A lot has already been written about how Bob Bradley's Americans put on a brave performance despite losing to Argentina, 4-1, in Maracaibo on Thursday night, but the truth is, the final 26 minutes were poor; the young U.S. team lost its composure and concentration in midfield after Hernan Crespo put the Argentines in front and started giving the ball away cheaply. This was particularly disappointing because before then Bradley's youngsters had put together an organized and impressive team performance. Sitting deep, the Americans frustrated the Argentines into forcing the play.
As Tim Vickery of SI.com points out, the entrance of the tireless Pablo Aimar early in the second half changed all that. Aimar's quickness and guile unnerved the U.S. midfield, which had been nearly superb before his arrival, but once Crespo drove home the second, the Americans didn't know what do next. The other major turning point was the substitution of Eddie Gaven for Ben Olsen at about the same time. With the game tied, 1-1, against one of the world's great powers, it was hardly the time, it seemed to us, to replace a veteran leader, the heart and soul of the U.S. midfield Thursday night, with Gaven, who had only three caps entering the game, especially in a major tournament.
Take nothing away from the quality of Argentina's goals -- each of them was world-class, no question. And take nothing away from the U.S. for performing far better than anyone expected them to. It's just a little frustrating the way things unraveled after such a spectacular effort against a top-class team. As Vickery and many others have said, there's nothing to be ashamed of.