Selling Short: USA, England Down for Now, Will Rise Again
By Alex Fairchild
If the United States and England were stocks, I would sell. Even if tomorrow were a bank holiday, or the exchange was closed, I would be camping out for the next day's opening.
That is how bad the state of soccer is in both countries - for the time being. Manchester United supporters may find themselves in the same position come next year once Moyes and the boys lose a few matches on the bounce.
However, both of these cases concern the near term. If football teams were shares on the New York Stock Exchange, it would be time for the hardcores to pull out the art of selling short - a technique by which one sells shares of a company assuming its value will fall, before buying it back once the price of that stock drops. It is a gamble, but in some cases it is a lock.
After disappointing results against Belgium and Ireland, respectively, both nations have some soul searching to do and they have a night or two to do it, before they kick off against two teams who could match up against each other in the World Cup final come summer 2014.
It seems that after drawing one another just miles outside of Rustenburg, the two sides have followed the same path. A solid result marred by several disappointing ones. Just a few months back, England defeated Brazil. It seemed almost too good to be true and that may be because it was.
This Brazil side is no joke. TransferMarkt values the squad at £375 million with an under valued defender in Munich's Dante. To state the comparison to England's XI would be embarrassing.
Sure the top Home Nation, if we can call them that, has a strong foundation. All of those representing the newest addition to the Nike brand play in what is, from top to bottom, the world's toughest league.
However, is all of that really worth it if the team cannot beat Ireland? England must take a serious look in the mirror. Today, they lacked pride and enthusiasm. There was no push, the defending was half-hearted and if I grew up anywhere in football's motherland, I would be absolutely furious and I am - but that is because yours truly is a US citizen.
A lethargic Stars and Stripes side bereft of a spark followed the pathetic performance from England. In a city home to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and rapper Machine Gun Kelly, the US could have used the fire from pyrotechnics of rock bands past and the ammo that MGK spits in his passionate verses to spur themselves against Belgium. Outside of DeMarcus Beasley, the US was poor. While the pride of America held steady into the break, they were thrown by the introduction of Aston Villa's Christian Benteke, who put two goals by the Americans. It appears that handling two top strikers was too much for the new back four, who had a difficult time after the opposition's first half change.
Of course, Belgium is a solid side, which must do well to raise their FIFA coefficient. If they fail to top their group, or at the worst, not qualify for Brazil, it will not only be a disappointment now, but also down the road, as they will continually be placed in the most difficult of qualifying groups. Perhaps that lends them a bit more motivation. However, the US is fairing no better and has an extraordinarily arduous task in a few weeks when the team heads to Jamaica for another match in 'The Hex.' But even more worrying is how the team's psyche will fair after being dominated by a German team who has come off 4-2 win over Ecuador. That is a team missing Marco Reus, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze, etc., etc..
The United States was at full strength, or at least close enough to it on Wednesday evening, which is particularly discomforting. Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley are yet to return to the squad, though the latter will at the weekend. Those players are key pieces, though the LA man is surely running low on energy, which is why he took a sabbatical. But that is the US' excuse - it is missing two integral players. While the team around the lynchpin and playmaker must be strong, it may be exactly what the squad need. Both are level-headed veterans who took down Spain four years ago, though it is difficult to see this team doing the same if stuck in a similar situation.
The national teams of these countries are headed down a similar path, yet they are both two large federations with lots of talent. England's players are, individually, some of the best the European game offers. They could be tired. Ireland may have had their day. As for the US, they may not have it all together until the Jamaica match.
That being said, there is a final concern - with Mexico heading down an even more treacherous path, the States may be lured down an identical one that provides security where it should not be felt - just as the US stock market may not best reflect the nation's economic situation. There is hope though, and I am sure that US supporters and England ones would much rather see their country hit a rough patch now, as opposed to one a year from now.
Sunday will provide both nations with a wake up call, though it will be one in which the alarm clock slaps its target, instead of a more friendly one which soothes one with the whispering of NPR's morning talk. I hope I am wrong. Despite a bearish attitude for now, the future is certainly bullish for both teams.
As Warren Buffet said of the Great Recession, "We're still in a recession. We're not gonna be out of it for a while, but we will get out." That applies to these footballing nations as well.