As Predicted, ESPN.com Misses The Mark

While Ives Garcalep (www.soccerbyives.net) filed a fair game report on the U.S. meltdown against Mexico, the same cannot be said for ESPN soccer editor Jen Chang.

While I generally feel that Chang’s commentary is right on (calling out BB’s strategy of two defensive midfielders, arguing for overseas players over MLS players), his commentary on yesterday’s game was just plain off.

Chang calls out the Americans for letting Mexico recover it’s swagger by not fielding a strong Gold Cup team. He further excoriates the U.S. depth and suggests that beyond Stu Holden and Troy Perkins, yesterday’s performances by Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall among others undid all the work they put in earlier in the tournament.

My first issue is that I did not hear from Chang the entire tournament. Maybe he was recovering–like nearly THE ENTIRE US FIRST TEAM–after a long arduous tournament against top competition in a different time zone. Really Jen, you wanted the U.S. to trot out it’s first team in a weak Gold Cup field where no team brought all their top talent after playing 5 games in 3 weeks just days before? Further, after many had been away from their club teams and the top level play we want them to get before 2010.

Also where was your analysis early on? The U.S. struggled against Haiti and even Panama at times. That they would struggle yesterday was more likely than the phenomenal 1st half display the team put on.

To suggest that players like Marshall and Beckerman did themselves a disservice is another egregious mistake without mentioning that a) their play was strong in the first half and b) Javier Aguirre was so concerned with his team’s first half play against a second rate U.S. squad that he brought in Carlos Vela to pair Giovani Dos Santos to start the half. That’s two, count’em, two EPL strikers to take on the U.S. jv team.

Further, it is play against quality competition that coach Bob Bradley can use to measure his arsenal of players. He just saw his “A” team against Spain and Brazil less than a month earlier. What did the “A” team have to prove in the Gold Cup? What player insights would be gained against mostly inferior competition for players that taken on 3 of the top 10 teams in the world?

A better angle if you wanted to call out the USMNT team would be to discuss the eerie parallel between Brazil piling on the U.S. in the 2nd half of the Confederation’s Cup final game with yesterday’s second half implosion. As this blog can well atest, I have been critical of Bob Bradley’s halftime adjustments and considerations in such situations and again yesterday we saw the U.S. come out not ready to handle an invigorated Mexican attack. While the manner of attack was flashy and the score finally obnoxious, the U.S. had a similar behavior against Haiti, giving up two goals in the course of ten minutes after half time in a decidedly different manner.

At least this time Bradley tried to change up the team (admittedly too late) with early insertions of Kenny Cooper and Santino Quaranta.

The story of yesterday is not the Yanks letting Mexico regain their confidence (if Mexico has to rally around beating the U.S. “B” team just a year before the World Cup that’s a bigger problem) or how certain players canceled out their entire tournament. It’s about measuring the Gold Cup team in aggregate (by achievement and by the next step of growth necessary) and a disturbing trend of coming out tactically unprepared in the 2nd half.

Yesterday’s post-game opinion saying ESPN would miss the mark

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark T on 2009/07/27 at 10:34 AM

    I think the outrage by fans of US Soccer (and analysts) is around a hit to the perception of US Soccer with the non-soccer American public. Fans were giddy coming out of the Confed Cup and view yesterday’s embarrassing result as disaster relative to the headway THEY were making with anyone who would listen around soccer in America. It is those fans who are walking into work this morning facing co-workers who only saw a 5-0 result saying, “I thought you said US Soccer was good…soccer sucks.”

    Rightly or wrongly (only time will tell) US Soccer decided to turn the Gold Cup into a developmental tournament after the deep Confed run. (Ching / Cherundolo got rehab assignments, Bradley wanted to see if Davies play was an anomaly in SA and Feilhaber need to show some consistency). After that it was about getting international experience for the second and third tier of US players.

    While you may not agree on the decision to take a knee for this tournament, that view shouldn’t cloud the analysis of yesterday’s game or the play during the tourney for the team that was on the pitch.

    Reply

  2. […] 5-0 Finals shelling by Mexico was erroneously poorly received in the press, but had Mexico playing their near best […]

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  3. […] to the tune of 5-zilch at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. While some pundits incorrectly choose to excoriate the moment–calling it a travesty that swung the door wide open for Mexico–it gave then-manager Bob […]

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