At some point during the Czech debacle in 2006– maybe after the second goal, maybe after the third– I felt an awful deflation when I realized the team was toast and there were four long years before their next shot.  Months of building anticipation led to nothing but forty-five ugly minutes.  Obviously that turned out not to be the whole story, but at the time all I could see was an eternity looming.

Well, the eternity is up.

We’ve seen this match before.  The USMNT have played teams with inferior talent but also with organization and determination and nothing to lose.  They’ve done it in scarier places too: Estadio Saprissa and Estadio Cuscatlán and Estadio Mateo Flores.  It might not be pretty, but the Yanks usually make it through.  Usually.

The last time I played organized soccer was at the U9 level, but I still feel obligated to make some comment about tactics.  I expect to see the same squad that started against England, but with Edson Buddle in the place of the suspended Findley.  But why not start the same eleven guys that completely outclassed Slovenia in the second half?  Edu backing up Bradley, either Donovan or Dempsey pushing up top, with Feilhaber filling the empty midfield slot.

Honestly it shouldn’t matter.  The USA will have a better lineup either way.  They should win.  But it’s an unpredictable game: when we say they “should” win, we mean they have, at best, a 3 out of 4 chance at winning.  And until 9am tomorrow I’ll be sweating over the possibility of a stupid penalty or a red card or simply a botched offside trap dooming us to another four long years.

OK, I can’t write about this any more.  If you want more, here’s a much better preview from That’s On Point.  Enjoy the match.