Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lucky Than Good

In the 2002 World Cup, the US defense was a rotation of Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Tony Sanneh, Frankie Hedjuk, Gregg Berhalter and Carlos Llamosa, who basically saw time as end-of-game insurance. This group gave up 1 goal to Portugal, 1 to South Korea, 3 to Poland, none to Mexico and 1 to Germany. This is a great example of preferring to be lucky than good.
Tony Sanneh is a good soccer player. Nothing great. Same goes for Frankie Hedjuk. Yet, both played above their heads during this run. Frankie's limitations aren't hard to see. He doesn't cross very well, and is often beat off the dribble. Yet, he's fast enough and tenacious that his abilities occasionally show up, as well. He's outperformed, but never outhustled, or outworked. He's probably got the best endurance of any US player.
Tony Sanneh doesn't have Frankie's speed or tenacity, but he doesn't have some of his weaknesses, either. He was able to shut down Figo, and used his athletic abilities to come up way big for the US squad. When I first saw him for DC, I would never have believed he'd start for a World Cup Quarterfinal team.

Jeff Agoos was neither lucky nor good. I love Goose, but you can't build a defense around him. I remember before the Portugal game, Ty Keough said that it was Agoos's job to keep the game close. When Agoos had the own-goal, a friend remarked that he was just 'doing his job'. Hysterical.

Gregg Berhalter has good size, and good seasoning, but he's never really established himself as a 'must have' on the US side. He seems to be a little bit of an odd guy - moody, and maybe a little distant. Not that those are bad things, but I can't see him being a defensive captain kind of guy.

In 2006, the only luck we can ask for amongst our defense is that Pope, Bocanegra and Gibbs are healthy. World Cup debutantes Gooch, Cherundolo and the others already have the good part down-pat.