The Road to Germany Starts With a Limp

The Road to Germany started with a pulled hamstring and a stunning loss. Last night, Morocco beat the USA 1-0 in their first of three exhibition games before the World Cup starts June 9. Playing with their full roster, including most of their players from overseas, should have been a mismatch for a Morrocan team that is ranked 36th in the world (USA is #5). Instead the USA team looked like they ate McD's before the game and the fries were just digesting. Coach Bruce Arena admitted that his team was probably tired from 10 days of training leading up to the game.

The biggest loss could be midfielder Claudio Reyna. For those who don't know him, he's like the quarterback of the team. More Tom Brady then Peyton Manning. He controls the tempo of the game. He doesn't have the gaudy stats. He's the playmaker and one of the best for the USA. In the 11th minute he streteched for the ball and his hamstring decided to do the same with a bad result.

You could call Claudio the Grant Hill of US soccer. He has all the accolades and potential to be great when he's healthy. But like Grant, the injury bug always seems to hit him. He missed the 1994 World Cup because of a bad hamstring. He missed the first game of the 2002 World Cup with a quad injury. He had ankle surgery last December, then dislocated his right shoulder in March, leaving him able to play only 23 of 44 matches during the 2005-6 season for Manchester City, his club team in the English Premier League. Hopefully he'll heal quickly enough to come back soon.

Losing this game was embarassing but doesn't cause panic. It's a damn good wake up call. Play like this against powerhouses Czech Republic and Italy in the first round and the world will be laughing their asses off.

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