Posts Tagged ‘Gold Cup’

Go For the Gold (Cup)…Sometimes

Looking back at my post after the Haiti draw, I realized that I was only half right in my criticism of the contest. I am still not fond of the seeming lack of focus going into and during the contest. However, some of the criticism was misplaced at that time as I didn’t really agree with US Soccer’s decision to make this a developmental tournament for the US program. That opinion has changed.

The international stages of the Confederations Cup and World Cup (qualifying) are much more important for the quality of US Soccer if not necessarily for its perception in America than the Gold Cup. Furthermore, the confluence of the deep run in the Confederations Cup, the MLS season, and club training made participation in the Gold Cup a little too much to ask for most of the starting eleven in light of World Cup qualifying (and particularly, August 12th).

Big Ass Trophy

Big Ass Trophy

In general, the Gold Cup itself is not held in the same regard as  the European Championship (or even  Copa America) by the world soccer community around the globe in part due to the quality of play and its occurrence every two years. In fact, even fans of CONCACAF nations have lamented its bi-annual format as opposed to a four-year model that could make it a “bigger deal.” Given the money it brings in, I doubt that will change, but that isn’t a bad thing.

On the contrary, I think the US should use the bi-annual format to its advantage as it has this past cycle. Play the “A” team  the summer after each World Cup in hopes of getting into the Confederations Cup and then purposefully make it a developmental tournament the summer prior to the next World Cup. While I am not suggesting that as long as the US regulars show-up they will win (thereby securing a birth the next Confederations Cup), I think we can safely assume that they will be one of the two favorites (with Mexico) for the foreseeable future. (A by-product of this approach would be that the Gold Cup the years after the WC would be a “bigger deal.”)

Aside from the “psychological” boost (if there even was one) and a big ass trophy, what did Mexico gain by being crowned the champion? With neither side at full strength, the win will get them two weeks of good press and bragging rights until the “real game” on August 12th. So kudos to US Soccer for being smarter than me and figuring this out well in advance.

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

Did I Just Watch Wedding Crashers?…….. Mexico 5, USA 0

Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!

I loved the first half of the movie Wedding Crashers. It was a comedic tour de force with quotable lines and great banter between the characters. Sixty minutes in you thought you were watching a potentially epic comedy. But then the movie took a drastic turn for the worse and never recovered. It went from funny and light to an obsessed John Beckwith getting beat up by Sack Lodge.

Such was the Gold Cup final for the US versus Mexico. Fifty minutes in you thought the US was playing well and a goal wasn’t too far off. Forty minutes later you were wondering how something something that started so well could end so badly.

The turning point in Wedding Crashers, much like Mexicos PK gaol.

The 54th minute of the Gold Cup final versus Mexico was akin to Jeremy Grey and John Beckwith walking down the road after they were confronted by the Cleary family. Things would never be the same after that.

I share Matt’s view of the first half –strong all-around play for the US only marred by the absence of finding the back of the net; good mix of aggression and patience while varying the method of attack. However, the penalty kick by Mexico early in the 2nd half let the air out of the US balloon. Actually, it pretty much popped the US balloon and the air came rushing out all at once (along with their fitness level?).

Was the PK the right call? In a word, NO, but I think the referee thought he had to call something with the mess of bodies in the box. From my view, Heaps stood his ground (with a little grabbing) and the Mexican player more or less launched himself through and over Heaps putting the onus on the official to make a call. It reminded my of a NBA player going strong to the rim, making contact with a bigger defender, and hoping the ref bails him out. While in basketball, its a “50/50 play,” the odds are decidedly against the defense in soccer.

After the PK it was open season for El Tri. The youth of the US squad caught up to them in a hurry as the game snowballed out of control. And, surprisingly, their fitness level came into quesiton; something I didn’t expect from a US side. Perkins did all he could, but the streaking runs of the Mexican strikers were relentless and it was only a matter of time before Mexico struck again. Simply, the US could not get organized during the run of play to stop the Mexican attack.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I’d be interested to hear what you thought Bradley could have done differently. (Kick a Mexican player? Try to convince the referee that timeouts were allowed in the Gold Cup?) I am guessing that most fans were like myself, hoping time would run out without further damage. Alas, the goals kept coming even as Mexico looked to kill the clock.

While the half was a disaster all-around, I must point out one thing, specifically, I didn’t like. In contrast to my brother, I thought the yellow cards taken by the US were horrible and embarrassing. Take a yellow to protect a teammate (re: Tim Howard’s head), but don’t pile up yellows merely out of the frustration of getting whooped, especially not one from the veteran on the field. Unnecessary fouls, be it bad tackles or finishing after the whistle, are emblematic of lack of discipline from Bob Bradley. One game would be an anomaly or even one tournament would be an anomaly, but this is back-to-back tournament with different players.

Best Play of the Game Troy Perkins point blank stop around the 60- minute mark.

Most Unheralded Play of the Game Brian Ching’s continuing to fight and steal the ball down 4-0 at the 85-minute mark.

Golden Shinguard Despite the late yellow, this one goes to Brian Ching as well. He truly was the one standout in the game who made his presence felt the full 90 minutes.

Ratings:

C: Bob Bradley – INCOMPLETE Took the same team from the semi-final and had them playing much better the first 50-minutes against Mexico. Bob’s job isn’t done, however. He’s got a room full of kids who just got their ass kicked. They need to hear the good, but I also hope he will directly tell the bad and what they can learn from the experience. Hence, he gets an incomplete.

G: Troy Perkins – 7 If ever a goalie could be impressive while giving up 5, that was today. Perkins stopped some point blank shots, but couldn’t win every one v. one situation he found himself in. Seemed to be in good position even on those. And the fifth goal was perfect placement by the Mexican player who squeezed the shot between two US defenders.

D: Back Four – 5 In this tale of two halves, it’s hard to give the each of the guys individual grades. So, I am taking the middle of the road on the defense as a whole. I thought Jay Heaps had some excellent challenges and clearances, but ended up with being sent off for two bad tackles. Clarence Goodson was all over the place winning headers and tracking down players, but clearly ran out of gas. Ditto for Chad Marshall along with a great tackle to stop a Mexican counter-attack deep in the area at the end of the first half. Heath Pearce again played aggressive on the overlap, but got caught pressing for goals when the US fell behind.

M: Robbie Rogers – 4 Seemed overmatched against a stronger Mexican squad. Knocked off the ball repeatedly and blasted an eight-yarder over the crossbar on the best opportunity of the day for the US.

M: Kyle Beckerman – 6 Worked tirelessly in the mid-field. Had more room to operate and create, but couldn’t get the ball on frame in three chances from just outside the area.

M: Logan Pause – 5 Seemed to be more involved than the past two games, but didn’t do much worth mentioning.

M: Stu Holden – 7 It’s nice to have a player on the squad that gets you excited when you see he is  about to take a shot, but he was wide on his one opportunity. Good service, set pieces and corners (despite having a bottle thrown at him by the “home crowd” on one of them.)

F: Brain Ching – 8 Chased down balls on long runs, tracked back inside the six to help out on defense and battled the whole way.

F: Davy Arnoud -5.5 Didn’t make the most of his chances again, but played better than in the semi-final. If the US had another game in this tournament I don’t think he would be starting.

SUB: Cooper, Quaranta and Cronin – INC

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In the end, I don’t think it was as epic a loss as the announcers would have you believe, but I am disappointed by the way the US lost. This isn’t a step back for the US program as some might suggest, but they certainly missed an opportunity to step forward.

Your 11 on the pitch for U.S. vs Panana?

USMNT, sweeping through the Suez

USMNT, sweeping through the Suez

Update: We’ve updated the post as Cherundolo and Parkhurst have jumped across the pond for club action.

Who would you start? Who is going to start? Let us know.

For Panama, expect a team that comes in the typical Central American role. They will have great footwork, questionable defensive integrity, and a feisty attitude. You could pretty use that describe most other teams between the two tropic lines.

Panama is fresh of a 4-0 blitzing of a 10-man Nicaraguan squad Sunday so they’ll have a little confidence.

I’m going with the following, expecting BB to take another conservative approach following the bit of chaos that ensued Saturday.

11 at the whistle:

G – Troy Perkins
A very steady performance against Honduras earns that cap

D (Wing) – Sam Cronin, Heath Pearce
With Cherundolo heading back over sees, I think it’s a coin flip between Cronin and Evans on the back right. My hunch is that with Cronin playing the better game last Saturday, you’ll see him there this Saturday….

D (Center) – Chad Marshall, Jimmy Conrad
Jimmy earns the start that should see him improve upon his Foxboro outing. The U.S. needs Marshall in there.

M (Wing) – Robbie Rogers, Santino Quaranta
Can they hold the flanks? Both have proved to flashes of one-on-one attack, now let’s see if they can link some more passes and come out and support their d counterparts.

M (Center) – Stu Holden, Kyle Beckerman
The makings of an excellent pairing here. Both are workmanlike and steady on defense giving Bob Bradley a junior pairing not unlike Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley.
(Note, you may see Benny in here, but I think more as a late inning reliever, not starter….if that’s the case Holden will move out wide and you’ll see Quaranta making way).

F – Davy Arnaud, Brian Ching
Interesting coupling here. Main question? No Davies. I think Bradley will use Davies much like he did in the Honduran game…bringing him as a late gamer when the defense is tired.

Disclaimers?

- Possible that Bradley brings back Feilhaber in which case I think you’ll see Holden move out wide.

Likelihood: 50%

- Possible that Davies gets the start with Arnaud backing up

Likelihood: 75%

- Possible that Ching roams up front and U.S. goes with Benny up front backed by Beckerman and Holden in the holding roles

Likelihood: 35%

See you Saturday

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