Pentagram: Gold Cup Group Stage

Well, the US Soccer Team made it out of their group with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Guadeloupe (population: 400,000) last night.  This comes on the heels of Saturday’s first ever Gold Cup group state loss, 2-1 at the hands of Panama, and last week’s ho-hum 2-0 victory over a very static Canada.  So Team America will now face a dangerous looking Jamaica side in Washington D.C. on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mexico has looked dominant, winning their group in style while scoring 14 goals and giving up one.  If you were looking for indicators that the balance of power in CONCACAF has shifted, you’re seeing them.  A US-Mexico final in Pasadena weekend after next is still a possibility, but not many would favor our chances based off recent games.

Speculation abounds that Coach Bob Bradley is once again on the hot seat, and maybe he should be.  His player selections (same guys again and again), tactics (same, same, same), and most importantly, seeming inability to get the team locked in with intensity and focus at the start of games are all troubling.  We still say that anything less than winning the Gold Cup would merit a reevaluation of Bradley’s position.  But not all is so bleak; after all, Jozy Altidore seems to be regaining some form and confidence with a pair of goals, including this blast:

Five points in your Gold Cup Group Stage Pentagram…

  1. Slow starts by this team are beyond old.  Whether it’s almost allowing Canada and Guadeloupe to score in the first 10 minutes or conceding to Panama, the team continues to look sloppy and unfocused to start matches.  We can and will blame the coaching staff, but the players have to bring it as well.  Part of that has to do with accountability (i.e. certain players are going to star no matter what), and maybe part of it due to underestimating the opponents.  Well, no more excuses, as the remaining matches in this tournament are against decent, if not good squads.
  2. Defense has looked uneven and shaky.  Carlos Bocanegra’s move back to central defense last night helped, but the U.S. has not looked sharp in the back.  It’s enough to make you pine for Eddie Pope.  The fact that Oguchi Onyewu hasn’t seen the field says something about where he is, and Tim Ream has shown his youth.  Eric Lichaj looked decent against Guadeloupe and may get another shot on Sunday.  Why can’t these guys get organized and stay with runners?
  3. Steve Cherundolo and Michael Bradley have been the best players so far.  Cherundolo had a great season in Germany and still commands his side of the field at age 32.  He’s the one defender who hasn’t looked bad, and his consistent flank service and partnership with whoever plays that side of midfield have created chances.  Meanwhile, MB90, who couldn’t get on the field for Aston Villa, is reminding everyone how good he can be.  Although he looked a little tired in the second half last night, his passing and positioning have both been sharp.  He should’ve scored against Panama to tie the game, however…
  4. Where is Landon?  LD has been our best player for years, and yet he hasn’t shown up consistently this tournament.  People have speculated about health and illness, but maybe it’s more mental.  I say this because I watched Donovan consistently pull out of challenges and avoid going one-on-one at defenders.  Last year at the World Cup this didn’t happen.  Maybe he is worn down; maybe he’s trying to conserve himself for the knock-out stages.  You do worry about guys who think they can just turn it on at will.  But if the US wants to get to the final and have a shot against Mexico, LD needs to improve his play big time.
  5. Atrocious Finishing –  an old problem, going back to the days of Bruce Arena.  Clint Dempsey should have scored a hattrick last night, and his last shot  was particularly bad.  Chris Wondolowski missed from five yards out at the end against Panama.  Others have failed to capitalize as well.  What’s the deal here?  For one thing, we can think of at least three other strikers we would have taken over Wondo for this tournament.  They are, in order, Herculez Gomez, Teal Bunbury, and Edson Buddle.  And I would have brought two of them and left another midfielder at home.  Nothing we can do about this now.  You won’t get 10 chances against a good team, though, and this has to improve.


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