The Cloying Stench of the Inevitable | a USA Match Reaction

Hey, guess what! You know those teams with all the World Cup trophies? The ones with the history, tradition, and piles of expensive players commanding vast sums of Euros for their talent, drive, and ability to perform consistently on the big stage? They're still much better than we are. Shocker, I know. Still, none of that excuses some of the crap on display, both from players and from coach in these two opening matches of the Confederations Cup. So let's dish, shall we..?

* Too many simple mistakes. True, the first goal came from a free kick awarded to Brazil for a player tripping over his own feet. That doesn't excuse the lack of marking from said free kick. And how is it that Bob can't see that Beasley is a walking turnover machine? I counted at least three occasions where he coughed the ball up that led to direct chances for Brazil. And that's just in this game! Wake up, Bob! Beasley may be one of our most experienced players, and he's had some good success at club level as well, but at the moment, he shouldn't even be getting called up, much less be starting. The fact that he was taken off at the half says that Bob saw the problem, but why didn't he anticipate it, given all of the prior evidence?

* Bad decisions. Hand in hand with the first point, and really more of a rephrasing than its own distinct complaint, but I've got a bit of bitching to do, so excuse my piling on here, will you? Kljestan's tackle was pretty much a rerun of Clark's. Dumb tackle. Probably would have been a yellow were it not for the tackler being a no-name MLSer and the tacklee being a member of the vaunted Azzurri or sparkling Seleção. But a dumb tackle that could have been avoided nonetheless. Not that you'd have expected anything different from those two, considering the number of forced, direct balls, wayward one-touch play, and "passes" to the opposition keeper or end-line. And not that they were the only ones at fault.

* Bob overmatched? Let's review. Bob in CONCACAF? Not so bad. He reeled in a Gold Cup, has us on our way, though not particularly comfortably, to qualification, and sometimes puts out teams that look like they know what they're doing against the best the Caribbean can throw at us. But in non-CONCACAF international tourneys? And I'm not talking friendlies, because those aren't the real deal. I'm talking honest-to-goodness, multiple-game, elimination tournaments. What has he done? Let's review Copa America 2007 and the Confederations Cup so far. No wins, no draws, five losses. Three goals scored, fourteen conceded for a -11 goal difference. Hey, you got any hopes to move beyond the group stage of South Africa 2010 with Bob at the helm? Really? Pass me whatever you're smoking/drinking/shooting up.

* Altidore needs a running mate. Maybe one day, in the fullness of time, Altidore will develop into the type of striker that can play alone up top. At the moment, however, he is not that type. He functions much better with someone nearby to play quick touches with, someone to draw a little attention so that he can dart into space or have room to receive the ball. Neither Bob's awful attempt at a 4-3-3 or the 4-4-1-1/4-5-1 provides Jozy this opportunity. Is he too young to be carrying the burden of getting the goals? Maybe. But he'd probably do a damn sight better if he wasn't so isolated up top.

* Demspsey Diving. Clint used to be my favorite national team player. Used to be. I love that he still feels confident enough to break out the tricks and take on defenders. But do it in the attacking end, and do it with productive intent please! And, for crap's sake...STOP DIVING! He must have a rep by now, because even when he is getting fouled, the Whistlemen are motioning him to get up. You'd almost excuse it if he made his living in La Liga and had spent his entire career there. But for a player that made his name sticking his noggin in where it hurts and plying his trade in MLS and the Premiership...

* Reflection of Donovan. I've figured out why this US team pisses me off so much. It's because it's an almost perfect reflection of Landon Donovan. Moments of promise, even in lost causes, that ultimately fizzle? Sure. Dominant on the home front (MLS/CONCACAF), but pissy and ineffective abroad (Germany for club and country, international tournaments)? Got that too. Majority of goals coming from set pieces and not the run of play? Oh, now this is getting freaky! The thing is: there are bits and pieces there that really seem like they'll be great, but they never seem to pan out when the chips are tossed on the big table. It's frustrating. Like the frustrations I'm sure most of us have that Donovan has never really seemed to fulfill his promise or become a dominant figure on the big (international) occasion. The frustration of seeing a team that, while not a world-beater, can certainly be competitive with the world's finest. In fact, they often friendlies. But when push comes to shove...

I'm tempted to go on here, but I'm going to end this by inviting you to have your say about what's going wrong, if indeed there is anything to worry about. It's not like Italy and Brazil are easy pickings. Needless to say, I'm continuing to compile a "list of what we've learned" seeing as how this is supposed to be a fact-finding mission and/or dry run for next summer. And I will present that at the conclusion of the tournament, but for now, all I feel is frustration blended with embarrassment.

Does that mean I want to see the same old "proven" players sent into action against Egypt? Hell no! We know what we're going to get out of those players. Let's see some of the kids in a more apt test. No World Cup group is going to include both Italy and Brazil. Egypt is much more reflective of the type of opponent we're going to need to beat in order to advance. So run out Torres, run out Adu. Heck, throw on the blazing-fast stone feet of Wynne. I'm pretty comfortable with the core of the team being Howard, Gooch, Boca, Bradley, Donovan, and Altidore. Around that you can mix and match. Feilhaber, Torres, and Spector should probably be in the picture. But some of the others need to rediscover themselves or make way.


  1. I don't know whether you waste your time on bigsoccer or not; I try to avoid it for the most part, but there are a few people I occasionally browse the posts of. One of those people is Nutmeg. I've thought for a while that Nutmeg has been (a) too harsh on Bob Bradley and (b) overly optimistic about the results another coach could achieve with our player pool (Nutmeg usually advocates for a more technical style of play, incorporating some of the younger players -- Adu, Torres, Holden, etc. -- and dropping the bigger but less skillful guys like DeMerit or Bocanegra).

    But the last four games have changed my mind. The fightback against Honduras was a decent result against a decent team (it would have an impressive result in Honduras) and I was willing to write off (or even give some credit for) the Italy result given the game-changing red card. But the displays in Costa Rica and today against Brazil were so pathetically devoid of drive, heart, and skill that I think we have interpret the results against Honduras and Italy as the likely highpoints of the Bradley regime, not decent results in difficult circumstances. I'd be happy with a team that gets those results on a bad day, but I'm certain that we can do better on a good day.

    I no longer have any faith that Bradley is capable of coaching us to that better, though. So I'm ready to endorse Nutmeg's letter to Sunil fullstop. Might even mail a copy.

  2. In case Sunil didn't hear me, I'm going to repeat myself:

    I'm so upset I might mail him a letter.

  3. Right now we are awful. There is no interplay, very little vision or effective ball movement and what concerned me most is that I saw little hustle or heart.

    I'm not ready to give up on Bob (though I wonder if he is missing Nowak a bit), but there is a lot to fix.

    The good news is we have a year to get ready. The bad news is we have a year to get ready.

    First, let's recognize that there are some things the players will have to fix themselves. Beasley, Edu, Feilhaber and Spector need to stay healthy and get into matches on regular basis. Bocanegra and Onyewu need to keep starting for their teams and stay healthy. Adu and Altidore need to get into games and stay healthy. Klejstan, Donovan and Torres need to move overseas and start for squads in top tier leagues in order to sharpen their skills (and stay healthy). Bradley and Dempsey need to continue developing and starting with their squads and stay healthy. Bottom line, our guys need more games in tough competitive environments to sharpen both their technical skills, resilience and combativeness.

    Next Bob should signal a few guys they are not being called up for a while (Beasley definitely, Klejstant maybe).

    Third, this is not a team with enough talent to play total football or switch formations on the fly. We don't have the players to play a 4-3-3, so we are better of with a 4-4-2 with the center-mids playing from deep positions. Everyone should know where they plug in and where they are on the depth chart.

    Finally, we will need players like Ching and Hejduk (Cherundholo too) to bring the type of leadership, heart and grit that will provide a spine for this team. Maybe we keep them in the locker room on game day, but these guys were just listless today (and in Costa Rica). Donovan can't provide that kind of leadershp, neither can Onyewu. Howard tries; but he is too far back on the pitch. Bradley might but he is too hotheaded. We thought Mastroeni could, but he can't play at this level anymore.

    Miles to go before we sleep.....

  4. I know a lot of people aren't high on Brian Ching, but he's the grease that keeps the offense from looking as inept as it has. He's no goal-scoring machine, but the team is better when he's holding up play, keying with a strike partner, and winning fouls. We need him healthy and out there.

    DaMarcus Beasley has been my favorite American player for a long time, but guy's gotta start getting minutes for a club *somewhere* before Bradley even thinks his name again.

    I'm wondering what happened to the formula we used to use - the never pretty bunker and counter. It's almost like we had such success against CONCACAF that we thought we could go toe-to-toe with the big boys and come out on top. Didn't work out so well. We have the speed and the guys who can hit the long ball accurately on the counter (not Tim Howard's blasts to the end line, but Bradley/Feilhaber/Boca can pick people out). Of course, the strategy only works when you can keep the ball out of your own net for more than 4 minutes... which hasn't been happening.

    I'm 100% with trotting some youngsters out to have a run at Egypt.


  5. For the most part I agree with the comments. As far as Landon, I have to disagree. He is the only player giving extensive effort. He is also the only player that can successfully take on great players. I do wish he'd shoot more, but he should have had 2 assists against Italy. I do think that building around Landon with skilled players would provide results. Also, Bob does have to go. We need more leadership, better tactics, better substitutions and most of all, better results.

  6. @rob
    I'm with you on the feeling against Bob, though it's come and gone for me during his entire tenure.

    As for BigSoccer, I lurk and occasionally post, but mostly it just makes my head hurt, so I avoid it as well. And writing to Sunil? Isn't Sunil the root of the problem to begin with? To what higher power can we appeal to have him dug up and cast on the compost pile of American soccer?

    Here's my thing with der Kapitan Kissypants. He shows the flashes, like that great dribbling run along the sideline and to the edge of the box against Brazil, but then he invariably dishes the responsibility to someone else. Sure, that's probably the right play when your compatriots can finish the job. Witness Bradley and Altidore choking on Donovan balls against Italy (ewwww, bad image ;-).

    I want him, just once, to say "screw it, I'm going to do this," and try to beat that last defender and get the shot off. The problem is that he does so well (in flashes) up to the final third, just like the rest of the team. We have periods of nice possession passing, but it leads to sweet crap-all.

    Let me make this clear. I don't fault the effort or energy Donovan expends, it's the smart application of the effort or energy and the willingness to shoulder responsibility. He does it from the PK spot, so why not from open play?

  7. Your analogy between Donovan and the USMNT as a whole is uncanny.

    Is it possible that everyone is overreacting to 2 poor performances? I seriously doubt Bob Bradley is going to get fired over losing in a meaningless tournament. Our only goal right now needs to be qualifying for the World Cup, and I just don't think it would be smart for someone else to take over in the middle of WCQ when the other teams in Concacaf already seem to be giving us a harder time than in years past.

  8. I don't think the reaction is to two poor performances (and, to be fair, I'd lump in the road performances against El Salvador and Costa Rica with the two Confed Cup ones). It's to (1) the blinders that Bob has on about some of the players that seem to have locks on their starting spots, (2) Bob's miserable competitive record against anybody but CONCACAF, and (3) the frustration of the brick wall that awaits after qualifying.

    That last point is the one that's the key. Sure, Bob will probably manage to get us qualified. But from all indications, that seems to be as far as he can take us. We'll qualify, go over, and get our asses handed to us.

    I just don't see the tactical nous, the willingness to drop underperforming "proven vets," or the ability to blend a team to get performances and results that seem to exceed the sum of the parts involved.

    But the most damning thing of all is that I think the players are too damn comfortable. I'm not so naive as to think that we stand a chance of winning the World Cup, but it might be nice to have a team that seems to be evolving and improving and hungry rather than resting on the laurels of Gold Cups and Japorea 2002.

    And I just wonder if our troubles with qualification aren't so much an indication of the improvement of the rest of CONCACAF as they are our own lack of improvement. Mexico's current plight should be a flashing alarm with bells and whistles and biohazard stickers slapped all over it pointing to the logical conclusion of arrogant complacency and entitlement.