The United States - Korea game was an exciting match to watch. Hearing all of the hype before the game and knowing that Korea wanted revenge because of an incident that happened during the Olympics brought added fire and intensity to the game. (Speedskating? Who would have thought that sport could almost bring about an international incident?) And the Korean crowd was unreal, easily one of the loudest, most organized I’ve seen.
It would be tough to repeat the game that the US put together against Portugal, but the US fought Korea until the final whistle was blown. They didn't look quite as sharp as they did in the Portugal game, but they did show heart and determination to come away with a point that put them in a great position to move into the second round. With a win or a draw against a winless Poland team, they’re through to the Round of 16.
Much of the success of the US team thus far has been due to the leadership and outstanding play of goalkeeper Brad Friedel. He came up with huge saves in both matches, looking mature and confident. No wonder some in the English Premier League consider him among the top ‘keepers in the world. (I’d like to add that he also went to UCLA.)
Friedel’s biggest save so far was the penalty kick at the end of the first half vs. Korea. After Mathis scored from a beautiful John O’Brien pass, the Koreans put the U.S. under constant pressure. If the Koreans had converted the penalty kick at that point of the match, it could have meant trouble for the US going into the second half. The Koreans eventually did even the score in the second half, but a lot of credit has to go to the US for being able to get a tie in a match where they were under so much pressure. And a lot of that credit needs to go to Friedel, who was justly named Man of the Match following the game.
Playing Poland in the third and final match of group play looks positive for the US. We have seen Poland play in two matches thus far, which gives Arena and the team an advantage of knowing their strengths and weaknesses. Winning this game should put the US first in the group and will accomplish the goal of reaching the second round.
The US has been full of surprises and it has been an incredible experience to watch this team. I can't wait to see more.