Monday, June 22, 2009

What to Make of the U.S.A.

First things first, I want to thank Francisco for asking me to be a part of the FutbolNation blog team. The man has some serious writing chops and I hope everyone will be as entertained by our posts and as I have been by his e-mails in the past. In the future you'll see me write about DC United, Manchester United, and Juventus, but today I want to focus on the the U.S. Men's National Team.

It's pretty amazing how 90 minutes can alter one's perception of an entire tournament. As of Sunday morning, the Confederations Cup was a complete disaster for the US, having lost to Italy under unfortunate circumstances and capitulating against Brazil. A day later and the US is essentially telling all their critics to "f--- off!"

Admittedly I've recently increasingly soured on Bob Bradley, and some horrible coaching decisions and subsequent terrible play of some against Italy and Brazil only made matters worse.

No one will ever call Bradley a world class coach, and for the US to ever challenge consistently during international tournaments it will need a coach who has a tactical acumen lacking in the current US soccer coaching circles. But Bradley has still done fairly well during his tenure. The US was not entirely overmatched last summer during a string of friendlies against top sides (Spain, England, and Argentina), they've continued regional dominance over Mexico, and until recently World Cup qualifying has gone smoothly.

On the other hand, Bradley has developed few young players, makes strange team selections, and often plays horrible tactics. He has largely ignored Charlie Davies until the Egypt game, a speedy player that brings qualities often lacking in US forwards. He also has an aversion to Jose Francisco Torres, one of the few US players who is skillful and comfortable on the ball and can help control the tempo of possession. Bradley kept calling on Eddie Johnson long after he brought anything to the table, and the same can be said of DaMarcus Beasley, who needs an extended run at the club level before getting another whiff of the National Team.

But I'll give credit where credit is due. While I was lambasting Bradley's decision to play Clint Dempsey against Egypt after a series of uninspired performances, he stuck with him. The key however was the decision to push Dempsey forward, which is a much better position for him than playing from the wing. Similarly, I've greatly championed Bradley's deployment of Landon Donovan on the wing (despite his continued inability to hit a decent cross -- can anyone on the US team hit a decent free kick?!).

As for the rest of the team, I've been greatly impressed with Oguchi, I think DeMerit has acquitted himself well, and I'm happy to see Jonathan Spector playing closer to the promise many saw in him as a youngster signing originally for Man U. The center of the midfield continues to bring with it selection issues. Clark has replaced Pablo Mastroeni as a walking red card waiting to happen, but deploying him with Michael Bradley allows the younger Bradley to do more damage marauding forward the way he's done so well for Heerenveen and Borussia Mönchengladbach. But playing that duo leaves out Benny Feilhaber, one of the few players who can change a game with his vision and ability on the ball. While I would prefer to have Feilhaber starting in the middle, his current super-sub role has worked out in the Confederations Cup.

So, do you agree/disagree? I don't have any real novel thoughts here, but just wanted to get the discussion rolling. Let me know what you think.

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