When the United States drew the last two World Champions as opponents in the FIFA Super-Special Confederations Cup, one just knew an ugly time would ensue. And so it has come to pass: two matches; two losses; two red cards; six goals conceded; just one scored. Both matches unfolded in near-textbook fashion. Italy proved wilier, tougher and more lethal, and pocketed two goals demanded by the principles of narrative drama from post-American Giuseppe Rossi. (The soft red card to Ricardo Clark was, of course, unfortunate, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that goes down when you’re playing the big boys. And not like a wayward, careening, very late challenge in midfield will ever yield particularly good results.) Brazil, as this multilingual footage shows, simply used the Americans as lump of undifferentiated matter from which to carve a casual minor masterpiece, like a bar-napkin doodle by Picasso.
The American team seems frozen in time, stuck in a perpetual adolescent awkward phase. A highly biased observer can sometimes detect a glimmer of potential in this team’s ropy flailing, and you want to pull for these guys—sure, why not? They may grow highly unfortunate facial hair (Sacha Kljestan) or go in for stupid aggro haircuts (Michael Bradley), but they seem like a nice bunch, and after all they represent the old Alma Mater. But in the end, we can do no better than Tim Howard, Landon Donovan and Oguchi Oneywu—the former a real-life first-class player who does his work 100 meters from the opponents’ goal, the latter pair up to international standard, I suppose, maybe, just. The likes of Altidore and Bradley remain works in progress; DeMarcus Beasley is silly; and, any more, one gets the feeling they keep bringing Adu along because it costs so little to stencil his name on the back of a shirt. (He needs only one for a three-game tournament, if you see what I mean.)
The Confederations Cup doesn’t mean much—by which I mean, anything. Still, the last few days provide a reminder why Googling “project 2010” is such a good laugh.