Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Eddies - 01.12

- Opponent: FC Edmonton
- Location: Edmonton, Canada
- Attendance: 3,152
- Final Score: 1-0 W
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Frias, Norales, Okiomah, Kleberson, Corrado, Smith, Mares, Pineda, Ambersley
- Substitutions: Estridge 53' (Stone), Smart 63' (Corrado), Mendes 84' (Mares)
- Goals: Kleberson (unassisted)
- Bookings: No Eleven cards

So this is what a heartbreaker looks like from the winning side.

Though I did see a familiar reaction. Watch Edmonton's player #14 (Martinez) just inside the 18-yard line in the middle of the field as Kleberson's 93rd minute shot finds its way into the net.  While Eleven fans can sympathize with the player and understand the reaction, I for one, am glad to see it from some other player than one of our own.

For the first time all season, I did not see a minute of this game during real time due to other commitments.  So I'm relying entirely on the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, YouTube highlights (see below), and general recaps from other sources.  What I see is amazing.  Even with a slight edge in possession, the Eleven did not win a single statistical category except for the one that matters most, which is goals.  The Eddies were very unlucky in that they had three really good shots find the woodwork, one of those being a defensive breakdown in the 20th minute.  The Eleven nearly gave up another "adage" goal within the first four minutes. 

In short, based only on the stats and highlights, it looks like this was a game that maybe the Eleven shouldn't have won.  Yet the team that never seems to give up, continued to fight, and was rewarded by a 93rd minute goal.  To quote one of my favorite movies "Nobody's Fool," "Intelligence, hard work, and good looks finally pay off."  The team has been on the wrong side of a lot of hard fought, close games, so it's nice to see them get rewarded for their constant and continued effort.

It's also nice to see our ironman and captain get his first shutout of the season.  Nicht has made some amazing saves this season and a clean sheet is well deserved.

Now, the Boys in Blue find their way back home to #TheMike.  Though, a home game also comes with a King Kong sized monkey on the back of the team as they try to get that first home win for the 10,000+ fans in attendance.  A monkey that I'm starting to think might be making the friendly confines feel a little less friendly and with a lot more pressure.  Like I said after the last game, as long as the team doesn't give up and keeps fighting like they did in Edmonton on Sunday, I'm still optimistic that the first home win will come.  Actually, I know the win is coming. 

So relax boys. Play hard.  We'll be here when the win happens.


Update: Congratulations Kleberson and Norales on being part of this week's Team of the Week!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Rowdies - 01.11

- Opponent: Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
- Attendance: 10,555
- Final Score: 2-1 L
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Frias, Norales, Estridge, Kleberson, Corrado, Smith, Pineda, Ambersley, Spencer
- Substitutions: Pena 73' (Pineda), Smart 76' (Corrado), Mares 89' (Ambersley
- Goals: Kleberson (38', assist by Smith)
- Bookings: No Eleven cards

While the game started with a "First Kick" from Indiana native, and the United States National Team's left defensive back, DaMarcus Beasley, it was the Indy Eleven's defense that was caught ball watching for at least the second time in the game to, once again, give up a gut wrenching late goal and continue the team's winless streak at #TheMike.  Don't get me wrong, if an Ambersley pass with a little more pace on it in the 86th minute finds Spencer's foot and subsequently the back of the net instead of being blasted away from danger and I would be sitting here writing about the spectacular two-game winning streak to start the fall season. So while the ball watching mistakes created two goals for the Rowdies, the offense of the Eleven had their missed opportunities as well.

Early in the spring season, it was discussed that this was a young team and they were still learning how to be a professional player for the entire game.  Yet the margin of error for this team still appears to be very small despite adding some veteran players and having more than a dozen games under their belts once you include the U.S. Open Cup games.  We know they can win, we've seen them do it in a Railhawks stadium that had been impenetrable the past couple of seasons.

So what was the difference between last week and this week?

The pessimist in me says, "Maybe this team really isn't that good. The team's two wins have come against the Dayton Dutch Lions (a lower-tiered team) and a Carolina Railhawks team that played the final 33 minutes of the game down a player. Plus they lost to a Columbus Crew team despite having a two-man advantage for ten minutes of the overtime. And let's not forget about all of their "adage goals" this year."  

The optimist in me, while normally not a fighter, wants to punch the pessimist in the mouth. I see Ambersley laying in the middle of the field after the last minute goal against San Antonio in the spring.  I see Estridge sitting on the field with his head in his hands for a long time after most of the fans had left the stadium after this game.  I see the dejection in the guys knowing that they let another close game get away from them.  But I also see the talent.

I see spectacular shots on goal by Kleberson.

I see fantastic saves by Nicht.

I see the spark created by Smart.

I see possession stats that favor the Eleven.

Maybe more importantly, I see the heart.

By my count, this team has had a lead in league play for a grand total of 14 minutes. Let me phrase that another way.  This team has held a lead for less than 1/6th of the time of a single game, much less an entire spring season and two games into the fall season.  Yet, I have never seen this team stop playing.  Not once have I seen players give up.  They seem to have the belief that as long as there is time left on the clock, they can salvage a draw, or escape with a win.

When I see the team give up, then I'll be worried and frustrated.  Right now, I'm simply disappointed, just like the team.  Ready to celebrate that first league home victory with 10,000+ people screaming for joy around me, whenever it may happen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mike Magee's Day Off

I love Ferris Bueller.  I hate when people mess with it with rumors of a sequel (unless, of course, Christa and I write it...).  I'm ok with honoring it though.

For those of you who haven't seen Ferris Bueller's Day Off, well, what are you waiting for?  Why haven't you watched one of the all-time great movies about ditching your normal life to hang out with your girlfriend, best friend, and the City of Chicago?  For those that have seen it, enjoy this well-done version using Mike Magee of the Chicago Fire, Omar Gonzalez, Sydney Leroux, Hope Solo, Thierry Henry, Michael Bradley, Bruce Arena, and a few other cameos.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Soccer Life - Drew

This is the first edition of what I hope becomes a regular series on the site. It's where I ask a series of questions to my fellow soccer players and fans about the game that we have either grown up with or grown to love. While the questions were originally intended to be towards players, I think others can modify the questions to fit their own specific role in the game. Whether that's as a player, coach, referee, parent, or just fan, I hope to be able to get some input from all kinds of fans. I'll start by answering my own questions and then Kevin is the first one in the queue. I hope you enjoy!

1. Name:

2. Role (Player, Parent, Coach, Referee, General Spectator, All of the Above, None of the Above, Other):
- All of the Above

3. Soccer-specific Nickname (and any story behind it):
- Stump – High school coach gave it to me because he was looking for something related to being a twig (being skinny will do that for you), but didn’t want it to be quite as obvious as Twig. So he settled on Stump. A couple years later my little brother joined the team and he became Twig because he was a smaller version of me. Ironically, at the time, I was built like the twig and he was more like the stump, but that’s the way it goes sometimes with nicknames.

- Cheetah/Gazelle – Youth travel team coach would periodically say that I ran like one of them because I was pretty fast with the ball.

4. Age started playing:
- Around the age of 5.

5. First recollection of the game:
- I believe it was my first ever soccer practice. We were walking away from the practice field at an elementary school with my parents and the coach, who told me to dribble the ball back to the car. I proceeded to dribble the ball like a basketball. The coach quickly corrected me to dribble like I was just shown in practice and I did that the rest of the way to the car.

6. Highest level of play achieved:
- 4 year high school varsity letter winner.
- Played for the international club team at DePauw,
- Intramurals at DePauw,
- Intramurals at Purdue.

7. Last competitive match – Date (if known) & Level of Play
- High school - Fall of 1993, loss in sectionals
- Intramurals - Sometime around 1997 or 1998 with the Purdue intramural team for Cary Quad.

8. Position:
- I played every position during my career, including a tension-filled season for my mother when I played goalkeeper with a reckless abandon. However, I consider myself a midfielder – Feel like I finished my career as a left-midfielder, but I kind of moved around as required.

9. Jersey number:
- Obviously, I had different numbers throughout my soccer career (#1 for a long time, #2 at the start of my high school career), but I associate my final number in high school as “my” number. #6

10. Most memorable moment(s):
- 6 goal game in an indoor game while my high school coaches were watching through the windows of the bar that was attached.
- Pass from Patrick that I caught perfectly off my chest and scored a goal during an indoor game
- Dummy play where I went towards the ball, bringing two defenders with me, and let it go through my legs to one of our players who scored a goal, also during an indoor game
- Hat trick in a game in Richmond. There was a huge puddle along the left side of the field and it would stop the ball immediately. Seemed like every time I hit the puddle, the other team would stop because the ball stopped and it would give me enough of a chance to kick it out of the puddle, get behind the defense, and score a goal.
- Lemonade from lemons – learning to use my left foot after injuring my right foot as a kid and not wanting to not be playing, I started kicking the ball with my left foot. I was never great with my left, but became proficient enough that I often found myself playing the left side of the field through the rest of my playing career because of a lack of left-footer players and others who were serviceable with their left foot.

11. Least memorable moment(s):
- Taking myself out of what turned out to me my final high school game because I was afraid I was going to let my emotions get the best of me and get thrown out. Then I spent most of the rest of the game on the bench. In essence, I gave myself a red card, when I really didn’t need to do it.
- Getting a concussion during an indoor game. I was never as confident going for headers after that, even though the injury didn’t occur as a result of heading the ball. An opposing player and I kicked the ball at the same time, causing me to do a somersault and landing mostly on the back of my head. It could be said that it’s truly my least “memorable” moment because I really don’t remember the moments right around it. It was caught on video so that helps some…
- Not finishing out the tryout at DePauw. I quit the tryout because I wasn’t having fun. Later that year, I played against many of those same players during my soccer class and I was as good as most of them. Could I have made the team? Maybe not, but I’ll never know.

12. Favorite team:
- Without a doubt, the team that I have to watch is the U.S. Women’s National Team. A new close second has become the Indy Eleven and a close third is the Men’s National Team. All other teams have varying degrees of interest for me, with FC Kansas City (NWSL), Sporting Kansas City (MLS), Real Salt Lake (MLS), and Chicago Fire (MLS) as other teams that I enjoy watching. I also like watching FC Barcelona, but how can you not appreciate the type of football they play?

13. Favorite player:
- I feel like most people in that I should say Pele, because of what he means to the sport, but I really never saw him play. So I value his contribution to the sport, especially in what his time with the New York Cosmos did for soccer in this country, but there are other players that meant more to me as a player that I actually watched.
- Mia Hamm
- Alexi Lalas
- John Harkes (more in an upcoming post)

- Messi
- Lauren Holiday (more in an upcoming post)
- Michael Bradley

14. Indoor vs Outdoor:
- Outdoor, with a fondness for indoor. I preferred the outdoor game, but the speed of indoor was ideally suited to my style of play and being able to work the angles off the wall around a defender.

15. Grass vs Turf:
- Grass, though I had limited experiences on turf outdoors. I should point out that I played on some crappy soccer fields in my day. The Ben Davis high school field was not what it is today when I played. There were rocks on the field, no lights, no concession stand, no locker room (we shared a locker room with the baseball team and that wasn’t close to the field, which is why halftimes took place on the bench or in a corner of the field), and the practice field was even worse. I remember a game, I think in Noblesville or Zionsville (it was definitely in a “‘ville”), where I was going down the field and the ball bounced straight up as it hit a rut in the field from car tires. That's the kind of fields where I played.

16. Coaching experience:
- Currently starting my 6th season as a head or assistant coach for a youth rec league
U4 - 1 season
U6 - 4 seasons
U8 - 1 season

17. Refereeing experience:
- I was a referee when I was a kid, around the age of 11-13. I did games for the U6, U8, and U10 teams in a local recreation league.

18. Favorite World Cup moment(s):
- Most of my memories tend to be around the Women's National Team. Most likely because they have had more success and tend to be in more games than the Men's National Team. Brandi Chastain showing the world her sports bra in 1999 was cool. The U.S. hosting the Men's 1994 World Cup was also cool.

19. Honors/Awards:
- Four-year letter winner in high school.
- Academic All-State my senior year in high school.
- I don’t remember getting any other major award.

20. Other sports played (and to what level):
- Wrestling – One year in 7th grade.
- No other sport played in an organized league, but I spent my entire youth playing whatever game you could throw at me; basketball, roller hockey, tennis, football, softball/baseball, volleyball, and various combinations of all of those (roller basketball, roller tennis, roller soccer, soccer tennis, soccer volleyball)

21. Other Comments:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Indy Eleven vs Railhawks - 01.10

- Opponent: Carolina Railhawks
- Location: Cary, North Carolina
- Attendance: 3,080
- Final Score: 2-1 W
- Starting XI: Nicht (Captain), Stone, Frias, Norales, Estridge, Kleberson, Corrado, Smith, Pineda, Ambersley, Spencer
- Substitutions: Smart 66' (Corrado), Mares 83' (Spencer), Pineda 90' (Ring)
- Goals: Spencer (65', assist by Corrado), Smart (87', assist by Mares)
- Bookings: Estridge (10')

That's right folks, thine eyes do not deceive.  The game summary shows a W.  After a very frustrating, and winless, spring season, the Indy Eleven went to Cary, North Carolina and did something that NASL teams haven't been able to do at Carolina since 2012, a total of 18 games. A win at Carolina has been impossible the past couple years.  Armed with having a game under their belt against the Railhawks from the Spring, possibly a tired Railhawks team who played a couple of U.S. Open Cup games against MLS teams, some good run of play, and a deserved red card given to Carolina's King, the Indy Eleven finally accomplished that first win. 

If the World Cup this year has reminded me of anything about the game of soccer, it's that sometimes the margin between winning and losing is one or two moments in a game.  So despite the Eleven going down a goal early (not everything changed for the team just yet...), they continued to fight.  A tripping penalty in the 57th minute on King on a breakaway by Spencer brought out a red card and the tide turned towards the Eleven.  From that free kick forward, which Kleberson clanged off the crossbar, the Eleven worked their way towards their first win.  Spencer found the back of the net 8 minutes after the Eleven had the man advantage.  They were taking advantage of their advantage.

A minute later, super sub Don Smart came on for Corrado.  It must be the role that he relishes, because I think he has done more with his minutes than anybody else on the team.  So I'm not surprised that in the 87th minute, he was the guy that put it in the net for the team's first victory after some nice give-and-go play with Mares.  So now the team has lead for a grand total of 10 minutes of NASL play.  Yet that was enough to get the team into the win column.

For the inaugural game in April against the Railhawks, the team had a game day poster that said "Victory Awaits".  Nobody knew then that it would take 10 games to get that victory, but I hope that massive boulder on the backs of the team was shattered into a thousand pieces so they can play without a fan bases' expectations weighing them down.

I can't wait until Saturday to see if they can work on a winning streak.  So maybe expectations don't get less with a win...

UPDATE: Congratulations to Kleberson and Ben Spencer for making NASL's Team of the Week!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Indy Eleven - Roster moves

The Indy Eleven start their fall season tonight against the Carolina Railhawks, who were the Eleven's inaugural opponent for the Spring Season.  I believe that the first game against Carolina is the last time that the Indy Eleven were leading in a game (other than the U.S. Open Cup game against the Dutch Lions).  So an entire Spring Season and the Eleven have held a lead for a total of 7 minutes.  That's not a stat that they want to duplicate during the Fall Season.
Earlier this week, the team announced that four players were released from the team ahead of the Fall Season; defenders Baba Omosegbon and Chris Wey and midfielders Walter Ramirez and Kevin Rozo.  While I understand that the desire is to win games, it is also a business and so players will undoubtedly come and go for this team.  Some of the players on the roster are on loan from other clubs so the length of their time in Indy will be dependent on those loans.  Throughout the Spring Season and U.S. Open Cup, the Indy Eleven played a total of 11 games.  In those 11 games, Omosegbon, Wey and Rozo totaled 44 minutes of playing time, all of them by Omosegbon in the U.S. Open Cup game against Dayton.  What's surprising about the releases for me is that Omosegbon was one of the first three players signed to the roster, a lot of press was made about Wey being a local teacher who was giving his soccer career one last chance, Rozo was just added to the roster in mid-May after he "officially gained his spot on the squad today after training with Indy Eleven since the waning weeks of the NASL side’s preseason," and Ramirez started the first five games, seeing time in seven for a total of 440 minutes, the last being the game against Dayton.  So three of the four clearly haven't been major contributors to the team and the fourth hasn't played in three games.  Just makes me wonder why they were added to the team.  What did the team see in them early that didn't translate into playing time as the rosters filled?  Or were Baba and Wey added to simply show a local connection to Indy?

So one of the inaugural season starters won't be playing tonight against Carolina, but the team does now have an advantage that they have seen every team play now.  Of course, that also means that the Indy Eleven are no longer an unknown to the opposition, but the team that will play Carolina tonight is a much different team that played them Week 1.  Guess we'll see if the Eleven can get and keep a lead this time around and whether the World Cup break gave them some time to get more in tune with each other, as I had hoped it would do.

The game is the ESPN3 Match of the Week so hopefully I'm able to catch it and provide some valuable insight in my recap and not just what I read through the Twitter feed.

Friday, July 11, 2014

World Cup - ARG vs NED

I'm not sure what to say about this game.  As offensive as the Germany vs Brazil game was for the Germans, this game was more like a game of cat and mouse.  Which is why it went to penalty kicks.  While the game didn't produce any goals through the duration of regular time and the overtime periods, it was probably a better played game than the other semifinal.  It wasn't as memorable though.

Due to it happening on a gymnastics night, I caught much of the game streaming live from my computer.  As I realized that it was going into overtime, I decided that I needed to start towards the gym.  So I finished what I was doing and headed out.  When I got to the car none of the local sports stations were carrying the game, so I turned on the ESPNWatch app, put in one of my headphones, and listened to it while I drove.  When I was about 10 minutes from the gym, the game had just gone into penalties and I decided that listening to PKs was ridiculous.  So I pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned country club and watched the PKs from my phone.  Watched the final kick and then was right back on the road to the gym.  Amazing what technology has done for the ability to watch games now.

So the final is set.  Germany vs Argentina.  The team that has scored 17 goals this tournament (4 against Portugal, the #4 ranked team coming into the tournament, and 7 against Brazil, the #3 ranked team coming into the tournament) and survived the "group of death" versus the team that has scored 9 goals and survived a group with an average ranking of 36.  Knockout round competition has been a little bit closer for the two teams, but I have to think that the hard path taken by the German squad has better prepared them.  Nobody expected a 6 goal drubbing of Brazil by Germany or that Spain (the #1 ranked team coming in) and Portugal wouldn't make it out of the group stage.  I guess that's why they play the games.

World Cup - GER vs BRA

Going into this game, based on what had been going on during the rest of the tournament, this looked to be good game, even without  Neymar and Silva.  It wasn't.  Really, not even for the first 11 minutes.  It seemed like the perfect start for Germany after that first goal.  The second one looked like a back breaker.  You never want to say that a World Cup level team "gave up," but that was the look that Brazil had at only the 23rd minute. 
Six minutes later and a world class drubbing was complete.  I've never watched a World Cup game where a team looked so completely overmatched.  Their spacing was horrible, defenders didn't close on the ball, and their general effort was poor.  Things improved slightly after the half-time break, but even that effort was short lived.
Maybe Dr. Evil says it best...

Holiday Olimpico

This is Lauren Holiday taking a corner kick for FC Kansas City this past weekend:

That was Lauren Holiday putting a corner kick directly into the side netting.

For those that don't know (and I can honestly say that I didn't know that an actual name was given to a kick that went in directly from a corner kick), is called an Olimpico.
It is possible to score direct from a corner kick (as a corner kick is a direct free kick) if sufficient swerve is given to the kick, and/or there is a strong enough wind blowing in the goalward direction. However, it was illegal until the International Football Association Board (IFAB) meeting of 15 June 1924 authorised it for the following season. This type of goal is called an Olympic goal or Olympic kick, or olimpico in Latin America. The name dates from 2 October 1924, when Argentina's Cesáreo Onzari scored against Uruguay, who had just won the 1924 Olympic title. (The first such goal was thought to have been scored by Billy Alston in Scotland on 21 August 1924, but further research showed that match had been played on 23 August 1923, and the goal was actually a header.) The first in England was by Huddersfield Town's Billy Smith on 11 October 1924. The world record holder is Massimo Palanca with 13 goals. It remains a rare occurrence, often accomplished by fluke rather than intent, and with the goalkeeper usually blamed for an error.
Megan Rapinoe of the United States women's national soccer team scored an Olympic goal direct from a corner kick in the semifinal match between the United States and Canada in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London becoming the first player ever to score an "Olympic Goal" during an Olympic match. The only Olympic goal in the World Cup was scored for Colombia by Marcos Coll, beating goalkeeper Lev Yashin in a 4–4 draw with the Soviet Union in 1962.
I'm not sure if Lauren was aiming for the goal, but given that she is normally pretty good with her placement on corner kicks, I think she was at least giving it a try.  Regardless, it placed her at #3 for ESPN's Plays of the Day.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Indy Eleven - Carmel Parade

Every so often, things come together in my life that make me surprised.  Like having one of the greatest friends in the world, whose step-mom happens to help organize the Carmel Fourth of July parade and asks him to drive the truck carrying the Grand Marshal, and said best friend asks if you want to tag along.  Who were the Grand Marshals? 

The Indy Eleven!

I didn't get to hang with the team much.  They were at breakfast and then they all left pretty quickly once the parade was over, but it was cool to see the reception they received from right alongside of them.  They're all really nice people (that's to be able to include the female staff that were there too) and really seemed to be having fun being in the parade. 

How cool is that!?  Not only to have the chance to be in a parade, but to be hanging out with your favorite sports team.  I love that the family got to join along too as my girls got to spend a lot of time with the mascot Zeke and have fun in a way that kids rarely have the opportunity during normal games.  With my kids' memories, hopefully this was an experience they will never forget.

There was one blip in the day and that was that the team didn't bring along enough stuff to throw out to all of the kids that were along the parade route.  Given that this was their first parade (I think), they just didn't know what to expect from it.  From everything that I have seen from the Indy Eleven, this will be something that they will remedy for any future parade excursions.  Even during the Carmel parade, they were doing as best they could.  Once they ran out of the normal goodies, the team did everything they could along the rest of the route.  They passed out the posters that were on top of the float.  They passed out the water bottles that they had on the float for themselves.  They went into the crowds to take selfies with the kids. 

And one of my favorite moments?  As the float approached a Circle K gas station long after they had run out of their goodies, one of the Indy Eleven staff jumped off and headed towards it.  A few minutes later, he jumped back on with a bag full of more candy.  That, once again, says a lot to me about this team and the organization.  Apparently, they never give up on the field nor off of it.

Thanks @Deckard2021 for the invite and one of the photos used in this post!

World Cup - US vs Belgium

Gutted.  That's the only way I can describe my feeling after the loss.  Not because I thought the United States were going to win for most of the game, but because they toyed with my emotions once again.  They gave me hope that they were going to do the improbable and pull out the victory when it looked like there was no way it could be accomplished.  I recorded a replay of the game so I could rewatch it, but I still can't bring myself to watch it.  I haven't reached the point where I'm willing to put myself through the roller coaster ride again.

First, it was the miss by Wondo.  You know, the one that would have won it in extra time of regulation.

This is a guy that has thrived on being in the right place at the right time.  And yet, that's about as poor a strike as I've seen out of him.  I'm still not sure how he missed it that badly.

Then, they gave up the early overtime goal.  And then another.  2-nil.  That's it, right?  At that point, I nearly walked away from the game because I didn't think it would be possible for them to come back from a two goal deficit with so little time remaining.

And yet, Klinsmann puts in the young kid with almost no experience at this level and what does he do?  He scores a goal on his first touch of the game.

Let's be honest, it wasn't a clean touch.  He mis-hit the ball.  He didn't catch it as flush as he would have liked, but that might be why it found the back of the net.

Then there was that absolutely stunning set piece, thirty yards from the goal.  A set piece so amazing that I can't imagine even working on it in practice, much less attempting it any kind of game, but especially a World Cup game.  The courage it takes to dial up that play in that moment is something that I hope I never forget about watching the game.

The slightest different touch by Dempsey and this set piece would be forever described in World Cup history as one of the greatest set pieces ever instead of one of the greatest set piece attempts.

I have two takeaways from the game.  My first takeaway from the game and, by extension, the USMNT in general, is related to something I read on the MLS Matchday app (I assume it's available somewhere online, but haven't found it) about "game states."
1. This was the World Cup of game states

The analytics community is big on "game states," as they should be (I say "they" because I was an English major and actually don't remember how to do anything beyond long division). "Game state" means – broadly – what the score of the game is, and how it affects how the two teams play.

In other words, the US played much differently down 1-0 against Portugal than they did when up 2-1 vs. the same. And we played much differently down 1-0 vs. Germany in the group stage – an acceptable result that was likely to seal our advancement – than we did when down 1-0 to Belgium in today's game.

"Just hope," Tim Howard explained on the air afterward. "When we changed over we just said let's try and get a goal and if we get a goal we put them under pressure. And at 2-1 we did that. Dream falls short but like I said this is an incredible group and I'll never forget this night."

No one else should forget it, either, because the US were brilliant in attack once down a goal (and even better once down two). That follows the same pattern against Portugal, as well as the desperation push once Ghana equalized.

Here's the graph of US shots from the first 105 minutes:

And here's the last 15, once desperation kicked in:

In case you don't want to count: that's seven shots each.

Part of this is Belgium falling victim to game states themselves. But the bigger part of it is Klinsmann taking the shackles off and dropping pragmatism for attacking verve, something which should happen earlier and more often going forward. This US is a very, very talented team – one of the dozen or so best in the world. It's time to stop playing like we're the underdog at all times and actually deliver the promise of proactive soccer.
 Every time I saw the US perform poorly in this World Cup, it was because they reverted (despite promises from Klinsmann when he was hired that he would change the strategy), back to the US team that played not to lose.  When I watch the USWNT, their tactics are different.  If one goal wins the game, five is surely not enough.  They never, as far as I've seen, take the foot off the gas.  They have the best goalie in the world, a spectacular defense, an imposing midfield, and a wealth of forwards to finish.  I don't understand why the USMNT doesn't have the same mentality.  They have one of the best goalies in the world, a solid defense, a midfield that includes one of the best in the world, and excellent finishers.  So why does the women's team continue to take it to their opponents, while the men's team tries not to get beat too badly.  Like the writer above stated, the men's team needs to stop playing like the underdog and play like the winners we nearly saw from them at the end of the Belgium game.

My second takeaway?  Tim Howard is a beast.  I told you he was my man of the match in the group stages and he didn't make me regret that in the Belgium game.  The only reason the team had the slightest of chances at the end of overtime is because Howard had one of the greatest games ever by a goalkeeper in a World Cup game.  Wonder what all those saves look like at one time? 

Thank you Tumblr for the gifs...