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Grasping at straws
by Paul Kennedy, June 16th, 2009 6:45AM



[TV WATCH] How do you sugarcoat another in a series of games marked by some dreadful soccer? The USA's performance in its 3-1 loss to Italy on Monday at the Confederations Cup left its commentators grasping at straws.

Alexi Lalas set a positive note in his pre-game keys from the Bristol studios.

"It's not good enough any more for the U.S. a to sit back and defend against the biggest teams in the world," he said.

But how does it attack when its $10 million phenom Jozy Altidore can't hold the ball, its midfield has developed a habit of consistently coughing up the ball at the worst possible moments and its defenders too often whack the ball to no one in particular?

We've heard a lot about the importance of service and the like in recent games but that's about it. Good soccer has been largely absent from the U.S. game, leaving color commentator John Harkes desperately short of ideas.

How do the Americans, down 2-1 in stoppage time on Monday, craft an equalizer?

"You're hoping for a lucky bounce or it coming off a defender," said Harkes. "Something for the U.S. to get something back in this game."

"Something," it seemed, did not include anything positive from the Americans.

As he became resigned to an Italian victory, Harkes praised the Americans' effort. "It's been good," he said. "They've been chasing things down. They haven't given up."

And just as Harkes finished, the Americans did just what he said they had not done, allowing Andrea Pirlo to stroll into the penalty area and find an unmarked Giuseppe Rossi for a third Italian goal.

Seconds later, the game ended and Harkes remarked that the Americans had played well.

Harkes' arrival on the national team in the late 1980s coincided with the USA's rise as a respected soccer power. Since then, it's hard to remember the USA's performances being so worrying as they have been in recent games.

If only someone would say something.



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