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It's all about 'US'
by Mike Woitalla, June 4th, 2009 7AM
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[TV WATCH] If you believe ESPN2's commentators, Costa Rica didn't beat the USA by playing good soccer. The Ticos were simply fortunate that the Americans made a lot of mistakes. If you thought for a second that Costa Rica scored some brilliant goals, the ESPN2 experts quickly set you straight.

Within two minutes of kickoff, Alvaro Saborio scored with a perfectly placed 19-yard shot. Color commentator John Harkes admitted it was an "excellent finish." But if you were admiring, during the replays, how Saborio avoided being sandwiched by Pablo Mastroeni and Jose Francisco Torres by flicking the ball between them and regaining his balance in time to launch the looping shot over keeper Tim Howard, Harkes explained the goal happened because "He should not have that much space!"

Then at halftime comes Alexi Lalas, who refused to give Costa Rica any credit for its effort. Lalas, as though he were a U.S. fan in the stands, described the first half as "garbage." There had been some good, entertaining soccer -- if you were watching both teams.

"You got to get a foot in there" Lalas told us during a replay of Saborio evading the feet of both Mastroeni and Torres in what some of us might describe as a superb dribbling maneuver.

The Costa Ricans strung 12 passes together to score their second goal. If you were interested in who was making those passes you didn't get their names from play-by-play man JP Dellacamera, who was busy talking about U.S. players and their yellow-card problems up until the shot that scored.

The combination of precise passes that created the second goal didn't yield a compliment from Harkes. Instead, he advised the Americans to: "Get the tackles in and don't allow them to play so simply around them." As if the only reason the Ticos threaded their way up field so efficiently was because the Americans weren't trying.

Harkes was right to point out that Michael Bradley looked fatigued when he was beaten on the third goal. Harkes was also correct to question Coach Bob Bradley pulling Torres at halftime and to criticize his sub, Sacha Kljestan. But during the second half after they went up 3-0, Harkes couldn't muster a word of praise for the Costa Ricans, whom he said could be tamed if someone just had the guts to take a "crack" at one of them.

For sure, the U.S. performance left much to be desired and criticism was deserved. But to see every attacking success as a defensive failure - ignoring the skill, effort and acumen of the successful team - is a dismal way of viewing the game of soccer.



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