Ahead of the Curve
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Better safe than sorry.  It's usually a pretty sound strategy.  It's why we buy insurance and change the tires every coupla' years.

You see it in sport, too.  In baseball, a run may be conceded to get a crucial out or a batter walked intentionally.  In football, if it's early, you punt (or go for 3 pts) on 4th down and one.

And then there's the prevent defense, still used by many gridiron coaches to prevent the big play late in the game.  It makes football fans cringe.  Not only does it fail miserably to prevent a score, but it allows it to happen in half the time.

Soccer has it's own version of the prevent defense.  When protecting a lead, a coach may shut down the offense, try to run out the clock and hope his goalie doesn't get besieged.

That's what Costa Rica did Wednesday night against the USA at RFK Stadium.  The strategy saw them lose a 2-0 halftime lead and end up with a 2-2 tie.  The misplayed, mismanaged opportunity may have cost them a spot in the 2010 World Cup.

I sympathize with Costa Rica.  USA had already qualified and I would not have been greatly saddened had our friends to the south been victorious.

And we Yanks know a little something about blowing a lead.  It wasn't long ago we were scratching our heads trying to figure out how we could've blown our 2-0 lead against Brazil in Confederation Cup play last summer.

But the sporting Gods do not reward passive play.  The endurance and bench-depth that's needed to stay aggressive is all part of the test.  Like Torii Hunter said last week when his Angels came from behind to beat Boston: "That's why we play nine innings."

George C. Scott has a line in his famous movie role as Patton where he chastises one of his over-cautious generals: "Remember what Frederick the Great (George Danton) said: L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace (Audacity, audacity, always audacity).  You want to guard against being too conservative," says Patton.

Sound advice for generals, coaches and right-wing radio jockeys from Missouri.

Steven Keys

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