If you live in the states and watched the Confederations Cup Final today I think that there are three things that you could possibly be feeling. Since I had to rush off to work after it ended I had time to think about how it made me and some of my friends I spoke to during the match feel.
One. You don't really feel anything. You didn't expect anything from the US players and therefore got exactly what you anticipated. You might be slightly impressed - but probably put money on Brazil.
Two. You're heartbroken. You thought they had it. You thought you were about to see the definitive change in American national competition and at the final whistle you shed a tear, if not two or three.
Three. You still have that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with winning those moral victories that fans love - but when players would rather win the match than simply win respect. You think that this is a good step and a great learning experience for the team to take into qualifiers.
I'm definitely in the third category. This tournament - lets not get into the argument of whether its a real tournament - made me sit up and take notice of my country's team. I'd been disenchanted with them since Germany and really couldn't care less. Like with whatever club you choose to follow - you can never really divorce your team or your country, but you can practice selective viewing. I ended up watching the US mainly because of the caliber of teams they were playing.
So, I'll admit - I jumped onto the bandwagon in terms of supporting them. They surprised me and I suddenly realized how much I legitimately cared. I felt an odd surge of patriotism and wanted them to show that we know our stuff here. Its something I'll feel when I follow their qualifying. I might even buy a t-shirt.
I think that Bradley ( Sr. ) made the right choice starting Benny Feilhaber in place of the suspended Bradley ( Jr. ) instead of someone like Sacha Kljestan. The US came out in the first half exactly how the needed to. Dempsey scored in the 10' after a well placed cross from Jonathan Spector and the deserving, heart and soul of the American squad Landon Donovan scored in the 27'. Up until then they had been so in control and made all of the right moves.
I think they were more defensive than on the attack after the second goal. Sure - they had chances with a free kick in the 37' but they started playing too many players behind the ball. This would have been more worrying if Brazil had been playing like Brazil we'd seen for the rest of the tournament. Tim Howard stopped anything headed his way and the Brazil attack was shut down.
They looked solid and Brazil seemed well down - but we should have remembered even being down that Brazil is rarely out.
I'll admit that I got a little giddy during the halftime. I thought - Wow. Could the actually pull this off? If theres one thing I believe - especially during finals - is that you cannot go into it cocky. You can't become cocky with a goal. The last time I went into a match the slightest bit cocky was the Man United v Barca final. We know how that went. During halftime I was reminded of the Moscow final between United and Chelsea. I was never cocky, never giddy, always terrified, barely breathed - and I prayed before every penalty kick in the end. Please Lord, help van der Sar stop this ball. And it occured to me that I never felt that sheer terror today that usually comes to me with finals. I think its because I already saw it as a win - but we'll get to that.
Whatever Bradley said during the break - the US came back a different squad. They put themselves in a tough spot by giving up that first goal so quickly. Barely a moment into the second half is not the time to let a team of Brazil's caliber score. At 60' Brazil could have had an equalizer from a shot from Kaka. Maybe should have had an equalizer. Personally - I don't think Howard stopped it. I think he was entirely in the goal. But the ref saw something else and the ref is God on the pitch. I'll never agree with letting video replay into football no matter what the commentators on ESPN say. By denying that goal it just made Brazil more desperate so it was really only a matter of time before they did equalize. And if you let them score two - they'll be able to score three. They equalized at 74' through Fabio and won at 85' from a goal from the Brazilian captian Lucio.
The US looked tired. Dempsey seemed entirely blocked off my Brazil and was almost invisible for the end of the match. Jozy Altidore didn't make that much of an effect. Carlos Bocanegra looked like he should have been played in the middle in my opinion. Howard was amazing but there was only so much he could do on his own and he made some truly brilliant saves. You can't blame him for any of Brazil's goals.
I blame a lot of this on Bradley. I think he fouled up with the subs. I think he should have made them sooner so they could have had an effect - like Brazil did. I also think he made poor choices with the subs he used. I don't think Casey should have stepped foot on the pitch. Kljestan was completely ineffective and shouldn't have been brought on either. I honestly would have given Adu a shot. Maybe put in Torres. The US needs to have a deeper bench if they expect to utilize subs the way that teams like Brazil, Spain, and Germany will next year.
In the end I think the US did an admirable job. They gave Brazil a good fight. Its heartbreaking that they had it won and then gave it away - but that's the nature of the beast. The overall better team did win. Yes, the US won the "moral victory." Their FIFA ranking should improve and they've definitely gained more fans. I've appreciated Tim Howard since his United days and was happy for his Golden Glove award. I have an entirely new repect for Landon Donovan. I really admire him. I thought Dempsey, Spector, and Onyewu have been class all this time.
Ronaldo - the famous Brazilian striker - has a famous quote about loss. He said "We lost because we didn't win." The US just didn't win. Bittersweet as it is, that's it. But that doesn't take away all that they did just by making it that far.
And besides - its a known fact that the winners of the Confederation Cup have never won the World Cup the next year.