Mike Lawrence: Ties are cruel

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Mike Lawrence

Call Mike Lawrence at 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

— Isn’t American soccer past the point of being happy with ties?

I had to consider that question Saturday, after the U.S. team gave up an early goal to powerful England but went on to hold its own and earn a 1-1 draw on the second day of the 2010 World Cup.

Several soccer fans in The Powder Room at Torian Plum Plaza expressed satisfaction with the Americans’ result.

Granted, the tie puts the U.S. in a good position to advance in the tournament with upcoming matches against Slovenia on Friday and Algeria on June 23 appearing to favor the U.S.

But we’ve been singing that song for several World Cups: Ties are good, we should temper our expectations, we’re underdogs, and so on.

It’s time for more.

My father agreed.

“No, I’m not satisfied — we should have won,” he said after Saturday’s match, via telephone from New Hampshire. “I think England has the better players, but we’re the better team. … Towards the end of the game, it was clear. We were playing not to lose — not to win.”

The U.S. is ranked 14th in the world by FIFA. The team showed flashes of brilliance Saturday against eighth-ranked England. Striker Jozy Altidore missed a potentially game-winning goal by inches. England had strong chances, but the Americans’ performance sent a message that this team is a legitimate contender on the international stage.

There are plenty of local soccer fans hoping to see that potential translate into World Cup victories in coming weeks. An enthusiastic crowd cheered for the Americans on Saturday in The Powder Room.

“It’s good to see people getting excited about soccer,” General Manager Luke Dudley said.

Audiences across the globe had no shortage of drama in Saturday’s match.

The U.S. equalized the score with, admittedly, a bit of luck, as Clint Dempsey’s relatively tame shot slid through the hands of English goalkeeper Robert Green. But the Americans more than earned the tally by contending through the entire game.

Reuters news service called Green’s mistake “a howler.” London’s Guardian newspaper called it “a clanger” and “a goalkeeping blunder that will never be forgotten.”

But the ball crossed the line nonetheless, and the Americans earned a well-deserved point in their first match of the 2010 World Cup.

Steamboat Springs City Councilman Kenny Reisman, a former goalkeeper, called the U.S. goal “one in a million” and credited the play of Tim Howard, who kept the U.S. in Saturday’s game with his sterling effort.

The tournament continues through this month and climaxes in a July 11 final. Reisman asked me to pick winners, so I’ll stand by the picks I made in a November column: Ivory Coast vs. Argentina in the final, with Ivory Coast a stunning champion on its home continent.

For the Americans to move forward, one thing is certain: ties will no longer suffice.

It’s time for victories.

Comments

Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

Can you be any more ignorant? The US goal was a "bit of luck"? Maybe England's goal in which a deflected pass helped set it up had a "bit of luck". The US goal was 99.999% luck resulting from one of the worst goalkeeper errors in World Cup history.

The US played well and a tie was a reasonable outcome, but the US also was playing to be happy with a tie. US was willing to play defense and hope for a counter attack goal. We put the pressure on England to break down our defense and for them to score and that was the smart game plan because one point is an acceptable result. That is the smart strategy because England overall has better players.

But now comes the hard part because now the US needs to beat Slovenia while they will be willing to accept a tie. Now we will see the real quality of the US team. Now the pressure is on the US team to beat lower ranked teams. We need to win at least one game.

And maybe someday we will be smart enough as a sporting public to recognize that sometimes a tie is the fair result and far better than some scheme to have a winner and loser. The NHL has done so much damage by refusing to accept ties. The NHL has created the absurd situation in which the smart strategy is to play for overtime, get your 1 point and then take you 50/50 shot at getting lucky and being credited for a win. Meanwhile soccer is smart enough to give 3 for win and 1 for a tie. That makes the smart strategy to generally play for wins, not ties because it takes 3 ties to equal the points of one win. And look how it has resulted in skilled and fast play and not defensive wrecks of a game.

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Scott Wedel 4 years, 5 months ago

But not recognizing that the other team is the better team and being willing to open up the game going for a win is naive and a quick way to turn a tie into a defeat.

Remember the point of group play is to advance and this tie puts a lot of pressure on England as well. So now it is likely we would advance if we can win and tie two much lower ranked teams. And is it likely that our last game will be against an Algerian team that is either eliminated or needs to win big so they will be willing to take chances which we should be able to exploit.

It even becomes possible to advance with a win and a defeat if there are other ties and we be Algeria by more than one goal.

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