The United States is not going to the London Olympics this summer because of a crushing 3-3 draw with El Salvador in a regional qualifying match Monday night.
This is a huge disappointment for a nation that aspires to be a top-15 contender in the world, based on GNP and population than on expertise.
The junior edition of the national team coughed up a chance to advance toward London in the final seconds Monday night when the defense allowed a hard 20-yard shot and the keeper let it get through him – a disaster all around.
But really the game got away a few minutes earlier when Caleb Porter, the new coach of the Under-23 squad, removed Freddy Adu.
Oh, sure, take out your best player in a must-win match.
Adu was a man among boys in the second half, making two deft assists on clutch goals, and controlling the ball with the feints and dribbling and passes that he demonstrated as a child.
Freddy is still only 22, but he has been around forever, and looked it on Monday. However, the new coach took him off in the third minute of an announced four-minute added time.
To be fair, Porter had valid reasons for the move. One is that a substitution can kill more than the 30 seconds the ref will add to his stopwatch. The other is that Adu had just been shown a yellow card for doing absolutely nothing to a desperate Salvadoran player, and Porter did not want to take a chance of Adu getting another yellow and missing the next game.
But it was a bad move as soon as Adu started to trudge off the field (to kill seconds, as any professional will do.) I second-guessed the coach while it happened. Don't do it. Freddy was the indispensable player on that sparse team.
Now there will not be a next match. Salvador and Canada are moving on to the semifinal round. The U.S. will not be in London.
This is a jolt to a country that seems to be poaching players from the fringe of the German youth system, young men with an American parent. After decades of youth programs, this is where the U.S. is?
The paucity of talent (and smarts, and desire) on the field Monday is a condemnation of the club system in the U.S. – players coming up through local programs, always doing what Coach tells them, without developing a mean streak.
That willingness to do anything – throw sneak elbows, flop dramatically, claw for the ball – two Yanks said they were bitten on Monday – was evident in the Salvador players. They have played street soccer; they have played empty-field soccer. They go for blood. They may also go to London.
The U.S. team showed no experience while flubbing possessions in the final minutes. As a result, keeper Sean Johnson, in the match only because of injury, had to field a hard last-gasp shot that took a nasty bounce and handcuffed him. Anybody watching the match in person or on the tube might have cringed at Johnson's utter failure, and felt sorry for him.
But keep in mind, keepers are only supposed to be the last resort. Many goals are not their fault. In such a low-scoring sport, if the ball is near the goal, other things have gone wrong on defense, first.
Back to the latest development program.
Freddy Adu, once over-hyped as the great Ghanaian-born hope, could have avoided all that horror with one possession, one time-wasting maneuver, one chip into the far end of the field. But Freddy was on the bench. And now, so is the United States.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.