SALT LAKE CITY -- There was only one thing going on at the Revolution’s team hotel in Salt Lake City this morning as the players awaited their evening matchup with defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake: Wake up, load up at the breakfast buffet in the lobby, and head back to the room to watch Brazil-Netherlands in the World Cup quarterfinals.
What an upset. The Nederlanders rode their luck, technical ability and Brazil’s lack of composure to a semifinal berth with their 2-1 victory. One felt like these teams could play nine more times in a row and the Dutch might not win another game, but this was their day.
Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis was, like most observers, not expecting an Orange victory. “I was kind of surprised seeing the game and watching Brazil go up early,” said Reis. “I thought it was just going to be a cruise for them. But Brazil really didn’t seem to attack much after their goal and Holland fought their way back into it."
As might be expected, Reis praised the work of the Netherlands goalkeeper.
“Maarten Stekelenburg made an incredible save on Kaká to keep it close,” Reis said. “The Dutch prevailed in the end and the Brazilian players kind of lost their heads. [Brazil midfielder] Felipe Melo had the game of his life: He had a red card, the own goal, and he left his man on the second goal. Poor guy. I’m not sure he’s going to be allowed back into Rio de Janeiro.”
Revs defender/midfielder Chris Tierney said Holland was fortunate to take the victory. “It was a good game and an amazing result for the Netherlands,” he said. “I thought they were a little lucky to come away with the win. I thought that Brazil controlled the game and had a couple of chances that, had they put them away, it would have been a different story."
The hopes of all of sub-Saharan Africans rested with the Black Stars of Ghana as the only remaining team from the host continent still in the competition, so Ghana’s loss to Uruguay on penalty kicks was a stunning disappointment.
For Ghana to see Asamoah Gyan miss his penalty kick opportunity in added time of the second overtime period -- which, if converted, would have set off celebrations from Mali to Malawi -- and then lose in the shootout was just too cruel from an African perspective.
As the Revs players filed into the pregame meal in the afternoon, Gambian midfielder/forward Kenny Mansally agreed that Africans were unified in their support for Ghana. “Every African in the whole continent was for Ghana. They were the only African team left. Now that they’re out of the tournament you can see the African faces are so sad. Even the South Africans. All the Africans I know right now are sad,” he said.
Once Gyan missed his stoppage-time penalty, Mansally said, he felt the belief slipping from the Ghanaian players and fans. “After that opportunity they got and then they lose it for me, I was like, ‘This is it, and we’re done.’ Because when you lose that kind of opportunity it takes heart away from people. So when he [missed] that PK, the feeling was, we’re not going to make it anymore,” said Mansally.
As Mansally spoke, his compatriot Sainey Nyassi walked past on his way to the meal. “My heart is bleeding,” said Nyassi. The Revolution’s lone player from Ghana, Emmanuel Osei, meanwhile, never emerged from his hotel room to attend the meal.
From a tactical perspective, the pro players felt Uruguay striker Luis Suárez made a savvy play to keep the ball out of the net with his arm during a late barrage by Ghana. “It’s going to turn out to be one of the best handballs of all time by Suárez,” said Tierney.
Asked if the rules should be changed to award a goal in situations when field players deliberately handle the ball on the goal line, Tierney’s reply was that players have to play the laws of the game as they are written. “That’s the debate. It’s something Sepp Blatter and FIFA have to think about. But credit to Suárez. He made a quick decision,” he said.
Tierney also said he respected Gyan’s composure and willingness to take and stroke home a confident penalty kick in the shootout just minutes after crashing his previous effort off the bar. “Obviously Ghana had a great opportunity to win it for Africa. But that’s soccer. It’s cruel.”
Brad Feldman is the television and radio play-by-play voice of the New England Revolution and supervising producer for all of the Revolution's regional telecasts. He is host of the online programs RevsWrap and In the Net and has 12 years of experience announcing and producing MLS and international soccer TV. He will be blogging on the FIFA World Cup for ESPN Boston throughout the tournament.