DAVID SMITH - Wednesday, June 17, 2009
As Bob Bradley and company regroup from the 3-1 loss to Italy, the US coach is aware of the Brazilian challenge around the corner but confident in his team's ability to rise unified to the occasion.
"It's a tough group," Bradley admits. "We knew when we started against the World Cup holders that the challenge was great, but I felt that we did some things well against Italy."
"We're disappointed in the end with result, but now we are ready to turn our sights on Brazil, and we know how important the second game is."
While his team failed to score in the run of play for the third straight game, Bradley was still encouraged by the chemistry he has seen developing between his two most important offensive weapons - Landon Donovan and Josmer Altidore.
"Our feeling going into the game Monday was that Landon was going to be a threat coming from a little bit underneath," he explained. "I felt that Jozy would be a presence and cause trouble, and he certainly did that. "
In a first half in which the Stars & Stripes largely looked to be the better team on the field, Altidore's presence was indeed often problematic for the Italians, as his take-down in the penalty area late in the half ultimately led to the Americans temporarily taking the lead on a Donovan spot kick conversion.
"I thought in that kind of game, it was a good way to create some opportunities, and that the partnership between Jozy and Landon showed that it is improving all the time."
Heading into Thursday's encounter with Brazil, Bradley knows that the threat posed by the Brazilians' lethal attacking core and often open approach to the game represents a significant hurdle for any team to overcome.
"Brazil often gives such freedom to guys like Robinho and Kaka that they rely on the back four and the two central midfielders, and hold things together with a block of six," he analyzes. "It can be at times a little bit more of a wide-open game."
"Certainly their last game against Egypt was, from the start, two teams that did a good job of making things very difficult on the other team."
He is, however, heartened by his players' capacity to show the chemistry needed to keep them competitive and a threat themselves against teams who, purely on paper, are far their superior.
"Our ability to still play well as a group and make it hard on the other team is certainly important when we're playing against some of the top teams in the world."