Pentagram: Stayin’ Gold

Jurgen, Landon, and the boys have brought the Gold Cup back to U.S. Soccer. It’s our region’s championship (flawed as it is), which we equate directly to winning your conference or division championship in other sports. The goal is to win it, but it’s not the ultimate or final goal.  Still, in terms of a barometer (or benchmark, as Jurgen would say), this is a competition you want to win as a building block for Brazil 2014.

Champs

The 1-0 victory in Chicago’s final had a few surprises.  First, that so many fans who likely initially bought tickets to cheer for Mexico showed up to support the U.S.  Yes, we are a county of divided loyalties among a large segment of our fandom, but this is still a sign of progress.  Second, that the USA was unable to score more goals on Panama (EJ should have had a second), although the Panamanians are looking tough and should be on track to qualify for the World Cup.

Probably the most positive and welcome surprise is the first point in our post-Gold Cup Pentagram…

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Gold Cup Themes – Pentagram

The CONCACAF Gold Cup has begun, with a couple of surprises – including Mexico’s opening match defeat to Panama.  For us it really gets started tonight as the USA takes on Belize in Portland (10:00 CST, Fox Soccer).  Only in CONCACAF does the regional championship routinely feature ‘B’-level squads from its top two teams, yet those teams (USA and Mexico) still expect to win.

This year’s Gold Cup is a little different, though.  This year’s winner will square off against the 2015 winner for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia (the World Cup Warm-up event that just finished in Brazil).  So the Gold Cup does matter this time.

The tourney is also a nice way for the CONCACAF bureaucrats to make some money, get their teams on TV, and get some of the smaller teams more competitive.  Bonus points if you can guess the number of Cubans who end up defecting, and the number of unknown MLS signees-of-the-future to be seen in this Gold Cup.

Most importantly, the Gold Cup is a chance to see some National Team fringe guys and depth guys make their case for inclusion in next summer’s 23-man World Cup Roster.  Five points we will be tracking throughout the tourney:

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Pentagram: Gold Cup Capitulation

Bornstein in familiar pose

So there we were, about twelve minutes into the Gold Cup final against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, when the TV flashed to the sidelines and showed Jonathan Bornstein ready to enter the game.  I had already noted Steve Cherundolo limping around after a nice exchange with Freddy Adu upfield a few minutes earlier.  Reactions from the two guys watching with me were unanimous:  “Not Bornstein!  Anyone but him…”

The US secured an early lead off a corner kick header and another beautiful Adu-Dempsey-Donovan combo, but Mexico roared back.  With Cherundolo out, Eric Lichaj switched to his natural right side of the field, leaving Bornstein on the left. And the Mexicans exposed him as the worst player on the field.  They scored the next four goals from buildup or direct breakdowns on that side – two of which were directly attributable to Bornstein getting caught out and beat.  4-2 Mex, no trophy, no Confederations Cup for the US.  Not.  Good.  Enough.

Does this mean the end of Coach Bob Bradley’s tenure?  Hard to say, but probably not.  It should be the end, though.  The same flaws the exhibited the last two years remain a problem.  One could argue that Coach Stoneface was a victim of circumstances with his best defender going down to injury, but Mexico also had to sub two of their starting defenders for injury (Salcido and Marquez).  And it was Bradley who selected this roster, who didn’t press the issue with Germany-based Timothy Chandler, who inserted Bornstein (once again).  The US will not play another truly meaningful game until sometime next Spring, when they begin World Cup Qualification (and that will be against a minnow).  It’s the perfect time for transition.

Five points in the final Gold Cup pentagram: Continue reading

Pentagram: Return of the Freddy

The US Soccer Team defeated Panama 1-0 in Houston last night to advance to the Gold Cup final in Pasadena.  There they will find Mexico and the matchup everyone envisioned for this regional championship.  Last night’s match was no beauty pageant as both sides fatigue from the last two weeks showed prominently.  But Coach Bob Bradley pulled the strings again with a solid 4-5-1 gameplan, again bringing Landon Donovan off the bench to save his legs, and this time it was a familiar face, a guy lost in the wilderness and absent for two years who finally unhinged the stingy Panamanian defense.  That’s right:  Freddy Adu.

The Return of the Freddy comes after Adu’s two plus ineffectual years of bouncing around in Europe (earning a nice paycheck) without much playing time.  He went on loan to a second division side in Turkey this past Spring and started playing again – and playing well.  Coach Stoneface called him for the Gold Cup (minor controversy) and some of us wondered if he’d even make the 18 man gameday roster, let alone the field.  But by all accounts he’s practiced hard, run hard, and adopted the team mentality so prized by Bradley and his staff.  And thus…

Yeah, that’s the Fred on the setup ball.  Five points in the Pentagram…

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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… Continue reading

May Gold Cup Roster

Gaudy, ain't it?

It’s just over a month until the US Soccer Team begins the Gold Cup, aka the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.  The Gold Cup occurs every two years, but recently the US Soccer Federation has only given it primary attention in the years directly after the World Cup.  So this year.  The reason being that this Gold Cup winner will travel to Brazil in 2013 (the summer before the next World Cup) to participate in the Confederations Cup – which will have the champions of the other regions.

The other reasons we will see the strongest possible roster for this year’s Gold Cup is that last time we sent a B-Squad to let the veterans rest and blood some of the newer/fringe guys, and we proceeded to get spanked by Mexico in the final.  Also, with the various machinations at the Federation, Coach Bob Bradley’s job could depend on it.

Anything less than beating Mexico and winning the Gold Cup will be a disappointment.  So with the MLS season a month old and the Euro seasons winding down, here are Beemsville’s current selections for the 23 roster slots…

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Gold Cup Group Stages – Pentagram

The group stages of the Gold Cup are finished, with Team America winning Group B after defeating Grenada and Honduras handily, then settling for a last-gasp tie against Haiti.  The quarterfinals will feature a host of familiar CONCACAF foes, with Panama up first next Saturday in Philly.  U.S. Coach Bob Bradley (aka Stoneface) has used a combination of young up-and-comers and veterans trying to prove they still belong in this round.  At this point, it’s all about finding those role-players and backups for the remainder of World Cup Qualifying and next summer’s South Africa roster.

It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from games against tiny Grenada and a Honduran team that left it’s best players at home.  The Haiti game was a little more useful in that it showed a few guys who definitely aren’t ready as well as some who never were.  But everyone else is doing their analysis, so we will, too…

Stu Holden hushes the pro-Haiti crowd

Stu Holden hushes the pro-Haiti crowd

Five points in the Pentagram…

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