Soccer: Crew presses pause for World Cup qualifying

By Columbus Alive
From the June 7, 2012 edition

Some Crew fans might be wondering why the club is in the midst of a solid three-week break from MLS competition. Why hang up the cleats just as summer begins to unfold?

The answer: MLS is taking some time off so as not to interfere with World Cup qualifying, which begins this week — including contests Friday and Tuesday for the U.S. men’s national team.

The Yanks spent the past two weeks warming up for this official business with a trio of exhibition matches (“friendlies” is FIFA’s misnomer of choice) against Scotland, Brazil and Canada. In sequence, the matches enacted the “good, bad and ugly” cliche almost too perfectly.

On May 26 in Jacksonville, the Americans slaughtered the Scots 5-1, with Landon Donovan nabbing a hat trick and German transplant Fabian Johnson holding it down at left back. (After Johnson excelled in a position that’s long been a weak spot for the Americans, Grantland’s Brian Phillips dubbed him “the soccer equivalent of laser eye surgery or getting air conditioning for the first time.”)

Four days later, the Brazilians made sure Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team didn’t get too cocky by dismantling them 4-1 on their home turf. The U.S. put up a fight that night in Landover, Maryland, but they were outclassed.

A mediocre 0-0 draw against Canada in Toronto last Sunday ended this string of friendlies with an ellipsis instead of an exclamation point. The U.S. team should be able to make quick work of this week’s competition (they host Antigua and Barbuda on Friday and travel to Guatemala on Tuesday), but who among us has any idea how they’ll fare?

Perch anxiously on the edge of your seat and find out. And don’t forget the Americans will face Jamaica in a qualifier later this year at Crew Stadium — on Sept. 11, no less.

Credit: Associated Press photo