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GEORGE MURPHY - Monday, June 22, 2009
I purposely waited until the end of the United States' three Confederations Cup group-stage games before voicing an opinion about their performance, mainly because 1) I didn't want to jump to conclusions and join the "Fire Bob Bradley because he can't win big games" bandwagon prematurely, and 2) I thought it would be fair to give the players until the end of the tournament before judging their individual performances.

So, the United States just advanced out of a group that may have been tougher than the one they were in for the 2006 World Cup, where they were grouped with Italy, Ghana, and Czech Republic.

Despite Sunday's miraculous outcome that saw the US progress, many are still pessimistic about their overall performance and saw today's events as somewhat of a miracle.

Among the excuses were, Egypt missing their best offensive player, Zidan, due to injury, their goalkeeper suffering an early head injury and Italy packing it in early after long Serie A and European seasons as many members of the Italian media had speculated after their first game leading into their loss against Egypt

Well, guess what: that's soccer.

Were the United States lucky to qualify? Maybe. But at the end of the day, a win is a win, the United States moved on, and Italy and Egypt didn't.

No team that has ever won a World Cup, Champions League final, or any other major tournament, did not have some sort of turn of events work out in their favor. You can't win without some sort of luck and Bob Bradley and company will need quite a bit of it heading into their matchup with Euro 2008 winners Spain, who have five players (Torres, Villa, Iniesta, Xavi, and Casillas) who would be on many's world starting XI.

In looking back, in all honesty, the only game in the tournament that the United States was outplayed in was their loss to Brazil.

I thought that, against Italy, the team looked confident, composed, and focused. Ricardo Clark's sending off obviously took quite a bit of wind out of their sails, and look at the goals they conceded in the second half: Rossi's wonder-shot which wouldn't have been saved by any goalkeeper in this world, DeRossi's shot which Howard had a hard time tracking, and Rossi's third goal which was pretty much a product of fatigue for the United States back line after Pirlo turned them inside out.

But overall, were they outclassed by the Azzurri? I don't think so. In fact, before Clark's red card, I thought that they looked like the better team.

In terms of individual player performances, some proved their worth, some will continue to stay on the fringe, and some might have hurt their chances for 2010.

Many said that Clark never deserved to wear the Red, White and Blue after the first game, but he redeemed himself against Egypt. I've always liked his game and still think that he and Michael Bradley, who turned in one of the best tournament performances for the US that I can ever remember, are the best pairing in central midfield.

The United States backline, as a whole, was pretty solid throughout the tournament. Jay DeMerit stepped in and proved that he is ready to battle for the centre defense role should Bocanegra start showing signs of age over the next few years, Jonathan Spector proved that he is probably the best right back option right now after some great play on both sides of the ball, and Oguchi Onyewu seems ready to take his game to the next level.

I was a little skeptical a few years ago of Gooch after his failed stint at Newcastle, but he seems to be a lot more composed on the ball, isn't playing it out of bounds every time like he used to, and just seems to read the game a infinitely better.

On the left side, I'd still like to see Heath Pearce get another chance. Jonathan Bornstein had a fair tournament, but I think that Bob Bradley favors him because of his attacking ability and, against world powers like Brazil, Argentina and the likes; I think Pearce matches up better than Bornstein.

But, there does seem to still be a battle for the position, and hopefully Bradley won't favor Bornstein because of his MLS ties and tells them both to "let the best man win".

Bob Bradley told the media that he was leaving Clint Dempsey in the starting eleven because "he can provide moments of brilliance", and he was right. Dempsey scored a great goal to see the US through, but he didn't have a standout performance by any means. Let's hope that Clint is just a little tired from a long and successful season at Fulham. But let's not forget that the Cottagers will be playing European soccer next year and that he'll have an even longer season heading into the World Cup in 2010.

On the other side of midfield, Landon Donovan had another mediocre performance. Many will disagree with this statement and say that he did many things off of the ball to help the US, but ask yourself this: is he living up to his potential? Is he turning in performances where you say to yourself, "Wow, Landon really put the team on his back and carried them through?" Against Egypt, he needs to step up and take that shot on the left side of the penalty box, as opposed to looking to square it for Jozy Altidore.

Speaking of which, I thought that Jozy had a pretty decent tournament. He looked a bit hesitant at times, but he still looked relatively comfortable and I think can develop into a Didier Drogba-type of player where he can use his strength and touch to hold the ball up with his back to the opponent, while still having the speed and quickness to make opposing defenders worry about turning on them. If he continues to develop that killer scoring mentality, he will be a starting striker for the United States for the next 15 years, but only time will tell.

His strike partner against Egypt, Charlie Davies, continued to help his chances after going ninety minutes and scoring the type of goal that a true striker is proud of, fighting for the ball, staying with it, and eventually finding the back of the net as a reward for his hard work. Again, let's not jump to conclusions and say that Davies should start every World Cup match. This was really his first true test,a n we'll see if Bradley decides to go with him against Spain.

I think that, in this tournament, DaMarcus Beasley worked his way out of the World Cup mix, Benny Feilhaber worked his way in while Sacha Kljestan left himself on the fringe. Freddy Adu and Jose Francisco Torres have to prove to Bob Bradley that they are more than just hype in order to be even considered.

It was good to see Feilhaber tracking back and getting stuck into tackles in the dying moments against Egypt, but it was disappointing to see that coach Bradley has so much trust in Beasley despite his poor perfomances, keeping younger players from getting their shot. One of my biggest criticisms of Bruce Arena was that he only fielder players who he trusted, rarely giving fringe and younger players chances to succeed on the big stage. Let's hope this isn't the case with Coach Bradley and Adu and Torres.

He gave Feilhaber a shot, so let's see if Freddy and Torres can take note of this and continue to try to impress and earn the coach's trust. As for Sacha Kljestan, I don't think he ruined his chances with the red card, but I do think that Clark is better equipped to play the type of holding midfielder that Coach Bradley seems to be searching for and that Sacha may need a little more time to progress.

The one thing I can take away from the Confederations Cup is that the victory against Egypt and the United States, despite all odds, qualifying for the next round served as a much-needed bright spot for United States soccer and an extremely proud moment for US fans.
Antihate
Monday June 29, 2009 5:40 pm
Yea DOnovan is great for the US. But everytime he plays over seas he doesn't perform well. He couldn't get into the Bayern starting 11 or Leverkusen starting 11 on a regular basis. And when he did he didn't perform to his potential or to the standard the coahces expected. I think he needs to get on a mid level team and have patience. He's not going to be the focal point as soon as he arrives at any club in Europe.
jimmygreaves
Saturday June 27, 2009 6:15 pm
"One of my biggest criticisms of Bruce Arena was that he only fielder players who he trusted, rarely giving fringe and younger players chances to succeed on the big stage. Let's hope this isn't the case with Coach Bradley and Adu and Torres."

Would you field a player you did not trust? Isn't it up to the player to win the coaches' over by playing really well when they get the chance or at practice? Torres appears to be someone Bradley prefers to bring along slowly. In Adu's case he appears to have a hard time convincing anyone to let him near the field. International coaches don't have time to develop players. The players have to make it happen at the club level and Adu has been miserable at that. When are people going to start blaming Freddy for his lack of playing time instead of his coaches? As evidenced by the Spain victory the USMNT needs every single player to participate in team defense. Adu is weak there and is a luxury the US cannot afford.
dikranovich
Thursday June 25, 2009 11:42 pm
isnt it funny to read the posts and the article that came out pre espana? boy, when donovan plays on the wing he is tremendous, every time he is playing on the wing, left or right side. midfield wing, i should say also, not the 4-3-3. and feilhaber, this player is the whole key to the program going forward. usa is going to go as far as benny feilhaber takes us. he is not even starting and his class is evident and he seems to be defending with a lot more purpose. same with donovan.

you know, we saw a team against spain that is capable of anything and a team that can beat anyone. do you read what people around the world are saying, they credit the americans for figuring out spain and now the cat is out of the bag. but the thing that strikes me more than peoples comments is that there is a sense that the usa are rising fast and that the sky might be the only limit.

the ultimate truth is that many people owe coach bradley a great big apology, because this is america and we dont fire our coaches like they do in europe. a place where sackings happen on a whim and sometimes even when a coach takes a team to the win, ala capello at real madrid. this team is still the same team and if italy had scored against brasil and we did not make the semis, usa would still have the same team and coach.

"order and disorder are a matter of organization, courage and cowardice are a matter of momentum, strength and weakness are a matter of formation" master sun
goz
Wednesday June 24, 2009 5:38 pm
Today in the match vs Spain the US showed the world what it can do. We always knew that we could. It just had to be brought out of us. That is was a truely coach can do. (Phil Jackson) That is what we wanted Bradley to do. He just proved today that he can.

So don't hate on us for holding him to the fire. That is what brings out the gold. Stay gold.
George Murphy
Wednesday June 24, 2009 1:07 am
I'm curious... what are three coaches that can come in and do a better job than Bradley right now in your opinion?

Everyone said Klinsmann before Bradley was appointed, but what does he know about American soccer?

Guus Hiddink is on top of a very short list of national team managers that could make a difference. But last I checked, he'll be spoken for until at least 2010.

The fans and supporters that think that one European manager can come in and change everything are wrong. Every time we're in a major tournament it's one change that everyone thinks should be made to make it all better.

In 2006, Eddie Johnson should have started up top. Right, that would have been the answer to all of our problems.

In 2009, Freddy Adu or Jose Torres should be starting, or Bradley should be fired because he lost against ITALY AND BRAZIL WITH ONLY TEN MEN. right.

It's not the manager, it's the structure.

But back to the question... if everyone is so against Bradley (who has an outstanding record so far as USMNT manager) who should replace him?

Go.
phil
Tuesday June 23, 2009 10:59 pm
"The Sky is Still Falling. It just hit an updraft."

well said Doug.

I do think the USMNT should have been expected to qualify, and without all the planet alignment hoo-hah.

We were looking like we were going to beat Italy before the now infamous red card. The red was harsh but the foul was avoidable.

Bottom line is we have a talent pool that is capable of beating teams like Egypt (read top flight non-european, south american teams) as well as hndle a very shaky Italian or Mexican side (read nearly top flight european and south american teams) without the aid of Lady Luck. pains and Brazils are still heavy favorites andthat's perfectly logcal.

But the fact that we're not able to do that is either the fault of a few key starters who shouldn't be playing (i.e. clark and beasely) or poor preparation. Both of those faults lie at the coaches feet.

I'm happy for US soccer, but nothing's changed--I believe we're still on the path to disappointment and limited improvement until we get a better coach
eduardo
Tuesday June 23, 2009 10:12 pm
u not being objective when you wrote this article......donovan not playing well? rico and bradley the best pairing ? usa the best team before clark's red card ? another chance to heath pearce ? it looks like you left the laptop on and your little sister started blogging brtother !!!!!
chambre01
Tuesday June 23, 2009 2:05 pm
Only saw game 1 and Feilhaber was poor. A fact not lost on his past three clubs.
Jeff
Tuesday June 23, 2009 1:17 pm
Outside of the Donovan debate the only thing I take exception to is Rico Clark. I don't think he is the best partner for Bradley in the middle. He is a lousy passer - most possessions end the second he gets involved. He does not move well off the ball. It seems our players actively avoid passing to him as the game moves on. Defensively he is fine and he gives MB the confidence to move forward; however, we need somebody more dynamic in that position if we are ever going to be able to sustain possession in the opponents half of the field - he is just not the guy.

I also thought Donovan was excellent, better yet if he had shot a little more.

Altidore has been effective while not dominant - he will become the latter.
Andy
Tuesday June 23, 2009 11:14 am
Anyone who thinks Donavon didn't play well, didn't really watch the games. He ran the full 90 minutes every game, played hard, and at least in the Egypt game, carved through their midfield with the ball numerous times. Yes, he should finish more and shoot more, but he was great. Spector, Demerit and Gooch should all be starting. Maybe Boca on the left or Spector there when Dolo returns. Bradley and either Clark or when he returns, Edu in the MF with Torres on the left and Donavon on the right. Altidore and Dempsey up front - Dempsey isn't tracking back, but he has skill and can score. That should be our lineup, with subs Adu, Benny, and a few others coming in.
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