USMNT switching to prevent-defense strategy cost a World Cup win

If the most ambitious, colossal prevent defense in modern history — France’s 280-mile Maginot Line built in the 1930s to prevent German invasion — proved a colossal failure, what makes football coaches of both kinds believe they can succeed? 

Prevent defenses are both footballs’ version of institutionalized insanity, or insanity that should be institutionalized. 

Just as in 1968 when “Harvard Beats Yale, 29-29,” the U.S. National Team World Cup opener Monday gave us “Wales Beats U.S., 1-1.” 

The U.S. side, playing with unexpected verve and offensive dominance, had this game won — in the bag — if only it had stayed its course, a course that had Wales mostly running backward for roughly the first 70 minutes. 

Even American standout Christian Pulisic was in his right place. Though listed as a forward, he often directed the offense from central midfield, from where he hit Tim Weah with a sweet lead pass — a “through-ball” in soccer parlance — for the U.S. score. 

And at 1-0, not 2-0, the U.S. continued to attack, right? After all, opponents have a tough time scoring from 100 yards. 

But U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter — wearing a black Nike-logo T-shirt that read only “STATES” (huh?) — called on fresh substitutes and a stale idea. Prevent defense! 

Manager Gregg Berhalter
Manager Gregg Berhalter foolishly turned the team defensive in the second half of the USMNT’s draw against Wales.
REUTERS
Christian Pulisic reacts after the USMNT' draw against Wales.
Christian Pulisic reacts after the USMNT’ draw against Wales.
FIFA via Getty Images

You know, fix what ain’t broken, Aaron Boone Soccer. Let the NFL team pass for 25 yards per play, then run out of bounds to stop the clock against defensive backs in a deep prevent D! 

We’ve got them on the run. What now, General? “We retreat!” 

And watch the lead vanish! 

Soon, the penalty area was cluttered with attacking Welshman, soon a foul was called, soon a penalty kick was scored. The U.S., in charge for so much of the match, trudged off dispirited losers at 1-1. 

Instead of three points and a big lift to advance to the second round, the U.S. won a point but lost two. The ol’ prevent D. As they said after the Maginot Line was surpassed, “Welcome to Paris!” 

CBS crew rightly lets Jets have it

Two notes from last Sunday’s CBS Jets-Patriots postgame: 1) Unlike nearly all NFL pre and postgame shows, it contained stuff worth hearing. 2) Phil Simms is beautiful when he’s angry. 

After the Jets’ punchless offensive loss, Bill Cowher: “You know fourth quarter, [Jets] have a third-and-1, and I still see people line up in the shotgun. And Zach Wilson threw a pass for minus-1. 

“At some point you have to be able to run the football to take the pressure off the young quarterback.” Or, Cowher added, run some motion plays that delay the up-close defense. 

Phil Simms, left, and Bill Cowher
Phil Simms, left, and Bill Cowher
MediaNews Group via Getty Images

Then Simms: “You know what? Here’s what I hate. I hate this phrase: ‘Well, give it to our playmaker in space.’ I hate that. It’s third-and-1. You throw it outside. What happens? You lost a yard!” 

Amen to that, and encore! 


So let’s get this Kyrie Irving-NBA all-is-forgiven saga straight: 

A white NBA player who genuinely believes the world is flat goes on social media to promote a crackpot film claiming there was no slavery before our Civil War, that slavery was a hoax concocted by conspiratorial blacks and that blacks have been consigned to roast in hell. 

Kyrie Irving
Kyrie Irving is back with the Nets after his suspension.
AP

Then the Klan shows up outside the arena to concur with the player’s take on history and to support his right to free speech. 

And the NBA and the player’s team, after two weeks of trying to extract what sounds like a sincere apology, welcomes back that player. Commissioner Adam Silver declares that he has met with that player and finds no evidence that he’s racist. 

And NBPA reps publicly go to bat for this player. Could that possibly happen? Not a chance. 

Yet it’s happening in racial reverse, with Jews, easy pickings, the bait. Holocaust? Never happened! So let’s have a big, welcome-back ovation for Kyrie Irving! 


TV’s Third Down Virus (TDV) — cutting from the field at the most senseless times — continues to gnaw at the central nervous system. 

Sunday, the Jets, down 3-0 to the Pats, had third-and-7 when CBS cut to consecutive crowd shots. On FOX, the Lions, up 24-12 at the Giants, had third-and-12 when the field disappeared for consecutive crowd shots. 

By now we understand there’s a formula in play, but the ingredients are rotten. Is circumstantial discretion — common sense — no longer the plan? 

He’s one honest Devil

A good gauge of anyone’s honesty is when they’re wrong, even if just a little. To that end Ken Daneyko may be a career Devil — player then TV analyst since 1984 — but his takes on replays include admitting that his first take may have been wrong. 

Saturday, after New Jersey’s Doug Hamilton scored on a pass off his skates, Daneyko said it was a clean goal — Hamilton didn’t try to direct it toward the goal. 

Ken Daneyko
Ken Daneyko
Getty Images

But Daneyko spoke second thoughts during a replay, noting a slight move of Hamilton’s skate blade toward the goal. He said he was likely wrong — the goal might be waved off. And that’s what happened. 


During Giants radio broadcasts, Eli Manning is heard as the paid promoter of a local chain of banks. That makes it easier for folks to withdraw money to pay for their gambling debts as encouraged in TV ads starring the Manning Family. 

DraftKings customers this week reported that their bank accounts were hacked, with losses totaling nearly $300,000. Anyone recall the 2015 DraftKings employee who won a pile of cash at FanDuel using “secret” DraftKings data? Both times, DraftKings said there’s no evidence that its security safeguards were breached, so it must be a big coincidence. 


The World Cup could not appear without stupid stat TV graphics, thus we now have the number of individual players’ “Defensive Line Breaks,” which would be worth explaining if they weren’t irrelevant. But mostly they mean passes that result in nothing. 

Not that we’re surprised, but it’s all see/hear/speak no evil on FOX about despotic, theocratic Qatar during the World Cup. Those thousands of dead-on-return imported slave-wage Cup facility workers? Don’t be a party pooper! 

Detached U.S. advertisers continue to think we all love Megan Rapinoe. We don’t. 

Think how many tens of millions of dollars and how many jobs we could save networks by knowing bad from much worse. Saturday from Texas, FOX had five panelists transported to sit in the cold to deliver a few worthless words each at halftime of TCU-Baylor. 

Though beer was a late scratch at World Cup games in Qatar, large, expensive beer ads ring the stadiums. So remember: No beer. Drink Budweiser.