Grant Tunkel‘s reports from the other side of the Atlantic, chronicling the pride and joy inspired by USA performances at Brazil 2014, have given a valuable extra dimension to our World Cup coverage. Before he reverts to writing as an American Sunderland supporter, here – delayed by his own sporting commitments (he had a game immediately after the Belgium match) – are his thoughts on a noble exit …
It used to be said that football could never be popular in the USA because the country had no interest in a sport it couldn’t win. Has Brazil 2014 finally changed that? The fans in the stadiums and on social media are vocal enough but what about the broader picture? With a last 16 tie with Belgium looming, it would fascinating to hear from our Sunderland-supporting American correspondent Grant Tunkel how the team’s impressive progress is being received back home.
For now, he reflects on Jürgen Klinsmann’s success in leading the USA out of tricky group stage – a much tougher task than faced much-praised France – despite a narrow defeat to Germany. Cue a Jozy Altidore goal or two on return from injury to see off the Belgians? …
With England out, the Salut! Sunderland readership choice of the USA makes them our Brazil 2014 team. Our US correspondent Grant Tunkel rode an uncontrollable rollercoaster of emotions, from hope to dismay to ecstasy to last-ditch disappointment to pride, as the USA recovered from a woeful start against Portugal, deservedly equalised, even more deservedly led and then suffered the cruel injustice of the loss of two points in the dying seconds. That man Ronaldo, mastered for huge chunks of the game, popped up with a magical cross and 2-1 was suddenly 2-2.
Progress can still be ensured by avoiding defeat in the last game of the group stage and Ghana have shown Germany can be matched. Now read and feel Grant’s report …
Typical. Sunderland’s one man at Brazil 2014 – we can no longer count Ki – sees his first game and presumably his World Cup end after 20 minutes. Poor Jozy Altidore. After a rotten season, his goals in the warm-up had given hope. He had one chance before his hamstring injury and, though not clearcut (the ball ran behind him), ought have done better with it.
In the end, the USA, ahead in the first minute but pegged back by a late equaliser created by Asamoah Gyan, whose performance deepened the disbelief that he should have chosen lower-league level football and desert gold over the Premier, snatched a dramatic win. It was fitting that a country chosen by Salut! Sunderland as their honorary second team in Brazil should make a winning start. Our Californian Dreaming columnist Grant Tunkel, a Sunderland supporter out west, was over on the Eastern seaboard to share the delirium of fellow Americans in a NYC bar. Yep, bar …
No Sixer’s Soapbox from this of all games. Pete Sixsmith announced a few weeks ago that he would not be at Chelsea – has he now relented over Man Utd? – but the decision had much less to do with Sunderland’s then quite hopeless plight than his disdain for Stamford Bridge and those who inhabit it. Ray Knight’s excellent, and amusing Chelsea ‘Who are You?’ made me warm to Chelsea supporters a little (I had already felt pleased when they beat PSG), until one Peter Scott began a series of incomprehensible, condescending postings after my own report at ESPN.
So no Sixer to record this momentous victory. Let a recent addition to the ranks of contributors, Grant Tunkel, offer his own sunny view from California …
Grant Tunkel is one of the ever increasing band of Salut! Sunderland contributors who follow the club from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Another in fact, to whom a day out at the seaside means a plodge in blue Pacific waters, rather than the grey of the North Sea. But like Sunderland fans from Seaburn to Sydney, today’s performance leaves him distinctly underwhelmed.
Early in the second half, the question was posed to me: “So Grant, what did you expect from this Arsenal game?”
I answered: “To at least show up.”
A win was highly unlikely, and a draw was probably the best-case scenario. If Sunderland was to lose, perhaps a one- or two-goal defeat would be tolerable. (After all, goal differential could become a major factor in the fight to avoid relegation.)
But to not even get off the bus Saturday in north London — did the Black Cats even board it on Wearside? — was unexpected and disconcerting.
Yes, there’s a clear talent gap between the two sides, which was apparent in the first 45 minutes at The Emirates. But Sunderland had an opportunity to play the role of battling underdog and try to play a physical, cohesive style.
Instead, they looked scared.
There’s no need to replay all four goals against, but the second and fourth tallies were case-in-point moments. Santiago Vergini, whom I was excited to see in a starting role, made a terrible pass to free Olivier Giroud for a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, Vergini whiffed on an otherwise uncontested clearance. On the ensuing corner, Laurent Koscielny roamed free for an easy header and the Gunners’ fourth goal.
If not for Emmanuelle Giaccherini’s second-half strike, the score would be a total mess. Instead, it was just a partial one.
The Black Cats’ defending and tackling was hesitant. Their possession looked rattled. Again, it’s unreasonable to expect a bottom-of-the-table side to hang with a Champions League contender away from home. But to play scared, that’s another story.
This Sunderland team looked nothing like the one that went into Old Trafford and won on penalties, nor the one that routed Newcastle away. The confident style of play was missing Saturday. Perhaps the Cats’ confidence was stuck on the team bus, too.
So now it’s time to rally the troops. Sunderland have suffered a disconcerting loss to Hull City and a dismantling by Arsenal in consecutive league games. Adam Johnson and Jozy Altidore have been nonexistent. The back line has been shaky (not Vito Mannone, though.)
Gus Poyet has his work cut out for him. But I’ve been championing the motto, “In Gus We Trust.” With Wembley waiting and the drop zone beckoning, Sunderland and its supporters must trust Gus now more than ever. He has to make sure, at the very least, his team gets off the bus for it’s remaining matches.
Grant Tunkel: I’m a play-by-play broadcaster and multimedia journalist. As a broadcaster, I have called games for seven years at the professional and collegiate levels. As a journalist, I’ve covered stories ranging from the hiring of Lane Kiffin as the head football coach at the University of Southern California to the appointment of Jose Gomez as Archbishop of the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Sunderland is my adopted team. My website is GrantTunkel.com.
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Salut! Sunderland welcomes a new contributor, Grant Tunkel*, an American journalist drawn to SAFC by the signing of Jozy Altidore. Altidore gets a lot of stick. Some of this, M Salut, feels, is unfair given the thankless role he often plays and the pitiful service he receives. What is difficult to overlook, however, is that he is a striker who doesn’t score and that, to put it mildly, is a serious defect. For his first piece, Grant reflects on the big man’s form and offers some encouragement. California Dreaming is a first thought as generic title for his offerings and, as is our custom with practitioners of other forms of English, the Americanisms remain. NB: ‘behoove’, a verb seen here for the first time, has impeccable Old English origins . …