Sunday, June 12, 2011

US Overrun By Red Tide, Double Agents

In my honeyed post about the USA win over Canada earlier in the week, I'd briefly noted the potential impact that the New York Red Bulls were having on the US Men's National Team. I'd suggested that acquisition of world-class veterans like French striker Thierry Henry and Mexican defender Rafa Marquez would pay dividends for the USMNT. I thought that Titi and Rafa would help their RBNY proteges, Juan Agudelo and Tim Ream, respectively, and that the improvement of those players would ultimately strengthen our national side.

Well, after watching a team that started both Agudelo and Ream limp and reel to an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to Panama in the Gold Cup, I must reconsider that idea. In fact, the performance was so ineffectual that I've become suspicious that something sinister may be afoot with our soccer team.

I'll give Agudelo's lebronymous disappearing act the benefit of the doubt, since the young striker had little service from the midfield, but Ream's play was so poor that I can't help but wonder if he was actively working against a positive result. Had Marquez, the elder statesman of our footballing rival, brainwashed his young pupil into some sort of saboteur? Surely someone on our side wouldn't have surrendered that penalty to a player so near the edge of the box and with his back to goal? Right?

One of the nicknames of the Panamanian national soccer team is La Marea Roja, which means "The Red Tide." As best I can tell, this is a reference to a toxic algae bloom that affects the Panama Canal. Nice. Adorned in their fully red kits, the Panamanian offense fittingly flooded the US defense with ease.

The only thing keeping me from assuming that Ream has not gone Guiseppe Rossi Benedict Arnold on us is the flaccid and flummoxed effort put forth by Chris Wondolowski during his time playing in the latter stages of the game (and, really, against Canada as well). As much as I am captivated by the gauzy daydream of MLS stars seamlessly flitting back and forth between club and country teams, this MLS star seems entirely out of his depth at the international level. Maybe the same is just true for Ream, with those earlier performances being a mirage.

While Wondo's lack of competence is clear, the cause is more of a mystery to me. Does his suck have a physical root? Is it that he lacks the pace in space and the quick-twitch reactions in close quarters? Or is his total and utter terribleness the result of being awestruck by his teammates, his foes and his circumstances?

All told, the effort against Panama was every bit as complacent as it was conciliatory against Spain. That Clarence Goodson's clinical header on a set piece gave the US a chance to steal a point with another late strike only highlighted the dismal showing in the first half. This was decidedly not TCOB.