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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The most unintentionally hilarious moment of the tournament came during the England-Trinidad & Tobago game when Dwight Yorke was violently rochambeaued by a missile shot from some England player or another. Yorke, temporarily stripped of all decorum by an intense personal pain, spent a good five minutes writhing on the field, hand down his shorts. Having experienced this intense personal pain, I am absolutely sure that Yorke was gingerly touching the abused area, desperately hoping that it had not fallen off or something equally tragic. I mean this five minutes thing literally.

Despite it being painfully clear to all what had happened, the intolerable Marcelo Balboa was mercifully silent on the subject for two of the five minutes of ball-handling before limping in with this after a replay that conclusively showed Yorke's manhood under seige:

Those stomach... lower stomach injuries can be very painful... knock the wind out of you.
This conclusively proves that the only time ESPN will acknowledge a penis on air is when Jason Whitlock is on the Sports Reporters. (ZING!)

The Univision Goal Guy is as advertised, but the best part of the whole thing comes before the little pulsating GOL! graphic or the actual GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL! call itself. It comes in the moment between the actual call and the increasingly fevered response to the buildup, as soon as the ball brushes the back of the net: a simple, matter-of-fact "gol." It cracks me up every time. Por ejemplo:
El portero salta... no puede aggararlo!


I think my attempt to convey this has probably failed, but if you catch a game on Univision, listen for it.

Ghana is minus both goalscorers from their game against the Czechs due to yellow card accumulation; the US is down both Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni after the Italy referee's hair trigger. Advantage? I don't know. Without Cory Gibbs on the team, Jimmy Conrad is the next central defender in line. He is "likely" to replace Pope according to ESPN2. He has little international experience but couldn't possibly play worse than Pope did against Italy.

Mastroeni's situation is trickier. Arena did bring along a second midfield bulldog-type in Ben Olsen, a man who looks two months into a playoff beard at all times, but knowing a tie is guaranteed death Arena might pull Reyna back into a defensive midfielder role and bring Eddie Johnson in up top for a more offensive posture. The problem is that the Ghana's obvious strength is in midfielders Michael Essien and Stephen Appiah and a midfield featuring Bobby Convey, Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey is a lot like throwing five forwards out in hockey. One guy you probably won't see, at least at the start, is John O'Brien:
Arena hinted that MF John O'Brien isn't available to start. "I don't think John has felt comfortable over the last week or two," he said.

A note of hope form Grant Wahl's interview with the US assistant coach assigned to scouting Ghana:
In the African Nations Cup they didn't have their full team. Muntari, Essien and Gyan weren't even at the tournament. And you could see it. Ghana, in my opinion, when they have their starting 11, their top 11 are pretty darn good. But once they have to get into their bench, all of a sudden there's a drop-off. That's the case for a lot of teams. We feel that they've lost two players, we've lost two players. I tend to believe our roster is overall, 1 through 23, better than the Ghanaian roster. So they're going to be really hurt by those two guys who are suspended.
I expect a cross, corner, and set-piece heavy day from the US, as Ghana's goalie has come out and flapped uselessly at about every other dangerous ball sent into the box in their first two games, so I would expect DMB on the bench with Convey and Dempsey on the wings. Another possibility on the left, either at defense or in the midfield, is Eddie Lewis. All he does is cross.