The United States Needs to Get to Work

As I mentioned in my last post, the 24-hour rule — although not always available due to time restrictions — is a great way to evaluate things with a clear head.

For example, after the United States lost to Mexico 4-2 in the Gold Cup Final I most likely would have wrote about how pathetic Jonathon Bornstein is. I probably would’ve mentioned that I would have preferred to have scarecrow at left back or that Bornstein is so bad that a baby elephant could dribble past him. Seriously, the man was trending on twitter and you would’ve been hard pressed to find anything positive said about him.

Mexico celebrates a 4-2 rout of the United States in the 2011 Gold Cup Final. After falling behind 2-0, Mexico rallied to score four unanswered goals to dispose of the Americans. (Image via Mike Nelson/EPA)

Now that the 24-hour period has elapsed, I’m still disgusted with Bornstein’s play and I can only wonder what would’ve happened had Steve Cherundolo not gone out with an injury. During those 24 hours I also realized the game wasn’t Bornstein’s fault. Granted, Bornstein played awful, but he was just the scapegoat.

The United States’ problems are much greater than anyone would like to admit.

The Defense:

Against Spain, and at the start of the Gold Cup, the United States’ defense was shaky at best. Giving up four goals to the defending World Cup Champions is understandable, but the performances throughout the Gold Cup were not.

The U.S. beat Canada 2-0, but  Tim Howard made a few huge saves that kept the clean sheet. Then, the U.S. gave up two goals to Panama and fell 2-1 in their first ever Gold Cup group stage defeat.

Many people may point to the 300+ minutes of shutout soccer but that is what we should expect when you play Guadeloupe, Jamaica and then Panama. Everyone expected the potent Mexican offense to test the U.S. back four, but a four-goal outburst was surprising.

There is no doubt that subbing Bornstein for Cherundolo did not help the American defense but it also exposed the fact that the U.S. has no depth. Once Cherundolo went out with an injury, there was no clear replacement to shore up the defense, which is bothersome because injuries and depth are a large part of sports.

I understand the 2014 World Cup is not for a few years, but it’s never too early to plug different pieces into different positions to find a group that plays well — especially when you have a defensive group as bad as the Americans.

The Coaching Staff:

Once the game had ended some people were calling for Bob Bradely to be relieved of his duties. I won’t go as far as that but I do believe that if the coaching staff had acted differently, the game could have ended in the United States’ favor.

As I just stated, I don’t fault the coaching staff for putting Bornstein in for Cherundolo. It was what happened after the substitution that bugged me.

Once it was obvious — which didn’t take very long — that Mexico was attacking Bornstein like a bunch of hungry sharks that could smell blood, another substitution needed to be made. Bob Bradley should have taken off an attacker and added another defender to try and slow down the Mexican attack.

Even if you don’t insert the extra defender until after Mexico made it a one-goal game, the United States was still leading. Adding an extra defender would have taken away the needed space for the Mexican attackers. Also, the U.S. has high-quality attackers that may have been able to put another goal away on a counter attack.

I understand that it is very difficult to defend for the majority of the game, but defending and trying to capitalize on counter attacks would have given the U.S. a better chance to win.

The Positives:

Believe it or not, there were some positives from the Gold Cup Tournament.

For one, the offense scored in every single match, and at times, looked deadly. When the ball was moved with pace, it spread apart the opposing defense and gave the U.S. gaps to play through balls in. Clint Dempsey had a very strong tournament and Juan Agudelo gained some much-needed experience.

Before Jozy Altidore was injured, he looked to be the Altidore we have all been expecting. He played physical and attacked the opposing defense while playing simple when he needed to. It may have taken longer than expected, but Altidore may have finally matured.

Although it was in a small sample size, Freddy Adu was very impressive. He made an immediate impact in the Panama semi final match-up with a perfect ball down the line for Landon Donovan who played a ball back post to Clint Dempsey for they only goal of the game.  Adu was excellent in taking opposing defenders one-on-one and recognizing when to play his support players. In the Gold Cup final, Adu demonstrated his maturity when he held off the defense and then laid the ball off to Cherundolo who was able to win a corner for the U.S.

It is quite possible that some of the issues on display in the Gold Cup could be fixed with the return of Oguchi Onyewu and Stuart Holden. Onyewu could allow Bocanegra to slide outside and give the United States a legitimate back up with Eric Lichaj coming off the bench. Holden is a solid midfielder who could only help bolster the U.S. attack.

It’s only 2011 so pressing the panic button right now might be a little bit premature but if things don’t improve, the 2014 World Cup could be a very short trip.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The United States Needs to Get to Work

  1. Exactly. That’s exactly what I was thinking during the match. I wrote about the match on my blog (link below). Losing Cherundolo was a major blow.

    http://thenewsofsports.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/reaction-mexico-wins-concacaf-gold-cup-4-2/#more-1435

  2. Nice one! It was a painful game to watch, but it was nice to see you had some positive things to say about team USA! Defense is definitely the weak link!

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