The sad part is that, hostile crowd aside, this was a game the Americans could've won -- if only they'd shown up on time. Much has been made of coach Bob Bradley's ill-advised decision to start Ricardo Clark, but it really didn't matter who started in midfield. For the third and fourth times in the tournament, the U.S. defense conceded a goal less than 15 minutes after kickoff. That was okay once, and the Yanks got away with it twice. Three times, though, make a nasty habit -- one the Americans have had since at least 2006. Four times, as of the Gyan goal? Time to book that flight back to O'Hare.
It's not too early for U.S. fans to look ahead to the 2014 Cup in Brazil. Make no mistake: the U.S. team performed well in South Africa, and it may have finally generated permanent interest here in soccer. But there's definitely room for improvement:
- Coaching: If someone can attribute the U.S. penchant for falling behind to someone other than Bob Bradley, I'd be thrilled to hear the argument. Bradley's substitution patterns proved too cute for his own good, and that alone should seal his fate as head coach. To be fair, though, he did take the team much further than I dared hope he would; and I couldn't imagine him staying on even had the U.S. won the whole thing.
- Strikers: It would be nice if the Americans had one. Because they didn't, scoring responsibility fell to midfielders Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. As a result, potentially decisive wins over Slovenia and Algeria turned into a draw and a narrow win. The good news is that a few may be on the way. The forwards we fielded this time are promising, but still inexperienced at the World Cup level. If he can recover fully from his near-fatal car crash, Charlie Davis will provide a huge boost.
- Donovan and Dempsey were great, but they're both in their late twenties. The campaign for Brazil '14 will be the fourth for both men. The next U.S. coach will have to consider the possibility that one, the other or both will not make it to Brazil. Benny Feilhaber, the American super-sub this time around, could replace one of them; but he'll need help.