48 HOURS
PREVIEWS
EXTRA TIME
BRENT LATHAM - Friday, June 26, 2009
48 hours.

That's how long until the final in Johannesburg, and it's also about how long has past since the stunning US victory on that cold night in Bloemfontein that will go down in soccer history. Now the US is turning to Brazil, who eeked out a 1-0 victory over hosts South Africa last night to reach their second straight Confederations Cup final.

Here are some more thoughts on the Spian match, and a look ahead to Sunday.

Dissecting the Spain Victory

The defense was much hailed in the victory over Spain, and rightfully so. The back four of Boca, DeMerit, Gooch, and Spector were virtually impenetrable. But the uncanny thing all night was how those four guys, plus Ricardo Clark, managed to show up at the last possible moment to tackle the ball away just about every single time a Spanish player was preparing to shoot on goal. I counted at least half a dozen such plays when I watched the replay (the South African Broadcasting Corp shows the games non-stop).

As much deserved credit as the defense is getting, I want to address the point of view I've been reading and hearing all around that the US bunkered down. In my opinion, it's absurd. Spain had about 55% of the possession but that's typical for the best team in the world. The US was not sitting back the whole game, they repeatedly attacked with numbers, they just did so rationally. To accuse the US of bunkering against Spain takes away the credit they are due for battling the world's number one team straight up- and winning.

Finally, I'm getting some push back on my recent compliments of coach Bob Bradley. It's true that one or two games change little - and that's just the point. I was one who originally thought Bradley should never have been named coach. Now, I see his whole body of work and at least understand why he is still coach. Of course there are still better candidates, but Bradley seems possibly to be growing into the role.

For evidence, witness the entry of Benny Feilhaber Wednesday night. Bradley sent on Feilhaber on the left immediately after the Spanish introduced Santi Cazorla on the right wing. It was a great move that kept Cazorla honest, and in the end Cazorla's indifference to marking led to Feilhaber's brilliant run that set up the US' second goal. Pretty good tactical stuff there from a coach that probably wouldn't have done that last year at this time.

Brazil

Brazil, what can you say? If the US can knock off Spain, they can get Brazil too. There's a chance for a surprise after Brazil manhandled the US in the first round. The Selecao managed only a 1-0 win over South Africa Thursday on a late Dani Alves free kick, and are looking a bit tired after there electric play in the first round.

The US camp on the other hand has never been higher. The nothing-to-lose attitude remains, and on spirit alone, the US would be the favorites on Sunday. But the players on the field will have a say as well. Without Michael Bradley, the US will need some other midfielder - I'm guessing Sacha Kljestan - or maybe Feilhaber - to step up his game. Only if the same eleven motivated players take the field on Sunday does the US have a hope of lifting its first ever FIFA trophy at Ellis Park. That has a nice ring to it.
Goalscorer24
Sunday June 28, 2009 12:43 am
Gary, Sorry, you are missing US beating Mexico in the World Cup from your list as one of it's biggest wins. Let's hope the US plays the way we all know they can! Go USA!
dude
Friday June 26, 2009 11:36 pm
The one time Klejstan tried to tackle versus Brazil was a red card. I honestly think Bob is capable of making a bone headed decision like putting on a player that was only SLIGHTLY less lost than Beasley, and this will solidify the bone headedness of yore. (Honestly, these two didn't give us a chance from minute one).

Feilhaber plays, for pete's sake. I think he's been great all tournament long, with the exception of one take away. (So Rossi was pumped, stole the ball, and shot from 30 yards out. It was spectacular. But not really a taint. Get over it).

We NEED passing to play against Brazil, the same lineup will/would not have been as effective. South Africa stayed in the game, not only because their defense played admirably, but because their passing and understanding kept Brazil from having one of their endless sequences; (like the bundled in goal of Gooch when we played them last summer).

I don't think we'll see Torres, though I think we should, but ADU, I got to think, will finally get a chance late in the game. Conor Casey has nothing to offer in this match. And I'm feeling it now, I know he has haters, but I believe that, if given the opportunity, Adu will play a integral part in the winning/overtime earning goal.

Let's do this.
Gary
Friday June 26, 2009 7:09 pm
Wednesday's win was No. 3 for the U.S. (IMHO) among all time wins -- only Gold Cup Mexico in 2007 and Portugal in the World Cup were bigger. Now for Brazil, and I think the keys will be twofold -- avoiding silly cards and Bocanegra's hammy ... is it OK for most of 120 minutes? Because, I believe, this game WILL be 0-0 after 90, and 0-0 after 120 ... IF Carlos is fit for at least 110-115 of those nail-biting minutes. Will we be happy if the U.S. has to win it in penalty kicks? You bet your sweet bippy we will be. U-S-AAAAA!
GARY in Sunny Tampa
Desi
Friday June 26, 2009 4:49 pm
if Kljestan steps on the field, we will not win.
grady36
Friday June 26, 2009 4:43 pm
Whatever happens against Brazil this has been an amazing tournament for our boys and the fans. The ONLY thing that still bugs me is that Torres somehow fell out of Bradley's reckoning and now isn't even on the Gold Cup squad. In his interview Torres expressed that he had hopes of being called up for the Gold Cup. For some reason I think there is more to it that meets the eye...
Jay
Friday June 26, 2009 3:20 pm
The US should be prepared for a greater level of cynicism and off-the-ball dirty play than in the Spain game. Brazil play with alot of flair but in a critical match the knives come out a la the round of 16 in '94. Just ask Tab.
Ilya
Friday June 26, 2009 2:55 pm
Oh, please, no Kljestan!
Kyle
Friday June 26, 2009 1:58 pm
Brazil is a much more difficult task than Spain. we must possess which we did not do very well against Spain. Putting up a defensive shell worked for us then, but conceding possession like that against Brazil is not sound strategy. Spain are choke artists, Brazil are not. they will wear you down over 90 minutes and eventually pick you apart as they did yesterday and in the round of 16 against the US in 94. after that game the coach had this to say, "Water running over a rock will eventually crack it." I say we have to win the battle of possession to win the game, and that is asking a lot. Of course, anything is possible.
Barry U
Friday June 26, 2009 10:32 am
We need to avoid giving them set pieces. Like in the Spain game play solid man marking. Rico needs to be all over the filed like he was in the Spain game without getting into trouble. Charlie, Jozy, Clint and Lando need to attack Andres Santo and Maicon becuase if we do not then it will become a shooting gallery. Overall we need to attack them. One more thing we need. A ref that does not fall for the acting performance Brazil usually tries to put on. Robihno, Kaka, Ramires and Fabiano are oscar winners and they get free kicks and set pieces with that crap which can hurt. I predict a penalty shoot out to decided the winner.
Charlie G.
Friday June 26, 2009 10:13 am
I for one would love to see Bob continue to grow into the job - what better than to have the USMNT coached by an Amercian, and be a contender? I'm not against having a foreign coach, but feel that a US born coach, and former MLS coach, helps give credibility to the game here. Players everywhere may start seeing the MLS a bit differently soon, and more perhaps more MLS trained players will populate the starting line-up of the USMNT.

Think its also a wise move to name an almost completely new roster for Gold Cup....the team in SA now knows that this is their last game before a break...and for a few a last "audition" for a career move, which many well-deserve.
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