Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why Losing to Morocco Doesn't Matter

The US loss to Morocco yesterday in Nashville was disappointing for fans, but Bruce Arena and the team did not seem to be that worried. Some might be quick to blame complacency, Steve Cherundolo, Arena's subbing, or any number of things for the loss. There are many reasons why we shouldn't be cursing our guys just yet.

I remember the feeling heading into Regionals during my club team's U-18 campaign. We were poised to do damage, at least that's what we were telling ourselves. Considered middle-tiered team at best, we had finally broken through five months before at the Tampa Sun Bowl tournament advancing from our bracket easily and finally getting put out in a heated semifinal match 0-1, a contest we thought we should have won.

We felt unbeatable, something every youth team experiences after their first taste of any real success. We had some new players join the team and never before had our club fielded a more talented team than ours. And we were being reminded how good we were-every member of our team was offered a scholarship to play college soccer after the Sun Bowl. We started to believe it. The first game of the Regional Tournament arrived and we were facing a team from New Orleans that we had beaten on a number of occasions. We felt that if we were only patient, we would win the game easily and go on briskly through the competition. Sitting back and waiting turned into three goals allowed and a quick sweeping loss that dashed our hopes and reminded us who we were.

If anything, this loss to Morocco reminds our MNT and our fans who and where we are. We are still a developing soccer nation with a solid, hard-working, middle-tier National team who, if we play with cohesive hunger, is capable of beating anyone in the world. It reinforces that we are not going to salvage our way through the Group of Death by hoping for ties late in 0-0 matches—we must be proactive. But, Arena and our players know this already.

Arena took blame for the loss, claiming he had been overtraining the guys. McBride mentioned a lack of creativity in the attack. We hadn't lost on US soil since early in 2005 to England. I don't think any American in the crowd expectued us to lose. I imagine that the players felt the same way.

Sometimes a loss before bigger games to come is a good thing. It clears out the cobwebs.

Reckless Abandon predicts a more focused, hungry effort tomorrow night against Venezuela.


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