Last night I attended the USA-Brazil international friendly at the New Meadowlands. Despite the absurdity that is New York Penn Station at rush hour and with tens of thousands of soccer fans adding to the mayhem, I got there on time and got to my seat just as the game kicked off.
There’s a certain glamor to watching a game in person that never gets old, even with the long waits to get there and then back home afterwards (how do people do it when the game ends at midnight?) and last night was no exception. There were fewer USA! chants than normal because of the massive Brazilian contingent that appears out of nowhere whenever the Seleção shows up. Seriously, I don’t see any Brazilians around here until some Brazilian superstar shows up, like Ronaldinho with Barça a couple of years ago, but during that day they’re everywhere in their yellow and hot hotness (possibly NSFW).
The match itself could have gone either way early, with Landon Donovan getting the first real chance (and blowing it thanks to a nice little shove that was in no way the penalty I screamed for from the other side of the field), but by the 20th minute it was all Brazil. Neymar somehow contrived to be the shortest man on the field and the only person to score a header (thank you for that positional brilliance, Bornstein) and Pato finished off the half with a slick run through the gaping maw of the American defense. The second half was just Brazil banging it off the woodwork repeatedly (I think they hit 3 posts) and running circles around a completely incompetent American midfield. Basically: our stadiums are nicer. Their players are miles ahead of us in a 1km race. Americans will pay top dollar to watch these matches (I paid $68 for my ticket, a friend $150) and we packed the house, but really, unless they’re in the run-up to a competition, friendlies are meaningless and useless other than as cash cows.
I was, until the middle of the second half, unaware that there was a 6-sub limit, so I thought everyone would get 45 minutes and then we’d see scrub action. That, of course, leads me directly to my first gripe: Dani Alves, recently arrived from Beijing (a 14-hour flight), played all 90 minutes despite this being a friendly designed to blood the young’uns of the Brazilian system rather than to actually win. Players like David Luiz, Neymar, and Ganso were making their international debuts, so what was the point of putting Dani Alves, a man who has a competitive match in 4 days (from game time) on the other side of the Atlantic after he’s traveled from the other side of the world to make it? You’d have to ask Menezes, of course, but the obvious tactical reason is to provide veteran stability. Which is why Robinho was subbed, of course, instead of the 27-year old whose chances of making the next World Cup squad are fairly slim (he’ll be 31 by the time Brazil14 rolls around).
Let’s be clear, though, it’s not a conspiracy. None of it is a conspiracy against Barça. That’s just silly talk. What it is is bad decisions by national coaches thinking of their short-term careers or FAs looking to line their pockets rather than looking out for the welfare of their players. Del Bosque has claimed Pep should have called his Spanish internationals back earlier so they had time to train and be prepared for the Super Cup, knowing that they would be called up for a meaningless friendly*, but that is just him covering his ass for a stupid, stupid move by RFEF that could endanger entire seasons for a myriad of Spanish superstars (from quite a few teams, I should point out).
So, consider this your place to comment on today’s Furia Roja Triumphal March as well as discuss how bad the USA national team really is (we’re awful, awful, awful and I hope it was Bradley’s last match in charge). Or how good Brazil is going to be in 2014 if they keep up the attacking style they put out yesterday.
*Tri fans: I realize it’s the bicentenarrio match. And I don’t care. It’s a friendly. Dani Alves shouldn’t have come and played here in the US, in front of me, any more than Xavi should go play in front of you, at altitude, in the middle of the day (3pm kickoff!?).