTime. Kljestan replaces Herc, who was tremendous today. EJ rotates up top and Clint stays behind him. Sacha moves into the middle. Herc goes to the bench to receive the keys to Kansas City.
’70 – Bradley gets hip checked in the box and YOU FAIL referees. First you miss the handball, now this? Failure pile in a sadness bowl.
’74 – Currently wondering if Jamaica has any idea A&B just drop-kicked their World Cup hopes.
’78 – Zusi comes off for Mo Edu, a defensive change to shore up the back. So now you have Williams, Bradley and Edu on the field at the same time. Do not like.
’79 – Whooooa Dane Richards just scored for Jamaica, which leads 3-1. The celebration on the goal wasn’t anything big, so perhaps they don’t know what it could potentially mean. Madness. Perhaps it’s a good sign that speculation on the matter has occupied Darke and Twellman over this game, which is all but buttoned up.
’83 – USMNT is playing keep-away. If this is how Guatemala presses for goals on the eve of their World Cup failure, I’d hate to see them rush through a grocery store for before it closes.
’84 – *Obligatory gushing comment on Dolo*
’87 – The defense has been tighter, yes, but Guatemala’s attack has been toothless since the opening five minutes of the half. Pulling Ruiz off the crest of the wave has doused Guatemala’s play going forward and made this half considerably more stodgy. Which cannot be considered a bad thing for the USMNT.
’89 – Jamaica scored again. Guatemala’s doneski. On another note, Kljestan has been bright since coming on. And here comes Joe Corona.
’92 – Oh Dempsey. That was a bad dive. Hah oh… dear. Saw it again. And holy cheese. If that was a dance move, it’d be an epileptic seizure.
FINAL – 3-1 to the Good Guys. We’ll take it.
The following comment from Ian Darke sums up this group journey as well as anything, so I’l ostensibly end with it: “There’s been some hiccups along the way, but job done.” Indeed it is. Indeed it is.
And yes, the file in which I typed this is still titled ‘Disaster.’ I’ll leave it that way so, in the future, I can look at it and have a nice laugh. Or be safe in the knowledge that I correctly predicted a horrible crash in the Hex. Either way, success!