Sports

Can U.S. Soccer Keep it Going?

Less than a week ago, this would have been a complete and utter joke, but Mr. Mo Mentum may have found a new address.



After being shredded by Brazil in a 3-0 loss last week, USA needed a perfect storm of circumstances to advance in the Confederations Cup. Somehow, it happened. The U.S. jumped all over a flat Egyptian team and Italy was manhandled by Brazil.



Given a second lease on life, the U.S. took advantage. Instead of showing the tentative play it displayed against Brazil, the Americans went right at the world's No. 1.



The only game I can remember being equally impressed with a U.S. soccer performance was when we dominated Mexico in the 2002 World Cup to reach the quarterfinals. The American attack was creative and aggressive, letting Spain know from the onset that it was in trouble.



Jozy Altidore's goal was a thing of beauty. The 19-year-old striker showed tremendous strength and balance shielding and turning on the Spanish defender. His strike left a little to be desired, but all that matters is it found the back of the net.



The two things that stood out in my mind the most was the best defensive performance I've ever seen from a U.S. team and that Landon Donovan looked like one of the world's best players.



One of the beautiful things about soccer is that hustle and heart can overcome skill. It's how the U.S. won. We can't go toe-to-toe with Spain's skill level, but we could out hustle them. And we did.



Fernando Torres and David Villa were swarmed all game. The U.S. midfield and defense constantly had them surrounded and applied pressure from every direction. It's what football coaches always hope to see, the entire defense flying towards the ball.



Donovan set the stage for that, contributing all over the field. Countless times he was seen tracking back to help win balls in the defensive third and then in a flash he was up the field making dangerous runs. I do wish he'd shoot a little more. He seems to be pretty pass first these days, but he did create numerous dangerous chances, like the second goal.



Clint Dempsey's goal was a great deal of luck, but that's what you need against the best team's in the world. And like any good team, the U.S. created that luck. They pushed forward with pace and numbers and that pressure led to the second goal.



It's the exact same way they have to play if they hope to have any chance against Brazil. The problem with Brazil is you don't just play the squad -- which is always among the most talented and creative in the world -- you also play the mystique. Think Notre Dame back in its football heyday.



The U.S. has given in to this time and again, often looking like freshman just happy to be on the same pitch as the varsity. The two nations have met 14 times in international play. The U.S. has one victory, a 1-0 win back in 1998. That wasn't a dominant performance either. The U.S. packed it in defensively and won on a tremendous free kick strike by Preki.



South Africa showed how you beat Brazil on Thursday. The defended well and attacked in numbers. RSA simply didn't cash in on its chances and with one ridiculous free kick strike, Brazil made them pay.



If the U.S. can reproduce the effort and plan it used against Spain, and avoid the stupid fouls that have plagued them throughout the tournament, I think they have a shot.



What a difference a week makes.

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