Archive for the ‘Gold Cup 2011’ Category

Livestrong Or Die: TSG’s USA vs. Guadeloupe Preview Lite

Not the way Bob Bradley and company planned it arriving at the third group stage game in Gold Cup 2011.

The setting for what is a more important game than what was hoped...

With now three games in eight days, this was to be a chance for the key US  regulars to get a respite before the knockout rounds of the tournament.

Instead the Yanks need to show up to Livestrong Park for Tuesday’s final group stage Gold Cup match against Guadeloupe with a win on their mind. The customary starters, with the expectation, that they’ll take the pitch at the whistle.

The dissection of the States by Panama has created quite a bit of uncertainty.

As we acknowledged Saturday, probably every future opponent this June took notice to the game plan used by Panama manager Julio Dely Valdés to punish the Yanks lack of width, central midfield challenges and inexperience in central defense.

Guadeloupe here in the final game presents a challenge not unlike Algeria did in the final group stage game for the World Cup. They’ve got nothing to lose now having dropped their two first matches and they’ve got just enough panache–coming back both a man down and three goals for the worse against Panama to nearly even things and then playing Canada tight thoughout–to make things more than interesting.

A brief reprieve for the States in at least Guadeloupe does not outright subscribe to a pack-it-in strategy and with the Yanks challenged to score in anything but the counter and set pieces that’s a good thing…we think.

Let’s get to our customary preview. It goes

About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About The Opponent: Guadeloupe

Charlton favorite Therry Racon--here fighting off Canadian Ali Gerba--is the one to watch for Guadeloupe. He'll be flying down Dolo's flank...

Guadeloupe plays a very free flowing brand of soccer that can sometimes leave their backline exposed. Twice in two games this season, they’ve dropped to ten men–in just the 3rd minute against Canada on Saturday–as someone on their backline has committed a foul in defense and been sent off.

Guadeloupe doesn’t have a typical formation, over the past year they’ve used a 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2. Most recently against Canada they matched up in a 4-4-2 while against Panama they went 4-2-3-1 looking for width–the latter perhaps particularly disturbing in that Bob Bradley surely watched how Guadeloupe attacked the 4-4-2 of Panama with a 4-2-3-1 and didn’t follow suit. Both times as well as in their lead-up games to the tourney, Guadeloupe has not matched its opponents formation.

More here shortly….

TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Will Bob Bradley change the formation?

Can Donovan be as spritely as he was ten years ago?

The crux of Bob Bradley changing his formation will be predicated more on his defensive posture rather than on “freeing Landon Donovan” or “springing Jozy Altidore.”

I think US fans will get a formation change from Bradley in this one for a singular reason: his central midfield on the counter was completely stretched in the first half Saturday evening.

Whether it was Donovan making a run then having to rush to catch-up or Jozy Altidore dropping for Clint Dempsey after the latter cut inside, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones seemed confused as to how far up to come and hold their midfield line.

Bradley and Jones continually faced the riddle of: “Should I drop deep and support the backline or should I come up and close on the opponent?”

The John Harkesian point of “a team needs to move as one” was never more resounding than with the States on Saturday.

Expect Bradley to morph both the actors and the pieces on the field on Tuesday with Clint Dempsey as the fulcrom.

I imagine you’ll see Dempsey used as a withdrawn striker. The US will defend in a 4-4-2, but on offense look for Donovan and one of Sacha Kljestan, Alejandro Bedoya or Robbie Rogers out wide with Dempsey choosing his spot to float behind Jozy Altidore ahead of him.

The US should be careful though as Guadeloupe has proven they can react well to different game plans and still compete a man down. Too much unfamiliarity or confusion from the Yanks and Les Gwada Boys could capitalize.

• Might Clint Dempsey be hanging on by just a thread right now?

This guy needs to keep *this* up...

Oh about the 30th minute against Panama, an exasperated Clint Dempsey threw his hands up in the air, beckoning to his teammates to move, as he was staving off a tackle attempt and looking to find a man. Only Michael Bradley consistently came to Dempsey’s rescue Saturday.

Right now, the States is certainly looking like a one-trick Deuce pony when it’s not playing on the counter.

Bradley can’t continue to rely on Dempsey and conversely Dempsey needs–as he has to date–to continue to attack.

Dempsey might be deployed differently, but too much ball watching occurs when he has it. That has to stop.

• Looking for culpability around slow starts? How about continuing to make mistakes put continuing to start–no threat of a benching equals no sense of urgency equals complacency and mistkaes.

Is Jermaine Jones a candidate be dropped for his poor performance while Jozy Altidore  is not?

Looks very likely on the Jones-Altidore front.

It’s easy to see Bradley’s continued usage of Altidore up top; whether one agrees with it or not.

Where does he go? Altidore has a US hat trick, a World Cup, a tour in Europe under his belt. Does he have poor body language, poor decision-making, inconsistent play and a penchant to give up on defense from time to time? Yes and you get the picture. However Agudelo has not shown he has the mettle yet and it’s clear that Wondolowski is still adjusting to the speed of play.

There are little, nay zero, non-risky options.

Continue reading

TSG’s Official US vs. Panama Preview

The United States with a big rebound Tuesday evening on the heals of the Spanish Boston Massacre.

In 2009, Clarence Goodson replaced an injured Jimmy Conrad to help the US on to a 2-1 victory in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. Goodson will again look to undercut Panama striker Blas Perez (pictured)

Sucking in Canada’s outside combo of Simeon Jackson and Josh Simpson deeply on the left, the US countered and controlled the flow of the game against the Canadians through the feet of Steve Cherundolo and Landon Donovan in the first. Jozy Altidore’s shot may not have been La Liga class–heck it may not have even been SPL class–but he used his body well and reinforced the elderly adage, “You can’t score if you don’t shoot.”

In the 2nd half with the United States morphing to a 4-5-1 of sorts, it was the Clint Dempsey Show as, unencumbered from right flank defensive responsibilities, Dempsey flew around the attacking third, notching the 2nd goal of the game. The US took it 2-0.

For their part, Panama, too, got their Gold Cup group stage off to a positive if slightly less emphatic start. The Panamanians went up early on the Guadeloupe and then held on and held off a harried down-a-man comeback to take their Game 1, 3-2.

The wins for both respective teams set up different mindsets heading into Game 2 Saturday in Tampa, Florida.

The United States will be looking to punish a Panama side that typically plays pack-it-in ball, looking to use Game 3 against Guadeloupe as a respite for their starters and to test out some of those that have been playing the scout team in training.

Meanwhile, the Panamanians–with Canada’s defeat to the US–have a little breathing room in this game as the winner of their Maple Leaf showdown in Game 3 will likely decide who the second team through is. They’ll probably look to steal one here and at worst keep any goal deficit better than their next opponent did.

The last time the US played Panama in Gold Cup 2009, it struggled at first with Route 1 football, hucking passes up to Brian Ching and Davy Arnaud and then not providing support. A tactical change by Bob Bradley to withdraw Robbie Rogers and push Heath Pearce up on the left flank started to open up some space for the runs of….wait for it…Kenny Cooper.

The US will face the same challenges in width here without giving exposing their backline.

Oh and expect the Yanks first set piece goal in this one. Panama is not a big team and with the front end of Landon Donovan or Michael Bradley in close proximity and the backend of a Clarence Goodson or Carlos Bocanegra coming up, the United States has a distinct advantage here.

Let’s get to our customary TSG preview. It goes:

About The Opponent: Panama

TSG What Are We Looking For/At

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About The Opponent: Panama

Panama runs a standard 4-4-2 and they look to stay compact in the back and defend at all costs. Given that a draw would be a good hope, don’t expect the PANAMA Canal minders to open up and let any comers through. (I know, that was terrible and thanks for the “oops” moment in the comments).

The standard 4-4-2 of Panama

Above is their standard deployment and the biggest question for the Yanks will be how Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson manage the veteran pair of Luis Tejada and Blas Perez up top. The two were responsible for simple offball movement in concert to beat the terribly disorganized Guadeloupe central backtandem of Vlator and Lambourde. Basically just a lot of crisscrossing and short diagonal runs while their wingers stayed wide.

Ream and Goodson have more skill but only two starting reps together. This game will challenge their communication with one another with Tim Howard bellowing behind them.

Beyond the forwards, Panama will need to play a very good game to get the better of the States. Gabriel Gomez and Amílcar Henríquez anchor the interior of the midfield, both are regulars on their respective Colombian league clubs though neither standouts.

Carlos Bocanegra will has some work to do to contain Armando Cooper on his flank. The young Panamanian has progressed through the youth system ranks, has better than average pace and a usable outside shot. However, look for balls to be played through and over the top to Cooper and for the winger himself to make through balls and even crosses to the heads of Tejada and Perez his primary goal. The US will need to be careful–if they play a high line–about Cooper running behind it.

On the left is another youngster in 23-year-old Nelson Barahona with a lot of straight ahead speed, some dribbling ability and little else. The extremely poor man’s Luis Boa Morte.

The quarterback of the backline, their captain and probably their best player is Felipe Baloy. He’s a regular at Santos in the Primera, home of American Adrian Ruelas. Baloy and fellow veteran Luis Henriquez do a solid job on the left side of the line for Panama, it’s the right side where the US will likely look to attack down that side a little more in this match. The right centerback is 22-year-old wet-behind-the-ears Edgar Dascent; he of all of 3 caps to his name. Split out wide is Adolfo Macheda. Both are challenged in maintaining their marks.

Veteran Jaime Peneda will attempt to keep the net.

TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Can the Yanks dictate the tempo and the game to Canada? Can they couple two solid performances in a row

We told you we would belabor this point…and it’s just starting. The US controlled the run of play for long stretches against Canada. It was a more impressive effort than expected.

Against a Panamanian team that plays a lot like Paraguay–though not nearly as talented–can the States continue to impose their will?

• How should and how will Landon Donovan be deployed?

Most recently against Paraguay’s 4-4-2, Donovan was effectively taken out of the game. Some of this may have been from knee tendonitis that forced Donovan’s club team to rest the US star for two weeks following his return from US duty.

Donovan on the interior sometimes gets lost in games like this and forces the US to rely on Clint Dempsey.

Is the US vastly superior to Panama and thus this will not be an issue or does Bob Bradley make a slight tweak to Donovan’s deployment to take advantage of the Yanks goal leader?

Jozy needs to continue to use his frame...

• Does Altidore rip off a good string of games here?

Our second game, our second talking point about Altidore. Altidore was good, not great against Panama.

He needs to move more and he needs to initiate contact much more.

Will he up his game again in the second Gold Cup go around. Fans can’t wait to find out.

• Will Freddy Adu make the bench?

If any group stage game offers the opportunity to see Adu in a sub role, this is the one with Panama fairly cookie-cutter defense.

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11 at the Whistle

The US will likely stay with their 4-4-2. Most recently against Paraguay the US moved the ball well when Dempsey was cutting in from the left and Donovan went wide right. Bob Bradley's selection of fullbacks will be interesting in this one....or not...

The skinny: Well fans, we blew it last time. Got Bob Bradley and the line-up off. Bradley going with players, like Juan Agudelo, who played more than 60 mins against Spain and using a youthful centerback pairing of Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson.
Hopefully less mistakes this time.

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Tim Ream, Carlos Bocanegra

The skinny: Nothing extraordinary here. Goodson and Ream should be given another run together. Carlos Bocanegra mans the left, providing a veteran for Ream to help manage the game. Steve Cherundolo likely back out to the right.

It’s possible that both Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein start–both present advantages and the ability to rest the two oldest outfield players for the Yanks.

If you need to select one to give your line-up at home a little wrinkle, pick Bornstein. With the Yanks probably looking to attack the left side a little more in Game 2 and Armando Cooper somewhat able to get up the flank, Bornstein would give Bradley the opportunity to actually get a fullback up in the attack to support Clint Dempsey.

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: The formula already looks set here with Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley having their best game yet when paired against Canada. Maurice Edu looks a step behind their quality and relieves if necessary.

MID: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan

The skinny:  Dempsey will be relied on more in this game to help create, while Donovan–recovered from whatever illness–needs to show the stamina that has long been his hallmark. Donovan will likely be pushed a little wider than against Canada.

STR: Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo

The skinny:  Looking to start building chemistry, Bradley continues to start Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore together here. Agudelo will be 22 in 2014; Altidore 25.

Disclaimers:

• The US backline either includes Bornstein or Spector.

Odds: 15%

» The skinny: Not a totally wild thought, but given Game 3 opponent Gaudeloupe likes to get up and down the pitch more, maybe Dolo or Boca gets a rest. Wouldn’t bet on it though.

• Robbie Rogers on the left; Dempsey pushed up top

Odds: 5%

» The skinny: Stranger things have happened, but worth noting here as it was Rogers work creating width in 2009 that started creating space for an advancing Heath Pearce that opened up the game in the Gold Cup quarterfinal. I would bet on Rogers being on the game day roster and possibly being a 2nd half sub.

Orange Slices: US vs. Canada

Orange Slices is our game day, catch-all post that we update during the day before the match. Don’t accept substitutes, imitators or copycats! Ask for fresh, wholesome Orange Slices by name.

Orange Slices! US vs. Canada

Hello and welcome to game day!

The United States Men’s National team don their white-ish Nike Greys today for Game 1 of the Gold Cup group stage versus a Canadian team with a lot of offensive power, but little defensive firefighting?

You’re likely to see Bob Bradley’s troops in a 4-2-2-2 as Landon Donovan makes his return to the line-up and Clint Dempsey drifts inward serving as the attack catalyst.

Kickoff  today is set for 5p.m West Coast and 8p.m. East Coast.

Broadcast:

English TV Broadcast: Fox Soccer (JP Dellacamera & Kyle Martino with the call) —  Spanish TV Broadcast: Telefutura, Web: GoldCup.org

Live Commentary: Right here at TSG

The Motown Showdown: SG’s Official US vs. Canada Preview

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Supporting Material:

• The Sporting News Brian Strauss discusses with the US players how and why they value the Gold Cup.

• Dan from the Free Beer Movement challenges all who inappropriately show up with the wrong kit in the stands.

A Football Report’s Eric Beard gets the hype rolling in the tournament on Little Pea and his friends.

• The Yanks Are Coming’s Jon Levy says Will Johnson is the man to watch for Canada.

Viewing?:

American Outlaws members gather here.

Weather forecast:

72 and partly cloudy is the call tomorrow night at Ford Field in Detroit, Mi.

Surf forecast:

Yes, there is in fact surfing near Detroit Michigan, right on Lake Erie. It’s just not happening today or until the Northwest winds start jetting down to long about October, November or so.

Archive:

It was June 2007 when Canada’s Atiba Hutchinson–on the field tomorrow–was robbed of the equalizer late in the semifinal match that saw the US take the match 2-1.

Make sure you hear Frankie Hedjuk’s sentiments on the win from the US Soccer library.

More:

• Only one player has started all “A” team matches–6 of ‘em–since World Cup 2010. That player? Maurice Edu.

• Last night’s action: Jamaica clubs Grenada, 4-0. Honduras & Guatemala go at it, but end up nil-nil.

• Twitter sensation FakeBobBradley somehow arrives at “a guy named Skippy” in his starting line-up.

More to follow…

The Motown Showdown: TSG’s Official US vs. Canada Preview

Okay, finish up your last gulp of paella.

US fans should pray the Yanks start imposing their will on CONCACAF Tuesday...

The US has left its Spain debacle in the rearview mirror as it looks to secure a spot in the 2013 Conferederation Cup through a championship win in this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The road for the United States appropriately goes through Detroit with Game 1 Tuesday against Canada.

The US should be able to take care of it’s group stage and finish with all nine points.

However, what US fans should be looking for–and the main sentiment that TSG will echo throughout the month–is Bob Bradley’s squad to dictate the tempo and the game to its opponent.

The US–and Mexico–are the heavies in CONCACAF, just like Spain is reckoned with on the world scene. Teams with advantages gut out wins on their bad days, but more importantly, the mark of an improving team– a team that has taken the proverbial next step–is that imposes its will on a weaker opponent.

The Gold Cup tournament–with few players facing club conflicts and time to train together–is the prefect time for the United States to collaborate as a team and begin to develop a style that the opponent is forced to contend with.

While Game One against Canada will not be without it’s flaws and an ebb and flow, by the time the United States reaches the second round they should have found their 2011 identity at the least and be controlling the run of play for long stretches of time.

Let’s get right to it. Our customary TSG preview. It goes…

About The Opponent

TSG What Are We Looking For

11 At The Whistle

Disclaimers

———-

About The Opponent

(Editor’s note: This section by Vancouver-based Ben Massey. Massey writes for the Canadian Soccer News and Eighty Six Forever. You can follow Ben on Twitter here.

Thanks Ben, great work!)

The Canadian squad traveling to Detroit to take on the Americans is close to full strength. Every core player of consequence will be in attendance; a rare treat for a team which often struggles to get its hands on its players. A few fringe guys are away; Preston North End forward Iain Hume hit eight goals in the English Championship last year but is missing this tournament due to personal issues, and 31-year-old international veteran Patrice Bernier is out with a broken leg. The team will also be without D.C. United centre back Dejan Jakovic, a standout in Canadian colours who hurt his hamstring in last week’s friendly against Ecuador. For the most part this is the best squad that Canada can assemble.

In every sense, the key for Canada is on the flanks. Canada runs a fairly orthodox 4-3-3 and the best attackers on the team play the wing, but the team is most vulnerable at fullback. It can be an area of both feast and famine for les rouges and not even the most jaded observers of the Canadian national team can be sure which it will be for any given match.

Canada's expected line-up

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The most talented attacking player on the team is left winger Josh Simpson. There is very little on the offensive side of the ball he doesn’t do well: he can run at players as well as anyone in CONCACAF. Simpson has a constant nose for the goal, a decent shot, and both the willingness and ability to pass and cross. On the right wing, Canada has several options: Real Salt Lake playmaker Will Johnson, MLS legend Dwayne De Rosario, and two-time English promotion hero Simeon Jackson have each played that role in recent friendlies. Jackson is a forward by nature and played up top against Ecuador, but most of his appearances for Canada have been on the wing.

As deep and as strong as the wings look, weakness at fullback makes up for it. The starting right back against the United States will probably be 26-year-old Nik Ledgerwood, a professional journeyman who toils for Wehen in the German third division. Left back Michael Klukowski is a talented veteran but he left his Turkish club due to financial irregularities and is out of shape. Marcel de Jong, who played last season in the 2. Bundesliga, started against Ecuador but looked erratic at best. While Ledgerwood held on pretty well against the Ecuadoran attack, don’t be fooled: he’s a very modestly talented player with not much athleticism and a good head on his shoulders. The Americans will have space to attack down the wings if they want it.

Canada's anchor Atiba Hutchinson, who famously had a 2007 goal disallowed against the States in Gold Cup play...

The team is anchored by last year’s national player of the year Atiba Hutchinson. The odd thing about Hutchinson is that, at first glance, it seems hard to see why he dominates games the way he does. He’s not that quick, he won’t play killer passes, he doesn’t go on daring offensive runs or make remarkable tackles. Yet Hutchinson is always in position to receive the ball, and when he has it he always puts the ball where he wants it. He’s not a physical player but he’s big and strong enough to handle whatever Maurice Edu types throw at him. He also has a ferocious shot when he has a mind to unleash it, which isn’t often enough, and Canadian fans will remember how he had a would-have-been-equalizer against the United States in the 2004 Gold Cup chalked off on an incorrect offside call. He doesn’t draw headlines or rave reviews, but when you watch Hutchinson you see the heartbeat of a team.

The lack of friendly practice and wildly different league environments can show when Canada goes on the attack: they’re usually highly individualistic. Jackson or De Rosario or Simpson go on a long run, beat as many defenders as they can, and then pass it off. In the final third Canada shows decent but by no means excellent passing chops: the chemistry isn’t there. The situation is a bit better on the back line, particularly centrally where Kevin McKenna and Andre Hainault have been playing off each other since Hainault came into the national team. Their team play has improved through decent games against the like of Greece, Belarus, and Ecuador, but a first game against the United States will still be a trial by fire for them. They may have preferred to open against Panama or Guadeloupe and try to find each others’ stride; that’s life, though. On their day, the Canadians can easily be dangerous enough to spring an upset.

TSG Follow-up: So Ben, you don’t think Canadian manager Jonathan Hart will go with a 4-4-1-1 to try to get all his best midfielders/forwards on the pitch?

Massey:  A 4-4-1-1 would be a big changeup from Hart and I don’t expect it. De Guzman is battling with Dunfield for a starting spot but Dunfield started against Ecuador and scored a wonder goal while De Guzman came on as a substitute and was atrocious.

One of Johnson, Gerba, Jackson, or De Rosario is going to sit. I really can only guess which. Johnson played RW against Ecuador but Gerba wasn’t available for that game.

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TSG: What Are We Looking For?

• Can the Yanks dictate the tempo and the game to Canada?

We told you we would reiterate this point multiple times during the Gold Cup. Apologies but you’ll see it more often.

• Does Bob Bradley reinforce the midfield with a 4-2-3-1 or stick with a 4-4-2?

Expect Bob Bradley to start this game in a 4-2-2-2 keeping Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey somewhat narrow ahead of Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. While Bradley played a 4-2-3-1 against Argentina’s 4-3-3 and a very flat 4-4-2 against Spain, I think we’ll see the Yanks stay narrow through the work of Donovan and Dempsey pinching in.

On a turn, this will force Canada’s CMF to quickly choose between Donovan and Dempsey and should allow the Yanks some of the linking they missed out on in the Spain match.

A quick note here given the first bullet, if Bradley goes 4-2-3-1 he looking for a war of attrition. 4-2-2-2 and he’s looking to own the game.

• Who counters the advanced flank forwards for Canada, Jackson and Simpson?

One mistake on Jackson and he possesses enough class to make the Yanks pay. While the key to containing the Norwich City striker will be cutting off the service lanes to his feet, the Yanks will need solid organization on Jackson’s side as he’ll try to exploit the space between the Yanks left fullback and left central defender.

To Turkey by way of...Portland? University of Portland product Josh Simpson now plays for mid-table Manisaspor in Turkey's top division...

Though more dangerous, Josh Simpson would be much more troubling if it weren’t for the advancing runs of Steve Cherundolo.

With the Yanks likely looking to get Steven Cherundolo ahead in the attack, the right central midfielder (either Michael Bradley or Jermaine Jones) needs to be cognizant of the quick counterattack to the feet of Simpson, that and being sure to be mindful of coming over in support if Cherundolo is out 1-v-1 with the Canadian lefty on the flank.

• Jozy Altidore should have more time on the ball and be facing one of the weaker defenses in the group. Can he captalize?

No explanation needed here. Altidore should be able to exploit a weaker defense than most that he’s faced in a US shirt over the past year. Can Altidore himself impose his will?

———-

11 at the Whistle

The skinny: Keeping a rule of thumb here–goalkeepers excepted. Bob Bradley is a very meticulous and scripted couch. Our hunch? If a player went more than 45 minutes against Spain, they’re not starting against Canada. Thus..

The Yanks expected line-up

G: Tim Howard

DEF: Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Jonathan Bornstein

The skinny: The US and Bradley have to be careful about their leftback situation. Whereas on the right Steve Cherundolo is backed by Jonathan Spector and Eric Lichaj–both who appear capable of playing the position against CONCACAF competition if the Hannover captain goes down, proven on the left is only Bocanegra and Bornstein, the former who may be asked to play centrally.

Out on a limb here by suggesting that Bradley exposes both, but with a 4-3-3 and a lot of tracking, the veteran play of two left-sided defenders is warranted.

CDM: Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley

The skinny: Let’s add this here. Michael Bradley came against a Spain team that had moved into near post-game cruise control on Saturday. He was clean and efficient with the ball with Clint Dempsey dropping horizontally in to the middle to receive possession.

Maurice Edu and Jermaine Jones floundered against Spain’s first half attack.

These are all–break out the TSG axiom–one observation. One observation does not a conclusion make. It’s hard to adjust to Spain’s game speed when you’ve been playing numbers-shortened scrimmages in practice without shinguards.

Jones and Bradley get their first respective 2011 starts centrally for the States in the Gold Cup.

Is this Dempsey's Gold Cup? He may be the best player in the tournament.

MID: Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan

The skinny:  Expect nothing less…unless of course Donovan is still ill.

STR: Jozy Altidore, Chris Wondolowksi

The skinny:  Jozy will get the start. We go with Chris Wondolowski–remember, we’re not choosing any player that went more than 45 minutes on Saturday. Wondolowski as well, can be counted on to play smartly on defense and he’ll be used as that offside striker we keep talking about to corral crosses.

Disclaimers:

• The US goes 4-2-3-1; Edu steps in for Wondowlowski

Odds: 40%

» The skinny: Bob Bradley used a 4-2-3-1 to stave off Argentina in March at the New Meadowlands. Canada isn’t Argentina though.

• The US backline is Bocanegra, Onyewu, Goodson, Cherundolo instead.

Odds: 40%

» The skinny: Possible, even probable. The challenge here is neither Goodson or Onyewu are great quarterbacks in central defense. They typically rely on the other to be the signal caller.

• Agudelo for Wondolowski

Odds: 25%

» The skinny: Bob Bradley likely uses Agudelo–who hasn’t been starting club ball–off the bench here after playing him more than 60 minutes against Spain.

Video Preview: Gold Cup 2011

Jay Bell with a motion picture look at the national participants in Gold Cup 2011.

Gold Cup Grouping: Familiar Faces

Despite the talent disparity, CONCACAF play is never a stroll in the park for the US.

The Gold Cup group opponents for this year’s critical Gold Cup tournament–the winner gets to go to the annual pre-World Cup preparation tournament called the Confederation’s Cup–was announced this morning.

The US finds itself with an interesting, but not altogether difficult initial set of opponents.

The US is perennial World Cup attendee; these are teams that should be beaten.

They are Canada, Panama and Guadeloupe.

The schedule:

USA vs. Canada, Detroit Motor City, on June 7th, 2011.

USA vs. Panama, Tampa Bay, on June 11th, 2011.

USA vs. Guadeloupe, Kansas City, June 14th, 2011.

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And you have to consider Mexico’s grouping of Costa Rica, El Salvador and Cuba to be a bit more daunting.

The final grouping? Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Grenada.

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