Like all of you, I am watching on TV and do not have first-hand perspective. You don't really need me telling you what we've just seen on the field. So perhaps I'll offer some observations on ESPN's efforts as well as some light analysis.
-- Dave O'Brien is a professional sports announcer with a great voice who has worked hard to get better at soccer, but still lacks feel for the game and uses stats and factoids as a crutch. The most bizarre reference was, during the course of conversation about Bob Bradley's future, he dropped in a line about Bradley being a "Princeton man and a huge Bruce Springsteen fan." Huh? Like the U.S. team, though, O'Brien got better as the match progressed....and then he made the Princeton/Springsteen reference AGAIN!
-- Another Bruce, Bruce Arena, provided typically strong comments, expressing disappointment in the U.S. back line's early in the match and its failing to step up to Ecuador's attackers. Best line: After Eddie Johnson seemed to be torn between shooting and passing and sent the ball wide, Arena said, "Forwards who pass the ball in the box are not forwards."
-- Arena's dry humor could cause confusion for the casual fan. While the trio was discussing college soccer walk-ons, Arena noted that Claudio Reyna came to UVA on an academic scholarship and wandered onto the team. Well, we all know he was kidding (Reyna was the top recruit in the country out of high school), but the way he presented it left some doubt.
-- There was controversy in the 16th minute when Johnson missed a point-blank chance in what appeared to be an offside position. The Ecuadorans howled in protest, and Wynalda backed their claims. However, no replay was provided.
-- I kinda like the USA uniforms. Agree?
-- Nice halftime show: Euro highlights, Wynalda's cards/game ball.
-- Any Donovan critics out there? Yeah, yeah, it was only a friendly, we won't soon forget his disappearance at the World Cup last summer and he's talking about skipping this summer's tournaments, but he was awfully good today. He showed up, big time. "The real answers will be over the next three years," Arena accurately added.
-- Great turnout in Tampa: 31,000-plus. Too bad the pitch was not in ideal shape.
USA Player Ratings
Howard 5; Cherundolo 5, Onyewu 4, Conrad 4, Bocanegra 6; Feilhaber 5, Beasley 4, Dempsey 4, Donovan 9; Ching 6, Johnson 3. Subs: Bradley 6, Twellman 5, Mullan 5, Spector 5, Carroll and Mapp no rating.
Feel free to share your opinions -- on the match or the TV production -- in the comments section below.
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