What's that you say? How is a 1-0 win ugly? Well, if you watched the game, the US was able to pull out the win, but most USMNT fans will tell you the performance was a bit disappointing. Panama shocked everyone by winning group C. Yeah, that's right: if you put money down at the local sports book on Panama, you might want to go collect your winnings. The US will move on to play Jamaica in the Quarterfinals at 2 PM CST. The game will be on Fox Soccer Channel, TeleFutura, and Univision. This recap will be a bit shorter, but follow me after the break for the scoop...
June 14, 2011: MNT vs. Guadeloupe - Highlights (via ussoccerdotcom)
Jozy Altidore clearly was the man of the match, with a wonder strike in the 9th minute. He followed up his goal against Canada with the exceptional strike you will see in the highlights above. I am extremely happy for Jozy. I don't need to go into the story yet again of people already calling for his head. He is definitely improving and the goal he netted last night shows he has a bit of range in his game as well. Bravo Jozy, keep it up kid!
Guadeloupe pressed the issue very early on, grazing the crossbar with a shot that would have really deflated the pro-US crowd had it gone in. I do have to give props for the atmosphere at Livestrong Park, it was awesome. The crowd was loud, proud, and seeing all the flags and cheering reminded me of some of the best US sporting events in history. I am not saying that this was the Miracle on Ice type of atmosphere, but it is something that you know is special when you see it. Despite the early scare, Jozy came to the rescue to give the US the early lead.
After the early pressure, the US wasn't really even tested again in a serious manner. Clint Dempsey had a game to forget, although he was able to provide some dangerous looks. Late in the game, he had a tap in for a goal, but took a second touch and that allowed the defender to recover knock the ball out of play. It was basically a Chris Wondolowski moment. The difference is that Clint is a proven scorer and arguably the best player the US has ever produced. That's right, it's a neck and neck race with Landon right now. Anyway, I will take Dempsey in that situation every time. Speaking of Landon, he had a rather lackluster performance, but the news of Landon and Clint missing training due to weddings may be good in my opinion. I think Landon is looking a bit tired, and the break may be good for both of them.
The US will have a tougher game than many people think vs. Jamaica. It is definitely a winnable game, but I am very concerned. While the Guadeloupe game was looked at by many as a must win for Bob Bradley to save his job, I was still disappointed. I expected the US to come out hungry, pissed off, and with something to prove. Although we did get the win, we looked lackluster for a good portion of the time. I didn't see desperation or a pressing sense of urgency. And that's what should have happened. Our backs were against the wall, and coming off the shocking loss to Panama, I really expected to see us win by 3 or 4 goals. Instead the team came out flat and unmotivated. In a situation like that, that can't happen and it's not acceptable. There were scenarios that would have had us playing Mexico instead of Jamaica in the next round. Considering how we are playing and how Mexico is playing, that would be disastrous to have had to play them this early. We need to get it together or it's going to be a short tournament.
I think the US will come out more aggressive and a bit more relaxed Sunday. I am calling a 2-1 win for the US. I think Dempsey nets a big goal, along with Landon scoring. The interesting thing will be to see how the Bob Bradley situation unfolds. Clearly, anything less than winning the Gold Cup will be looked at as failure. A finals loss would still be disappointing, but knowing Sunil Gulati, he wouldn't fire Bob for a finals loss. While I am not rooting for a Bob Bradley failure like many, I think 8 years as a national team coach is too much anymore. And this is a theme common in the rest of the world. Even very successful national teams have turnover. Teams can simply become stagnant at that level and that is one of the main reasons why national teams seem to cycle coaches much more than club teams.
Stagnancy in my opinion is a problem with Bob Bradley at the national level. Any head coach with tenure has a system and likes to do things his way. To me, it seems like Bob isn't willing to change how he does things. And while that can work with club teams (maybe a Fire coach again anyone?), the national landscape is very different. From personnel decisions to substitutions and formations, I don't think our optimal lineup is on the field as much as it should be. No matter what happens, if the US does not lift the Gold Cup at the end of the tournament, I think Bob Bradley will be on the hot seat as much as CDLC ever was. It's time for the US to pull out a little more of that magic we saw in last years World Cup. We have the talent. The question is if the coach that has been there for years can still motivate the team to raise their play to a level that can win the Gold Cup. Tune in Sunday to find out the next chapter in this story.