EDGAR ZUNIGA - Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Well, you've got to hand it to Bob Bradley.

Despite growing criticism of his call-ups, lineups, tactical decisions and second-half meltdowns of his teams, he has, nonetheless, brought the US National Team to the brink of qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

I know I've been rough on Bob repeatedly, but God knows I probably wouldn't cut it as a head coach or tactical director for a national team representing a nation as large as the United States, with the resources available to someone in that position.

Although the US has to officially qualify for the World Cup, it is practically a given (unless Team USA suddenly turns into this year's Detroit Tigers and falls apart at the end). This is a considerable accomplishment for Bob because the US is now expected to qualify every time, despite having to deal with some of the most threatening and intimidating away venues of all FIFA regions.

Yeah, the crowds in most CONCACAF nations support their national teams with ferocious zeal, but, at least, the US does not have to deal with playing in politically hostile areas like Palestine, Iraq or North Korea.

Wait...wait...Things in Honduras aren't exactly peachy keen right now, are they? Just in case you're stuck in the bubble of MTV News, Honduras has been undergoing a lot of political strife, centered on the arrest and coup of leftist President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted and dispatched to Costa Rica.

There were riots, mass protests from both sides and, when things seemed to be hot already, Zelaya snuck back into Honduras, taunting interim President Roberto Micheletti and presenting himself as a martyr.

Initially, there was talk of moving the game to a neutral venue to avoid any potential hazards or disturbances. However, the Honduras Soccer Federation was not about to yield their valuable home-field advantage, arguing they would make sure the game would go on and would take preventative measures to ensure the safety of both teams and fans.

As if going to Honduras and getting a positive result wasn't difficult enough, now Team USA (an occasional anti-American political lightning rod when playing on the road) has to, at the very least, be aware that they are about to enter a potential war zone.

Add to this boiling pot a strong Honduran team that had to swallow a very tough loss against Mexico in Aztec Stadium and wants nothing more than to rebound at home against a high-caliber opponent like the US.

As if that wasn't enough to make Bob furrow his brow, he has to deal with an injury to Clint Dempsey, who suffered a sprained shoulder in Fulham's match against West Ham.

Without a doubt, Deuce, who has scored five goals during the World Cup qualifiers and is one of the cornerstones of the national team, will be missed. This means more pressure on Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore, which means the US may just hang back and try to counter (nothing new here).

So, as you can see, Bob has a lot on his mind right now.

Under normal circumstances, expecting the US to win in Honduras would be too much to ask. Taking into consideration all the political turmoil and distractions that come with that, it would seem that things could not get more complicated for Bob and our boys.

Nevertheless, this situation can be viewed as a double-edged sword.

Emotions are running high in Honduras and the political morass might actually unsettle the Honduran players - even those who live and play overseas. Coming home to see your beloved country in such a mess can be demoralizing. While they were already expected to beat the US, they might feel added pressure get that win and bring some joy to their beleaguered countrymen. That pressure might get to them.

While it would be nice to draw or win in Honduras, the main objective is to finish atop the CONCACAF hexagonal; losing to Honduras would not be disastrous. However, it would set up a very tense rematch with Costa Rica at RFK Stadium, on Wednesday.

No one wants to finish in fourth and have to deal with a potential home-and-away series with Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay or even Venezuela. Yeah, Venezuela isn't a South American powerhouse, but socialist loudmouth Hugo Chavez is turning Venezuela into the next Cuba.

If the US turns in another of their recent ho-hum performances, where they do just enough to scratch out a win, they will find themselves having to deal with a Costa Rican team desperate to avoid the fourth and final spot and who might potentially recapture the play that had them flying high midway through the hexagonal.

Yeah, all signs point to a US victory and a huge collective sigh of relief from the team and a nation of followers, but, damn, did it have to come to this point?

Well, Bob will be the first to tell you that qualifying to the World Cup is not easy. And, this is why we owe Bob a lukewarm applause (for now), and hopefully a standing-O after a win over Costa Rica.

Although he will accomplish one of the goals of the US Soccer Federation, things have not come easy to Bob, and it is easy to point fingers at him from the security of our computers, living rooms, sports bars and stadium seats. After all, we are not privy to what happens on the practice fields, and the drama that his players might bring to the team.

Who knows why he is reluctant to call up Marvell Wynne, start Jose Francisco Torres or how long he will continue to use Michael Bradley, despite diminishing returns?

Recently, a good friend, with a good soccer mind, pointed out that the US is actually going through a rebuilding phase and expecting our current crop of players to go out and crush CONCACAF is asking too much. It is a valid argument, which means that if Bob can get us to the World Cup with these guys, they are going to be much better in the near future.

So, give Bob a hand.

I applaud him for all the great accomplishments of this year...

Defending the Gold Cup! No, wait...

Winning the Confederations Cup against all odds! Uh, no, hold on...

Getting us to the World Cup..?

Yay, Bob!
Monday October 12, 2009 4:40 am
Well, I have to admit that Bob rolled the dice a bit and it paid off. I was really perplexed at putting Casey in over Altidore. Jozy not getting playing time at Hull was the likely culprit. Also, having Holden on the right, who can actually cross the ball in unlike our other Right Mid (who I didn't miss once during the match), made using a bigger target in the middle not a bad idea.

I thought the team responded amazingly to the Honduras goal. A switch went off and they just took over the game for the next 30 minutes - what a sight (too bad so many people missed that display of heart). I think the players probably made up for anything Coach could have done to hurt the team.

Michael B. was pretty bad in the first half and Coach still showing that he doesn't want grief from Mrs. Bradley for sitting his behind for a while.

My guess is that we see the same starting line-up that we saw on Saturday. A win gives us a slim shot at a seeded position by winning the CONCACAF region. Also, a win puts a better team in the World Cup (Honduras over Costa Rica).
Friday October 9, 2009 11:24 am
Bora was by far the best US coach, ever! Arena and Bradley do not even come close.

Considering what he had to work with, the man definitely knew how to get results, not only with the US, but with Mexico, Costa Rica, Nigeria and China. Definitely, from the Fabio Capello school of coaching (Or Capello is from the Bora school of coaching), he realized that for the US to succed, it all started with a solid center (Lalas and Balboa), while using two quick wing backs (Caliguari and Clavijo) to cover for the center backs' lack of pace.

Dooley kicked anyone who ventured in the "hole" in front of Lalas and Balboa, while the wings were protected by his two best players (Ramos and Harkes). In essence, the US played with seven defenders. Offense was left to setpieces and counterattacks by Wynalda and Stewart (left pretty much to their own devices). Which left, Sorber, one of the most underrated (and best) holding mids the US ever had, to try to link with the others to attempt a few moments of possession.

Bora drove the purists nuts with his lack of style. But, unlike so many "experts," he truly knows the game.
Friday October 9, 2009 9:51 am
I like the line up Scott,,i prefer Felhaber over Bradley with that line up USA can play juego bonito
Friday October 9, 2009 9:47 am
USA has the best team in 1994 with semi professionals players,, don't take me wrong they where good players ,,,but we have to give credit to Bora ,,, why they can't call him ,,i thing he would get the best of our players,,
Friday October 9, 2009 5:02 am
Well I've got to agree with Scott about the line-up, but skeptic that I am, I really do expect us to take the points at home against Costa Rica. But I bet that the fifth place team isn't Argentina, I think it's more likely to be Ecuador slipping from 4th or Uruguay moving up from 6th.
Personally, I'd love to see us play a slightly Less conservative line-up with Donovan playing up top on the right in place of Altidore and Torres comming in at left wing halfback... but whatever line-up we use, we MUST try to attack and keep possession in THEIR half of the field. If we just bunker down and try to defend all night... we will lose the match.
I just wonder which of our starters picks up that second Yellow card and has to miss the crucial home match next week in DC? My bet, is Bocanegra.
Thursday October 8, 2009 6:14 am
the most threatening and intimidating away venues of all FIFA regions??

the above statement is just silly

usa should be a lock for qualification every time. concacaf is terrible
Thursday October 8, 2009 6:05 am
Better hold up on that YAY Bob! Although I think we have a slightly better chance of getting a result in this match than we will playing Lionel Messi's Argentina in Buenos Aires on November 18th down 1-2 after losing 2-1 to Argentina in front of a pro-Argentine crowd at Pizza Hut Park on 11/14 (a Saturday, making it necessary to use a soccer-specific stadium due to our "big" stadiums being used for College and NFL Football that weekend).

Also, my line-up:

Although I could be talked into a little more conservative line-up using Torres (who's used to hostile, frenzied hispanic crowds) as an additional midfielder and pulling Jozy or Davies out....

Coach will probably go a bit more defensive and use Clark as defensive mid and Mike in the middle. He may also revert to some old habits and play Ching over Altidore. He also seems to have faith in Bornstein over mis-positioning one of his right backs on the left, so look for that in the soccer tracker updates (since we can't watch the actual game).
Wednesday October 7, 2009 6:06 pm
U.S. Soccer needs an overhaul. While Bob Bradley's tactics and selections continue to be questioned, what his squad does at the World Cup is the best, most objective measure of his efforts. But our nation's soccer woes go far beyond the tactical decisions of our Nat head coach. Our entire system needs to be overhauled. We are missing out on lots of homegrown talent because our youth programs price them out of participating at the higher levels. Two solutions to this youth problem would be to increase funding for players who cannot afford it, and restoring the MLS reserves. Getting Klinsmann as a coach is an important step; as he understands the American player, but his hire is only a first step towards progress.
Wednesday October 7, 2009 5:43 pm
If bruce arena would have played more of the younger players during his tenure then relying on the same old veterans every game, then we would have a better understanding of the players we are relying on now and bob would have an easier time selecting his squad. Don't lay all the blame on bob, bruce has a lot to do with some of the poor performances of our younger players. I do believe that bob has been very stubborn and made some questionable decisions but I think there may be bit of over villification (if that's a word) towards bob going on. We can call for his head after an underperforming world cup if we make it and if we don't, I truly think soccer in America is going to suffer in the eyes in regards to the rising popularity of the general public towards soccer.
Wednesday October 7, 2009 3:57 pm
The worst thing that happen to the USMNT was the win over Spain in SA. If we lost we would have been forced to reflect on the leadership of Bradley and the selection of players. The win over Spain has Davies talking about winning the WC over in Europe - I like the confidence but it is a cocky statement.

We need a coach that is not a product (pawn???) of the MSL and from the NCAA ranks. We need a professional coach that understands talent and getting them to rise to thier highest levels. Bradley is not the guy.
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