How kind of FIFA to give U.S. National Team fans a built-in excuse should things go poorly against the mighty English on June 12th. The match referee, a Brazilian, comes with a rather sketchy recent background that might not inspire much confidence in his ability to maintain control and balance in what should be a rather physical contest.
Carlos Simon, do you know what you're in for?
I worry about this. I worry American fans will find a way to put a loss (should it happen) squarely on the shoulders of the referee, rather than properly direct blame wherever it actually belongs. I worry that Simon will screw it up, but that his decisions obscure the real reasons things went wrong (again, should that happen).
I worry that the Americans will fall back into overly-rash habits, habits I'm fairly confident are much less of a factor now than in the past. Even though Michael Bradley is no longer the card machine he once was (something I've taken pains to point out), there's that nagging thought in the back of my mind that something bad will happen. Will it be a truly egregious challenge that deserves a sending off, be it a straight red or a second bookable offense? Or will Simon come into the match with preconceived notions of the American's style and punish them unfairly?
Regardless, and I'm certain Bob Bradley is even now drilling his squad on this issue, the Yanks must be aware of themselves. It's a delicate balance, playing strong and hard while being sure not to give Simon reason to reach into his pocket. Cards will likely happen. Making sure those cards aren't red, or the second for the same player, is crucial.
That last sentence is the most obvious thing I've ever written at this blog.
Not that it will be only the Americans that must be careful. England's players will be more familiar to Simon, so perhaps they'll get more benefit of the doubt; but the Americans have players who speaks Simon's language, a small advantage that is worth mention.
This is entirely too many words for a referee. I'm cross my fingers that the game isn't decided by a refereeing decision, be it a sending off or a controversial penalty, in either direction. Let's play this straight-up, eleven on eleven, and let the chips fall where they may. I still like the U.S. chances, and it seems bad fan karma to hope for a bad call. These things tend to come back around.
Excuse my nerves, my over-thinking, etc. It's Monday. There's still quite a ways to go before Saturday. I don't think I'm going to make it.