EDGAR ZUNIGA - Sunday, June 14, 2009
As expected, the US went into the "Monster's Cave" and got whooped like a government mule. Now, I've never seen such a thing, but it must be a very ugly thing to behold, because that's the worst the US has played in a long time.

Yeah, they lost in Saprissa 3-0 in the final hexagonal of qualifying for World Cup 2006, but, the US had already clinched their spot in the World Cup so they fielded a bunch of scrubs for that one, and Costa Rica was desperate for a win to get them to Germany.

This time, there was no excuse.

The US came into Saprissa and, from the first whistle, looked like a bunch of scolded dogs, running around with their tails between their legs. Realistically, the final score should have been 6-1. And wouldn't that have been a feather in Bob Bradley's cap?

Following the script, we saw the US return home to scratch out a gutsy win over a strong Honduran team that could have easily put the score out of reach early on. While the US should be patted on the back for pulling off that momentous comeback, a team that wants to challenge the world's elite shouldn't be sweating matches against teams viewed as minnows on the global scale.

And this is where we have to take a step back and look at the current state of the US Men's National Team.

Since Paul Caligiuri scored, arguably, the most important goal in US Soccer history, back in 1989, to send the US to Italia '90, the US National Team has become exponentially better. Some say Team USA peaked in '02. Others argue that Team USA was the victim of the Group of Death in '06.

But, let's look at the team today.

Despite success in CONCACAF, the US hasn't lived up to expectations outside the region and is far removed from FIFA's elite. Not only has Bob been unable to extract the maximum potential out of his current crop of players, the US National Team pool has proven to be actually quite shallow…wading pool shallow.

Just look at what ill-timed injuries to Maurice Edu and Frankie Hejduk did to the defense.

Total disarray.

Team USA is an injury to Landon Donovan away from disaster.

Meanwhile, Bob just stands there and blinks. He's not even getting a slap on the wrist.

Here, in the US, our soccer coaches aren't subject to the same standards, expectations and pressure as in other nations. The US Soccer Federation seems content that whoever's in charge does enough to get the team to the World Cup and maintain dominance in the little ghetto we call CONCACAF.

To the US, just getting to the World Cup is a huge deal.

To Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina, not getting to the final is seen as a catastrophe.

After the 2-2 draw in El Salvador, Bob should have been on the hot seat. After the failure in Costa Rica, he could have been shown his walking papers. But US Soccer doesn't run things that way.

Pressure? What pressure?

With all its resources, the US National Team should be aspiring for world domination. However, recent results serve as evidence to the erosion beneath the façade; the entire program actually seems to be in regression, or, at the very least, plateaued.

You don't agree?

Does anyone seriously think that the US has a legitimate shot at finishing in one of the top two spots of their group in the upcoming Confederations Cup? Italy and Brazil are as heavy as heavyweights get. And, back-to-back African champions Egypt aren't about to roll over for the CONCACAF giants.

US Soccer wants to measure itself against the world's best—prove that it can be a World Cup contender. Barring at least one monumental upset, the US will find that it's barely nipping at their heels.

What happened to that tough-as-nails, can-do attitude from the '02 team? After that amazing performance, everyone announced that the "sleeping giant" had finally woken…only for it to stretch its arms, blink a bit, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Not only is the US far from expectations, the current team is beneath the '02 squad.

Quick: name one US field player that can truly be deemed as world-class.


You'd think that after '02, one of those young players would have developed into a world-class player. DaMarcus Beasley? Nope. Clint Mathis? Try again. Landon Donovan? Not really.

Maybe, one day, Jozy Altidore will reach that point. However, he has been almost invisible in the recent matches against Costa Rica and Honduras. Will his existence even be acknowledged against Italy, Brazil or Egypt?

Is it too much to ask the US to do well in the Confederations Cup, or should we just be content for this opportunity at a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup?

US Soccer fans should demand more. They deserve more.

You want to say that your team can compete with the world's best and you want that team to at least put forth that effort. But, more often that not, you get Europeans or South Americans snickering in your face and pooh-poohing our team.

The worst part is that the grip the US has on CONCACAF is a tenuous one at best.

Hopefully, the matches against Costa Rica and Honduras will slap some life into the National Team and revive that gritty attitude that has propelled the team to victories over stronger foes. With the upcoming Confederation Cup matches against Italy and Brazil, the US will have an opportunity to inject some confidence into a faltering program.

Even if they lose, if they could at least show some grit and determination, it will be enough to rekindle that fighting spirit.

Nevertheless, someone has to light a fire under Bob to produce better results from his players. Maybe he lacks the ambition or vision to take this team to a higher ground. Then, the question begs to be asked: Will US Soccer turn to a coach with serious international experience?

Jurgen Klinsmann recently joined the ranks of the unemployed. Maybe the suits at US Soccer are considering making him another pitch to take the reins of the National Team. That could be a way of letting Bob know that he needs to step up the ante or get the axe.

With a very busy summer, the US players will be spending a lot of time together. If they can't gel during this time, then it's obvious that a change needs to be made, or the US will suffer the same fate as Mexico, which slept on its laurels, fell on its face and is now choking a on a huge slice of dirt cake.
Tuesday June 16, 2009 12:51 am
I would define "world class players" as those capable of starting on a team in one of the top 4 soccer leagues. I don't think you necessarily need super stars (see Messi, Ronaldo, etc) to have international success but you need guys who can compete on that highest level. The U.S. just doesn't have enough of them; Dempsey, Howard, Bradley, Onyewu (although he's not in one of the top 4 leagues I think he could play for a lot of those teams). I think Landon Donovan has the talent to compete on the highest level, but just doesn't have the mental toughness.
Monday June 15, 2009 6:17 pm
Bob Bradley should be on the proverbial "Hot Seat" since that disastrous 2-2 tie in El Salvador. Yes, the team will most likely qualify for 2010 but I still don't see anything very postive coming out of this team other than Altidore.

The USSF blew all opportunities to obtain the services of Hiddink and blew it. Hiddink is a winner wherever he goes and here we are with Bob Bradley at the helm. But to be fair I won't lay it all on his feet. A big part of the problem are the American players in the MLS. MLS teaches matador style defense, just sit there and never close down on a player threatening the goal. It's amazing how Conor Casey is a scoring maching in MLS but in Germany...well we know those facts already.
Monday June 15, 2009 12:04 pm
I am no huge fan of Bradley's but does a coaching change at this point make a big difference? There are a few pieces of the puzzle that need to be looked at, Spector on the field and off the bench for one, Beasley had his day in the sun and it was a while ago, he is NOT a left back, but other than that how much can you change with the current cast?

The bottom line is the US is not good enough to compete at the top level right now, does not mean they cant upset Italy this week but over the course of a WC tourney they will show the lack of quality across the board and struggle. Torres needs to play every minute he can to show if he can play with the giants from Eurpoe and South America, he and Michael Bradley may be the middle combo that US needs, some guts and some flair playing side by side.

Italy is getting old and lets hope our youth and speed can cause them problems, it would be nice to see a big win. Let's hope!
Monday June 15, 2009 11:57 am
You couldn't have said it better.

We need to replace Bradley with someone with more heart for the game.

He shows no emotions, doesnt even seem to get into it.
paul lorinczi
Monday June 15, 2009 8:44 am
It is about qualification right now.

During the 2002 campaign, Argentina were the strongest team in South American qualifying. Brazil were the weaker and everyone thought they were at risk to bow out of the tournament. What happened? Brazil won the WC and Argentina went home.

The Confederations Cup will test Bradley's tactical abilities. Is he going to over coach himself, or play to his team's strength? That is what we have to watch for I think.

I am critical of Bradley too. Both he and Arena tended to have their favorites and played them no matter what. Kljestan for Torres in Costa Rica made no sense. Torres is a technically gifted player who shows comfort with the ball. It is obvious they are not comfortable putting trust in a player like Torres.

I don't think Klinsmann is the answer either. He will not have Loew on the sidelines with him giving him tactical recommendations. (Notice how Frank Yallop has struggled since Kinnear has left his side?) Although, I think Klinsmann could bring out the best in a guy like Freddy Adu.
Monday June 15, 2009 8:10 am
Bradley is a bad copy of Arena. Our players are better than our team. I'd replace him.
Sunday June 14, 2009 11:48 pm
Some of you are missing his point I think

He's not saying that he's Bradley is on the 'hot seat' by the people who actually matter - the USSF, but he's personally holding him to a standard that true soccer nations would.

I think the crux of the matter is no, Bradley and his coaching ability will not make world class players out of who we have. But with someone else, who is a stellar coach, maybe a difference would be made. Look at what Hiddink did with Russia at Euro 2008 or South Korea in 2002, or the best example Otto Rehagle at Euro 2004.

A better coach would get a LOT more out of these players and wouldn't continue to do idiotic stuff like put a 130 pound Beasley at left back or the absurd stifling midfield combinations he continues to trot out.

Klinnsmann is not nescesarrily the answer, but Bradley was always the contingency plan and it's been three years of crap soccer against crap teams with no improvement. We are stuck with Bradley until the World Cup, unfortunately.

As far as the Confeds cup? We're doomed. If we score a single goal I will be shocked.
Sunday June 14, 2009 11:33 pm
What amazes me about people's view of Bob Bradley is that he's not a "world class" coach. He never will be. Get over it. you don't have to be a "world class" coach to be successful.

Klinsmann overachieved with a Germany team in 2006. He took advantage of very low expectations (for Germany at least) and turned that into a wonderful run of form in 2006. Great. Fine. Whatever. Look closer. Klinsmann was in charge for 34 games. He went 20-8-6. Klinsmann bombed out of Bayern Munich with a team with far more talent than anyone else in the Bundesliga and managed to finish 2nd. Is this really the "savior" of American soccer? Bob Bradley is 23-9-4 as head coach. They say "the US can't win away from home". Klinsmann couldn't either. He was almost fired from Germany before the 06 World Cup and then had a good run . . . IN GERMANY.

And people keep talking about firing a coach. You do not fire a coach in the middle of a world cup cycle and not expect consequences and repercussions. Just ask Mexico. The BIGGEST problem the Mexican National team has is an utter lack of cohesiveness caused by the fact that they have had a revolving door of managers in the cycle alone. Each one is expected to do great things and then never given the opportunity to reach those goals.

We cannot afford to do the same.

Like someone told me a long time ago . . . a win is a win is a win.
Adam R.
Sunday June 14, 2009 11:17 pm
Costa Rica was Bradley's first loss in a meaningful game. He's not on the hot seat.

Let's hope the US soccer press doesn't go down this path of delusion like English or Mexican media.
Sunday June 14, 2009 10:42 pm
An injury to landon donovan would be far from a disaster. What has donovan done for this team recently? Provide inconsistent service, hit a penalty or two, lose the ball, and maybe get fouled in a good area. He is not the best player on this team. I am tired of the general media thinking that he has any importance to this team. he is fast and he can finish, that is it. the offense should be running through a player that can actually dribble without kicking the ball 10 yards in front of him with every touch, and can make quick, incisive passes in tight areas such as benny feilhaber.

also, howard and bradley are both world class players, and when used correctly beasley is a phenomenal winger
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