The United States Men’s National Team has been in turmoil for a good year under the direction of Bob Bradley. At last year’s World Cup, the USMNT met expectations by barely getting through a group which looks weaker today than it did in the Summer of 2010. Since the World Cup, the United States has engaged in a few money-grabbing international friendlies that gave the fans a glimpse into how we fare against superior opposition. Things looked bleak. We’ve been spanked repeatedly since the World Cup and haven’t had a good outing since. Spain embarrassed the United States a few days before their first match in the Gold Cup.
Against the Canadians, it looked like the United States were expecting to be given the three points. Luckily, Jozy Altidore is an expert level turner of third-rate Canuck defenders. We won 2-0, but I don’t believe many people were happy about the United States’ performance. They lacked a cutting edge in their attack, and even though the back line hadn’t been tested by Canada, it was obvious that our central midfield was going to be a bit of a problem.
The wheels finally came off against Panama. Like most CONCACAF squads the USMNT face, Panama sat back and was glad to hit the US on the counterattack. The back four were exposed by a fast, intelligent Panamanian attack. Ream and Goodson looked all out of sorts. The ball was lost too easily in the midfield. Little cover was provided by Jones and Bradley whose lack of pace was exploited by the Panamanian squad. Cover from our outside backs was lacking. The Panamanians were providing killer diagonal balls across the box knowing that our defenders couldn’t stick with their men. The US went down 2-0 by half. By that time it was obvious that the staunch Panamanian defense with their strength in the middle were not going to budge. There was an obvious gulf in quality between the two squads.
I, and most of my friends, can’t name a Panamanian player. I think this might be incredibly telling about the state of our football in the United States. Bradley and the coaching staff seemed to have underestimated the Panamanian squad. With arrogance and bravado, we expected to waltz in and win another group match, like we always do. Transfixed by the happenings in Europe and the MLS, the squad comprised of those playing in Europe and a couple from the MLS. Reputation and club alone will not win the United States games in the upcoming weeks. I don’t want to dive into an English diatribe about not picking players on reputation but according to form, but it seems to be the case. Our squad is full of players who play overseas, but in their respective clubs have done nothing.
Jermaine Jones was loaned out to Blackburn from Schalke because he couldn’t cut it in the first team. His time there was abysmal. Michael Bradley was shipped out to Aston Villa from relegation contender Borussia Mönchengladbach. Landon Donovan’s time at Everton lifted the hearts of American football fans. It showed us that our players could make a positive impact in Europe. However, this form hasn’t truly translated over to the Men’s National Team, despite his goal against Algeria that sent us through in the WC. Landon has actively taken on the public role of leader of our national team in this country, but he’s absolutely absent on the field. Altidore seems to have stagnated in his progress. Nothing more can be said about that.
It’s Bob Bradley’s job to see this and make the necessary adjustments. I can understand fielding the same team against Panama as we did against Canada as a way to truly test the capacity of the first choice squad. However, it would have been nice to see others given a chance. It was obvious after the first match that things weren’t going to get any easier. Edu isn’t getting the necessary minutes. He won the SPL with Rangers for the love of God. Michael Bradley should not start this match today. I’m certain he will. I was reluctant to go down the “He’s the Coach’s Son” route, but it seems like Papa Bradley insists on keeping him in when it’s obvious he isn’t up to the task. There have been bright moments with Mike, but it’s not consistent enough. Without speaking too tactically, it’s obvious we don’t work well in a 4-4-2.
Dempsey, Agudelo, and Howard seem to be the only ones giving their all for the National Team at the moment. It’s also obvious that we’re missing Stuart Holden, again. Bob can only do so much with what he’s got, but injuries shouldn’t be an excuse at this point. We’ve had time to prepare. I think it’s time for Bob to make the necessary changes today. I don’t think he will.
It’s time that we move on from Bob Bradley. His years of service won’t be forgotten by American fans. The reputation of the United States has risen exponentially since 2006’s debacle in Germany. However, it’s obvious that this isn’t enough to keep your job when things are falling apart. Reputation alone will not win us this Gold Cup or any competition from now on. We need a change.
When it comes down to it, I’m glad that our national squad has risen to the point where we can have these expectations. It means that we’re not just accepting defeat as easily anymore as a footballing nation. We’re no longer as much of a laughing-stock as we once were. If there isn’t a change soon, we might be heading in that direction.