BRADLEY ON THE HOT SEAT
RECAPS
EXTRA TIME
EDGAR ZUNIGA - Sunday, June 14, 2009
As expected, the US went into the "Monster's Cave" and got whooped like a government mule. Now, I've never seen such a thing, but it must be a very ugly thing to behold, because that's the worst the US has played in a long time.

Yeah, they lost in Saprissa 3-0 in the final hexagonal of qualifying for World Cup 2006, but, the US had already clinched their spot in the World Cup so they fielded a bunch of scrubs for that one, and Costa Rica was desperate for a win to get them to Germany.

This time, there was no excuse.

The US came into Saprissa and, from the first whistle, looked like a bunch of scolded dogs, running around with their tails between their legs. Realistically, the final score should have been 6-1. And wouldn't that have been a feather in Bob Bradley's cap?

Following the script, we saw the US return home to scratch out a gutsy win over a strong Honduran team that could have easily put the score out of reach early on. While the US should be patted on the back for pulling off that momentous comeback, a team that wants to challenge the world's elite shouldn't be sweating matches against teams viewed as minnows on the global scale.

And this is where we have to take a step back and look at the current state of the US Men's National Team.

Since Paul Caligiuri scored, arguably, the most important goal in US Soccer history, back in 1989, to send the US to Italia '90, the US National Team has become exponentially better. Some say Team USA peaked in '02. Others argue that Team USA was the victim of the Group of Death in '06.

But, let's look at the team today.

Despite success in CONCACAF, the US hasn't lived up to expectations outside the region and is far removed from FIFA's elite. Not only has Bob been unable to extract the maximum potential out of his current crop of players, the US National Team pool has proven to be actually quite shallow…wading pool shallow.

Just look at what ill-timed injuries to Maurice Edu and Frankie Hejduk did to the defense.

Total disarray.

Team USA is an injury to Landon Donovan away from disaster.

Meanwhile, Bob just stands there and blinks. He's not even getting a slap on the wrist.

Here, in the US, our soccer coaches aren't subject to the same standards, expectations and pressure as in other nations. The US Soccer Federation seems content that whoever's in charge does enough to get the team to the World Cup and maintain dominance in the little ghetto we call CONCACAF.

To the US, just getting to the World Cup is a huge deal.

To Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina, not getting to the final is seen as a catastrophe.

After the 2-2 draw in El Salvador, Bob should have been on the hot seat. After the failure in Costa Rica, he could have been shown his walking papers. But US Soccer doesn't run things that way.

Pressure? What pressure?

With all its resources, the US National Team should be aspiring for world domination. However, recent results serve as evidence to the erosion beneath the façade; the entire program actually seems to be in regression, or, at the very least, plateaued.

You don't agree?

Does anyone seriously think that the US has a legitimate shot at finishing in one of the top two spots of their group in the upcoming Confederations Cup? Italy and Brazil are as heavy as heavyweights get. And, back-to-back African champions Egypt aren't about to roll over for the CONCACAF giants.

US Soccer wants to measure itself against the world's best—prove that it can be a World Cup contender. Barring at least one monumental upset, the US will find that it's barely nipping at their heels.

What happened to that tough-as-nails, can-do attitude from the '02 team? After that amazing performance, everyone announced that the "sleeping giant" had finally woken…only for it to stretch its arms, blink a bit, then roll over and go back to sleep.

Not only is the US far from expectations, the current team is beneath the '02 squad.

Quick: name one US field player that can truly be deemed as world-class.

Exactly.

You'd think that after '02, one of those young players would have developed into a world-class player. DaMarcus Beasley? Nope. Clint Mathis? Try again. Landon Donovan? Not really.

Maybe, one day, Jozy Altidore will reach that point. However, he has been almost invisible in the recent matches against Costa Rica and Honduras. Will his existence even be acknowledged against Italy, Brazil or Egypt?

Is it too much to ask the US to do well in the Confederations Cup, or should we just be content for this opportunity at a dress rehearsal for next year's World Cup?

US Soccer fans should demand more. They deserve more.

You want to say that your team can compete with the world's best and you want that team to at least put forth that effort. But, more often that not, you get Europeans or South Americans snickering in your face and pooh-poohing our team.

The worst part is that the grip the US has on CONCACAF is a tenuous one at best.

Hopefully, the matches against Costa Rica and Honduras will slap some life into the National Team and revive that gritty attitude that has propelled the team to victories over stronger foes. With the upcoming Confederation Cup matches against Italy and Brazil, the US will have an opportunity to inject some confidence into a faltering program.

Even if they lose, if they could at least show some grit and determination, it will be enough to rekindle that fighting spirit.

Nevertheless, someone has to light a fire under Bob to produce better results from his players. Maybe he lacks the ambition or vision to take this team to a higher ground. Then, the question begs to be asked: Will US Soccer turn to a coach with serious international experience?

Jurgen Klinsmann recently joined the ranks of the unemployed. Maybe the suits at US Soccer are considering making him another pitch to take the reins of the National Team. That could be a way of letting Bob know that he needs to step up the ante or get the axe.

With a very busy summer, the US players will be spending a lot of time together. If they can't gel during this time, then it's obvious that a change needs to be made, or the US will suffer the same fate as Mexico, which slept on its laurels, fell on its face and is now choking a on a huge slice of dirt cake.
Brandinho
Sunday June 14, 2009 9:10 pm
Seriously Edgar did you even watch the game against Honduras, or did you just watch the goal replays and the score sheet and write your opinion from that? Yes the US was terrible, flat, and lifeless in Costa Rica, frankly it didn't even look like they care. You got that right, but they struggled against Honduras? Are you kidding me? Honduras got an early goal because of a mistake and then got dominated in every phase of the game from then on.
Bootlegger
Sunday June 14, 2009 8:33 pm
What does "world class player" mean anyway? Define it high enough (Ronaldo, Roony, Messi) and very few teams have any. But if you include players who dominate in their respective spots around the "world", then we have Howard, Onyewu (2-time Belgian champ, UEFA experience), and Dempsey (key starter, top of the table, best league in the world), plus developing players like Jozy and Edu.

So "world class" is where you draw the line.
We have more talent now than ever but we don't have a coach with the tactical chops or motivational skills to, as someone said above, get us playing as more than the sum of our parts, i.e. a Team. Maybe Kilinsman's the answer, maybe not. But if Bradley gets zero results in this tournament then I say show him the door.
Yankeehooligan
Sunday June 14, 2009 8:22 pm
Bradley must go. Anyone who has been paying attention knows what a lousy record he has away from the comfy confines of the U.S. of A.

Three of his six away wins were against CONCACAF minnows (Guat, Barbados and Cuba). Remember the Copa America debacle? World class players? How can you tell, when Bradley plays them out of position and fields a new lineup every match?(DMB at LB was a joke)

There are some diamonds in the rough that could be developed in to WC players (Feilhaber, Kljestan, Torres, Altidore) but BB isn't the one to do it. I'm not sure Klinsman is either, but he'd be a step in the right direction.
Desi
Sunday June 14, 2009 6:44 pm
for 'sigh':

I think mentioning that we don't have any "World Class" players is perfectly valid. Remember Project 2010? The USSF has to take blame for both the coaching and the player development.

We've been hearing since 1990 that we're "arriving" or that we're "maturing as a soccer nation" fact is we're still mediocre.

Bradley is a run of the mill soccer coach. He's not horrible, by any means, and I dont think that Edgar is trying to say that. I think though that in order for us to do some real improvement we need to stop throwing out the same coach year after year. and lets face it, Arena and Bradley are essentially the same guy.

After we get creamed in SA, I want the USSF apologists to at least consider the possibility that our whole approach is flawed.
sigh
Sunday June 14, 2009 5:42 pm
Screaming about how we don't have world class players is categorically useless.

Personally, I'm more concerned with playing greater than the sum of our parts. My greatest criticism of Bradley is that he leans on the defense, which everyone knows isn't worth leaning on, while completely ignoring the needs of the offense; Donovan and Dempsey will score, surely. People who keep saying we need more grit, more power in the middle aren't getting why our defense isn't working. We just don't have a system that helps relieve pressure and generate chances. And those who can pass are shunned (see Torres, Feilhaber, Adu).

No, Bob isn't a great coach. And yes, I'd like to see Klinsmann. Bob isn't capable of creating any type of attacking dynamic or fine tuning. But what I'd like more is a Federation that doesn't wait until ultimate failure before moving forward.

Finally, I honestly believe that Altidore, Adu, and Edu have the potential to be world class players. I'm also praying for Zizzo. But we need a good World Cup to make clubs play our stars Because they are American.

Then you probably wouldn't be yowling, you'd be saying, why can't we have more guys like that?
WhiteHartRoma
Sunday June 14, 2009 5:11 pm
Paul: What you say is precisely the problem, qualifying for the World Cup should not be enough. Just being there shouldn't be good enough for a coach to keep his job. There has been no concrete improvement since 2006(which was a disaster).

Ravey: While I agree we probably aren't finding the best talent out of our pool, you can't hate on Jozy. The problem becomes that our best attacking option is a 19 year-old who still has much to learn in Europe
Luis Ramon
Sunday June 14, 2009 5:05 pm
Pink slips are everywhere in the U.S. U.S. Soccer should be no exception if the results don't come the summer before World Cup 2010. Good Luck to you Bradley. I would like to see an American coaching in South Africa!!!
Ravey
Sunday June 14, 2009 4:33 pm
Klinsman would be a breath of fresh air, however, the US Soccer Federation didn't allow him complete power. This was one of the reasons he declined the last offer. It comes to point out, maybe the US Soccer Federation is governed by some idiots? Maybe its run by "Business folks, or marketing folks and not soccer folks?

I don't believe out of 300 Million Americans, this is the team we have. I believe, there are great players out there, but are not given the chance, because of unqualified people in charge.

Ask your self, would Romario or Altidore be forward on the USA team? Who would have been chosen in college, or in the U-17 team? Romario was like 5-3, 120 pounds...do you think the coaches would have given him the chance to become a great Romario? Or would they push forward an Altidore, 6 foot something, at 16 years old to out run and over power defenders?

So the issue is that USA is giving opportunities to the wrong players...
john lona
Sunday June 14, 2009 2:48 pm
I'm afraid I agree with everything this writer says, the US will be lucky to tie a game at the confed cup. This will be a disaster. Maybe that is what we need to get a real coach with higher expectations.
Andrew Quirk
Sunday June 14, 2009 12:57 pm
Klinsmann is an Adidas guy, he will never work for a Nike sponsored employer.
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