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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Let me just get this out of the way: I was wrong. I was wronger than wrong. I was more wrong than a thousand losing lottery tickets. I couldn't have been more wrong if I had worn Germany colors and mouthed off in an English accent on a train full of Polish hooligans.

I was so optimistic that the US would defeat the Czech Republic to open World Cup 2006 Group E play on Monday night that I expected it… yes, expected. I would say they "showed up" to prove me wrong, but I think we all know that wasn't the case.

I honestly have no idea what that was. Perhaps it would be more proper to say I have no idea who that was because every typical attribute of Bruce Arena's boys went missing against the perfectly capable Czechs.

This particular blast you are reading could have been scribbled much earlier, but I decided to delay it slightly to soften some of the rash emotionality – it didn't really work. I am still angrier than I have ever been with a US Men's National Team.

Don't get me wrong; the Czechs played a helluva game. All the requisite touches, passes and shots were on display, and they turned their wheels better than I had anticipated. Of course, they also showed none of the newbie stare I had hoped would appear early in the game. No, the US were the ones who looked like they hadn't been there before.

Despite the fact that the globe would struggle to choke back bile if we were ever to win World Cup, I found that most opposing fans actually felt sorry for the US contingent. If that doesn't tell you all you need to know, what would?

It is certainly no great shame to lose 3-0 to an excellent team on their day (just ask Cameroon 1994, 1998 Brazil or Denmark 2002). However, what we all saw Monday was utterly shame-inducing.

What was so awful? Well… how long do you have?

There was one good US cross the entire game. Open men were missed by the planeful (at one point, I thought Bobby Convey was trying to land a 747 on the tarmac). Defenders were hesitant to make a play or overran their marks. The Czechs were consistently allowed an acre of space at the top of the area. Midfielders famous for reliable play and calming influence often sent the opponent racing the wrong way with clueless passes. Touches were clunky, the Yanks repeatedly clogged their own offensive passing lanes and individual roles were ignored or forgotten altogether – I've seen better shape on Jabba the Hut.

More dramatically, the team almost seemed apathetic. Where were the runs off the ball? Where was the intensity, the spirit, the flow? And when was someone going to bother to pick up Pavel Nedved?

I have little doubt that the game would merely have ended at 3-1 had Claudio Reyna's shot caromed in off the post.

Maybe all of the pre-tournament critics were right about everything.

Maybe the German media was correct when they questioned Bruce Arena's long leash and light air. The team looked very loose a couple of days before the match, apparently too loose.

Maybe US fans were correct to wonder why the Send-Off Series included fairly decent teams instead of high test killers, or why it happened in American soil to begin with – in 2002, the 'Nats faced Ireland, Italy and Germany in Europe during the run-up. That seemed to prepare a team less talented and thinner than the current edition, didn't it?

And maybe this was just that one step backwards after the two steps forward of South Korea that I was worried about all along.

'Remember Suwon'? How about 'Forget Gelsenkirchen'? I know I was looking for a mind erasing shop all of Tuesday. Unfortunately, the match was not played in Amsterdam, leaving Sam's Army & Co. with precious few short term memory loss options.

Arena knows what I mean; by the hour mark, he had the look of a guy who would rather be anywhere else than Veltins Arena. From his far away stare, I surmised that he was mentally in Tahiti sipping something cool with his toes in the sand and wishing life could always be like this.

Of course, he probably would have rather been taking a nickel sack beating while watching an "According to Jim" marathon in a Baghdad prison.

I know it is not his style, but I certainly hope that he blistered the squad with curse words so vile and unfamiliar that they needed to run to Google – and then their mommies – after that performance.

There is almost certainly nothing left to salvage from this World Cup. Yes, I predicted they'd win the group, but I also said they had to beat the Czechs to do it.

I can be accused, at times, of giving our boys the benefit of doubt. This is not one of those times.

Now, advancement from Group E is a pipe dream... as in, one would need to be on the pipe to hold much hope of advancing.

Now, I am simply hoping they can find the cojones save some face against Italy. Instead of pulling "a Portugal" on the Czechs, I am left wishing that they can pull "a Poland" on Ghana. I find myself checking on the date that 2010 qualifying begins.

Uggh.
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