The Americans played to a 1 - 1 tie with South Korea last night/today, whenever the hell it was, which, barring a hideous implosion against Poland, ought to be enough to get us into the elimination round of the World Cup. The team didn't play particularly well and early on it was downright ugly. Poor decisions, misplays, zero ball control, lack of poise, too many long balls - it reminded me of why American soccer has always been so bad. But then things picked up, culminating in striker Clint Mathis's sick goal on a lead cross into the penalty area, which he brought down with a delicate first touch with his right foot before burying the shot into the lower right corner with his left as a defender closed in.
There's been a fair amount of hype about Mathis, including a report in Sports Illustrated claiming Bayern Muenchen, Germany's premier football club, wants to offer him a contract, and he lived up to it right there. One reason striker is such a difficult position to play is that, in a given game, you might get only one good scoring opportunity, and the great strikers seem to able to take full advantage on a consistent basis.
We were outplayed in the latter stages of the second half to such a degree that we were lucky to escape with a tie and a point. But Korea was playing at home, with a tremendously boisterous crowd behind them, and they're still bitter over there apparently about Apolo Anton Ohno's gold medal in the Olympics, when a South Korean short track speed skater was disqualified for an illegal move and stripped of the gold in favor of the American. Their simmering desire for revenge led the Koreans to perform a speed skating pantomime celebration by the corner flag after their tying goal, which was kind of a head-scratcher.
But the Koreans were better then us for most of the game. If not for the heroics of goalie Brad Friedel, who blocked a penalty kick (the foul called on Agoos was a bullshit home job) and made several spectacular saves to keep the Americans in it, the outcome would have been much different.