BRENT LATHAM - Sunday, June 21, 2009
Well we're back live in Rustenburg, and it's dead here. Most everyone involved with soccer in the country is in Pretoria for the Italy-Brazil match, but YA is up the road in the countryside, at the white elephant in the middle of Northwest Province. FIFA wanted to put a World Cup stadium in each of the country's nine provinces, and this is their attempt to bring football to Northwest. The city of Rustenburg is a small town just a couple of streets wide, and Royal Bafokeng Stadium is outside the city in the countryside. It's kind of like playing a match outside of Pierre, South Dakota, I imagine, with apologies to South Dakotans. Anyway the countryside out here is beautiful, and the US is staying on a game reserve, so there's that.
The Egypt Game
All indications Thursday were that the US was out of it after their loss to Brazil, and it was even difficult for some of the players to remember in their interviews after practice Friday morning that they still had a shot, after Egypt knocked off Italy. But here we are 72 hours later and results could possibly allow the US to get through, albeit unlikely ones.
It will be difficult to predict how the US will come out under these circumstances. My guess would be very loose, but then again they could still be uninspired as they have been of late. I'm not sure which set of circumstances would lead to a large enough victory - something like five goals - but the Pharaohs are doing their best to help out. They are currently embroiled in a scandal involving five hookers, the team hotel, a robbery, and a cover -up, which has intrigued the South African public. Perhaps a distracted and overconfident Egypt side will overlook the US, which hasn't done much to deserve attention this far.
Finally, we will see what lineup Bob Bradley elects. The coach strongly suggested that there wouldn't be major changes with the US still mathematically alive, though this seems like a great time to give some younger guys a run out against a quality opponent in a genuine environment.
I'm surprised that Coach Bradley is coming under so much fire lately. I wish someone would explain to me what has changed over the last year to lead to near universal agreement that he is not the right man for the job. That is, why now?
That's not to say that he is, but it's been this way, well, for ever. After the series of friendlies last summer, I wrote that this just wasn't going to cut it, and it was hard to find too many that agreed with that assessment. Now I hear the same arguments - that he is not tactically polished enough, that his starting lineups and reliance on veteran players who are out of form is ridiculous - that I made last summer.
Since then little has changed but time. I'm far from a Bradley apologist, but if anything he has become a better tactician in the last year. The lineup he put on the field against Italy was working until the Clark red card.
At this point, it's a bit late to do much about it. The US could still make a change, but they would have to do it right now. With the Gold Cup on the horizon followed by a match in Mexico, it's hard to see that happening. But there will be time shortly for the discussion of that. Tonight, we have one more match to play.
I'll be live on twitter - @yanks_abroad, about an hour before game time from Royal Bafokeng Stadium with live analysis.