Many esteemed troubadours have told me that the key to telling a good story is a little embellishment. As certain as it is that the Hoops will march through MLS like a hot knife through butter, so too will the Yanks be sent home from the Southern Hemisphere with their tail tucked betwixt their legs...
Perhaps we all felt a little bit like that a week ago. How did we fail to beat a Top 20 team with a hodge podge of some of our top talent, young Turks, and the fringes who only earned a call by virtue of collecting a wage in Euros (or Pounds)? Now that we've washed our pallet of the acrid taste of Cyprus with the sweet bouquet of Mauro Diaz, I think we can be more rational about the state of affairs with Team Klinsy, and I am generally bullish.
First, let us consider how the US was exposed in the Ukraine match. When it wasn't at the expense of a nominal left back (Edgar Castillo) and an experimental central midfield, it was the failing of new boy John Brooks and old boy Oguchi Onyewu on playing the high line. The US maintained a solid edge in possession over the match and per interval, and although they generally lacked much in the way of ideas for breaking down a surprisingly cohesive 1980's Mariners Ukraine defense, they looked game to equalize until another failed trap. If the worrisome Altidore had not missed with a solid chance in the 51st, we might not be in apologist mode. Essentially, Ukraine played a classically American game- absorb pressure and counter. It worked well in this match.
Two years ago, the Yanks went to the Mediterranean and achieved a much better result. A 1-0 victory in Italy was a signature win for the Jurgen Klinsmann and the USMNT. Despite a decided edge in possession for Italy, the center back duo of Carlos Bocanegra and Clarence Goodson managed to draw 2 more offsides call against Italy and help keep a cleansheet. Solid defense, Brutish control of the midfield, and beating the trap is Italy's calling card; and yet on this leap day, the seasoned hands (sometimes by the razor's edge) managed to avoid falling victim to the late run. If there is a surprise from the game in Cyprus, it may have extended a lifeline to Bocanegra to assert himself in April against Mexico and make a 3rd World Cup for the Yanks.
I may expound on the virtues of Charlie Blackmouth aka the Jackal in the future, but there are other contrasts from the two matches to highlight. Namely:
Michael Bradley present...anywhere...he seriously needs to be there for us to win despite the fact he can no longer benefit from obvious nepotism.
An in form Dempsey and Altidore (we're living in the worst case scenario at the moment).
In this comparison, the Yanks win. We bring less than a full squad , win, and revel in defeating a multi-Word Champion on their own turf.
In our recent history, we are 1-0-1 against Italia. No nation I know of boasts a more robust record of success again La Azurri in the last decade. If we play with good organization, a top of the group finish is not out of the question given some circumstances regarding the composition of the team and the locale that I will spell out at a later date.
For now, let's recall that we are not far from a surprisingly un-miraculous defeat of a recent World Cup champion on their home soil. Our depth has never been as strong as it is going into this cup. Jonathan Bornstein will not come close to seeing the pitch this summer. The strength of MLS has grown immensely since 2010 (and light years since 2006), and we should be prime for a good run when the games kick off for us in Natal.