Undone by American arrogance
An artistic heartbreaker: U.S. gets what it deserves in the World Cup
The ball dropped high from the sky and Asamoah Gyan had no trouble controlling this thunderbolt of supposedly-slippery Adidas, beating U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra to it and deftly trapping it off the side of his chest. In another moment, Gyan had a shot screaming toward the corner of the American net and Tim Howard (who let's face it, underperformed in this World Cup) really never had a chance this time.
It was a breathtaking moment of artistry — arguably the goal of the Cup so far — even more remarkable because it came in extra time when teams often go into a defensive shell and just wait for the fickle fate of penalty kicks. Gyan for Ghana would end up giving the African nation a 2-1 victory over the U.S. in the round of 16.
But it's not the reason the Americans lost.
Chalking this up to a thunderbolt from the heavens, an unfortunate bounce or a bad call (whiny U.S. soccer fans are, no doubt, desperately searching for another call to latch onto) only obscures the real truth. America is out of another World Cup before the quarterfinals because Bob Bradley's team inexplicably played with the arrogance of a superpower.
Match after match after match, the U.S. team stumbled into things, surrendering early goal. The U.S. side almost seemed to bring the haughtiness of a soccer superpower like Spain, Argentina or a Brazil — even though their resume is nothing close to those teams'. Even Spain learned from its first-game sleepwalk.
But not Bradley's team.
There Landon Donovan and Co. were again, giving away a goal to Ghana in the first 10 minutes, a strike that meant more to this match than Gyan's finisher. Sure, Donovan — getting primed for his future Wheaties box — tied it up on a penalty kick, but the U.S. still never really righted itself after that early lament. No matter how much Bill Clinton believed in the stands.
Howard, Donovan and Bradley can try to play off these stagger starts as something technical, strategic or fluky. But the truth cuts deeper.
America played with an arrogance. It let the players think they'd never lose, set the stage for some incredible moments in this 2010 World Cup.
In the end, it also punctured the most rapidly blown-up bandwagon ever, leaving U.S. soccer leaking a lot of hot air.