US Team Nearly There

The U.S. Men’s Soccer Team won in Trinidad Wednesday night, 1-0.  It wasn’t pretty.  T&T striker Cornell Glenn hit the post on a chip attempt and U.S. keeper Tim Howard provided several clutch saves to keep it scoreless in the first half.  Team America played better in the second half, but still needed an unlikely bomb from Rico Clark to carry the day.

An ugly win, a less than stellar performance, and yet the U.S. now sits atop the CONCACAF standings with two more to play.  We’ll only need a tie in the next two matches to seal the trip to South Africa – surely we can’t screw that up, can we?

Followers of the team have been tough on Coach Bradley and the boys (including yours truly), the quality of play, and we’re wondering whether this team has enough quality to make noise next summer.  Some are more negative than others, such as Kartik and crew at the MLS Talk Podcast.  I think some of their criticisms are valid, but many others are off-base or beside the point, so I decided to chime in.  Then I got carried away.  Read on for my reply to the podcast after the bump… 

I tend to agree with some of the points made on this pod, particularly regarding Bob Bradley and our stunted national development system; however I think you guys were engaging in a little too much groupthink when channeling your negativity.  I will take issue with a couple of themes.

You say Landon Donovan is neither a top 20 nor top 100 player?  Really?  I guess you guys don’t remember long stretches of the games against Spain and Brazil when he was the best player on the field.  Sorry, guys – Landon has been dominant of late on many levels and is the best, most feared player in the region.

The assertion that we lack the talent of teams past is another sticking point.  Clamoring for Reyna and the one good year of John O’Brien I can understand, and yet Claudio was continuously hounded by the U.S. faithful for playing too negatively and never truly playing as a #10.  I fully expect that some combo of German Jones, Bradley, and Feilhaber will have the middle in good shape by next year.   And were Earnie Stewart and Joe-Max Moore better than some combination of Jozy, Dempsey, and Davies?  More experienced? Yes.  Better? doubtful.  I miss Eddie Pope as much as anyone, but Gooch and DeMerit 09-10 should be better than Gooch-Pope 06 or Agoos-Pope 02.  Spector is also a more complete backline player than earlier counterparts.   And once again, Landon 09 is better than anyone we’ve ever had.

I believe Jamie Trekker hit on the biggest problem towards the end of the pod.  Bob is too comfortable selecting ‘his’ guys and too conservative in his overall approach.  This had led to certain players looking confused and certain others looking less than motivated.  That had to be one of the worst performances I’ve seen out of Dempsey, yet I’ll bet he starts the next game.  And Michael Bradley has looked inconsistent and worn down, and yet he (and Bocanegra) seem automatic for 90.

Finally, why even engage in comparing teams like Slovakia or Serbia or Northern Ireland to the U.S.?  Just because the Serbs have Vidic and Stankovic and the Slovaks have a bunch of journeymen in the Bundesliga and EPL means very little to me.  I hope we draw Serbia or Slovakia or Ivory Coast next summer — I hope we do.  Because that’s the only place you settle these hypotheticals, on the pitch.  And if ol’ Bob can somehow get everyone on the same page, well, I still hold out hope for some kind of run next year.

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