More US National Team Thoughts

More US National Team Thoughts

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 25, 2009
  • 4 Comments
  • Confederations Cup, Geoff Reid
This bunch may be the group we've been asking for out of Bob Bradley. (Getty Images)

This bunch may be the group we've been asking for out of Bob Bradley. (Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: Geoff Reid appears on WVHooligan.com each week. Today he give his thoughts on the US in the Confederations Cup so far. Feel free to leave Geoff a note below.

The tournament doesnít yet finish until Sunday, however, there has already been a lot of talking points regarding the US National Team in South Africa. The tournament itself we all know is a walk through before the World Cup next summer, a test run if you will for all the teams involved and the country of South Africa in general. So far my only complaint would be the annoying noise of vivuzelaís around each game.

At this moment in time, itís a complete 180 degree difference from the feelings we all were thinking after the first two games. Not even the most optimistic of US fans would have said they had confidence the Nats would get out of the group stage, yet thatís exactly whatís happened. The call for head coach Bob Bradley to be fired or resign were completely uncalled for after two defeats against the defending world champions and arguably the best team in the world right now. Itís amazing in what a difference a week can make.

The first match against the Italians was encouraging enough, even though it was certainly a real kick in the teeth having an American come off the bench and score two goals against team USA to help the Azzuri notch a win. The loss against Brazil was demoralizing to say the least, but peopleís reactions were to put it nicely, over the top. What a lot of fans donít understand is that itís hard to bring that type of intensity to every match for 90 minutes. By no means am I defending the performance against Brazil because I can assure everyone I was just as wound up as the next person. What I am trying to do is simply put things into perspective and be realistic. Glenn Davis rightly pointed out on his fantastic radio show in Houston that peopleís expectations are just too high in some cases and hype is built up then when reality sets in and we lose to Brazil and Italy, the reaction is unrealistic.

The usual in sports is that if a team is under performing, the coach gets the criticism, sometimes thatís a fair assessment and other times its not. I believe in this instance its not. As a coach, you could draw up the best tactical game plan and the best strategy, but if the players donít execute it doesnít matter. The first two games the players didnít execute.

The one highly amusing example of how naive critics of Bob Bradley can be would be the formation and tactics against Costa Rica in San Jose earlier this month. The Nats under Bradley have traditionally gone for a 4-5-1, especially away from home and relying on set pieces with the height of defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu as dangerous weapons and counter attacks with quick players such as Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley (who looks to be out of favor and rightly so) and creative players to spark attacks like Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to get the goals. Everyone was criticizing Bob for this saying all kinds of crazy theories about how players are getting worse under his leadership and how heís tactically naive amongst other things. Some people expect we should be beating Costa Rica in Saprissa Stadium. So what does he do in Costa Rica? He goes for a more attacking lineup with a 4-3-3 to start with and everyone then starts praising him before the team gets beat 3-0. Now all the critics are saying he should have gone for a more defensive lineup such as, you guessed it, 4-5-1.

We fast forward to today and now everyone is singing a different tune. The folks who have been calling for Bobís head have now gone silent and rightly so after beating the European Champions against their top team and players.Bradley ís job is safe now if it wasnít before todayís match. The players didnít put a foot wrong all game. There was constant pressure whenever Spain had the ball and didnít give Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso any time or space to play those dangerous pin point passes to David Villa and Fernando Torres. The US broke quickly with the pace of Donovan, Charlie Davis and Josmier Altidiore.

What have we learned? Donít be surprised if Jay DeMerit solidifies his position next to Onyewu in the center of defense with Bocanegra playing his club position at left back. Jonathan Spector may just have cemented his place at right back, at least ahead of Frankie Hedjuk and it will be interesting once Steve Cherundolo is healthy again. Clint Dempseyís game has improved tremendously under Roy Hodgson and even though he has frustrated this tournament, the last two games have proven why he is such an important piece to this puzzle. Michael Bradley just seems to get better with each game and still has time on his side. Even when the team wasnít performing well he was the arguably the best of the worst and looks like heís in the mold of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard as good examples of goal scoring midfielders. Ricardo Clark has done well and was unlucky to get the red card against Italy as it was a yellow at worst. Itís fair to say he has cemented his place in World Cup qualifying squads, and it will be interesting to see what happens once Jermaine Jones is eligible to play. Benny Feilhaber has looked to also give Bob Bradley another option is what has now become the teamís position that has the most depth. Landon Donovanís stock has risen and in the final year of his contract with the Galaxy, you have to wonder if any other European admirers have been added. Up front, Altidiore helped himself in the most recent match by scoring against the nation in which he plays his club football, or lack their of. Charlie Davis has also raised a few eyebrows with his two good performances his last two starts.

This team still has plenty of question marks, but we now know what this team is also capable of. Just like everyone else, I want to see more playing time for Jose Francisco Torres because he reminds me of John OíBrien in his technical ability.

Also, it must be pointed out a lot of folks have been going on about giving Freddy Adu more playing time. Quite simply I ask why? Apart from a few world youth cups heís not proven himself, not even in MLS. Yes, the kid has talent and is much more technically gifted then most players in the national team pool. But tactically he is still very lacking. Iíve said before he would get a better look from Bob Bradley if he wanted to do the dirty work and track back when possession is lost and trying to win the ball back. Thatís not a criticism, I want Adu to succeed and go on to do what he was hyped to do five years ago. Turning professional at 14 was a mistake and should have waited at least two more years until he was 16. The good news is he is still only 20 years old which seems amazing because heís been around for over six years. Come on Freddy, were supporting you!

  • Kevin

    I still want Bradley's head. He's a terrible coach who got extremely lucky that his players pulled together and showed some heart to overcome an incredibly rough patch. This by no means qualifies him as more than a good MLS coach. He should go take over in New Jersey, I hear they're having some trouble.

  • Soccer Jerseys

    It's hard to imagine that this was the same team that started the tournament. I agree, the call to fire Bradley were very premature.

  • Kevin

    I still want Bradley’s head. He’s a terrible coach who got extremely lucky that his players pulled together and showed some heart to overcome an incredibly rough patch. This by no means qualifies him as more than a good MLS coach. He should go take over in New Jersey, I hear they’re having some trouble.

  • It’s hard to imagine that this was the same team that started the tournament. I agree, the call to fire Bradley were very premature.