BRENT LATHAM - Friday, June 26, 2009
Well, I owe everyone on the US team an apology. In no way, at least on this night, were they outclassed by their Spanish opponents, as I said they would be.
Last night was an amazing evening in the history of US soccer, without a doubt. The discussion of what this victory means to the game in America will go on for a while, and I'll have my chance to chime in I'm sure. For the time being, sufficed to say that the way the US played was even more impressive than the final scoreline. Spain, characteristically, had more of the possession, but the US dominated the game, and can be said to have deserved the victory. There was little luck involved, and that in itself is an amazing thing.
One of the most remarkable things about the US performance is that it was hard to pick out the best player on the US. Everyone, from Altidore and Davies up front, to Tim Howard between the pipes, had a just about perfect game. Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley were nothing less than spectacular in the midfield, and Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey showed the top notch class that Americans know they are capable of. The Americans refused to back down, and that seemed to intimidate and frustrate the Spanish.
I said yesterday that I'd like the US to play straight up against Spain, even though they would likely take one on the chin. But the Americans managed a hybrid between bunkering down and all out attack, and it suited the US to a tee. The midfield moved forward cautiously but aggressively, and there were few giveaways that caused immediate danger.
The question I find myself asking now is, do we have a new Bob Bradley on our hands? I know there are still a lot of detractors out there, tired of almost two years of mediocrity, but as I said after the Italy game, I think the coach has evolved tactically with time. The Brazil game not withstanding, the coach has sent a team out on the field ready to win each match of the Confederations Cup. That he didn't opt to bunker down against Spain shows that evolution.
It's my opinion that the coach has been scared straight. What his detractors, including me, have complained about in the past is the downside of bunker ball – a boring game with only a few chances to win each game. But the wry smile on his face after the Egypt match suggested the coach, like his players, is now liberated from the shackled mentality of looking to keep the game close and be a hard team to play against. If Bradley has realized that sort of game isn't going to take the US anywhere but home, and fast, we can expect more performances like this in the future.
Obviously there's lots more to come in the days heading up to the final, but right now I'm headed north to Johannesburg. Check in a little later!