So, um, yeah… Where does Saturday’s win over Honduras leave us. Much like with the draw in San Salvador, the character, heart, grit, etc., seemed to return but another bizarre team selection and almost certain destruction in the Confederations Cup seems to overshadow the win in my mind.
Allow me to take a bit of a rhetorical meander here. I often find myself psychoanalyzing coaches, politicians, racing drivers, etc. The more even-headed amongst us might say, “let’s not engage in pop-psychiatry here.” Not me, I love engaging in pop-psychiatry. I think I am eminently qualified to do so, what with being Jewish (which is to psychiatry what Kenyans are to the marathon) and I’ve listened to about 5,000 episodes of Loveline since high school. So now, with my credentials firmly established, let’s get started.
What the hell is Bradley thinking when you dress the two young attacking starlets for a road game in a hostile location, they both play well and then you don’t dress them for the home match against a lesser opponent? Not only that, but your bench contains only one attacking midfield presence and that is the out-of-form, rarely-playing, just-got-torched-the-match-before, fork-sticking-out-his-back DaMarcus Beasley. Before the match, I said that if this team goes down a goal, or God forbid two, they have no chance when their options include throwing in the completely unproven Charlie Davies and the clearly past it Beasley.
This is where the psych diagnosis gets confusing because if it were a simple case of Anglo-style coach eschews skill players in lieu of workers then Clint Dempsey would’ve been picking bench splinters out of his rump a long time ago in favor of a leather-lunged Eddie Lewis type. So if Bradley is willing to stick with Dempsey, why not give Freddy a half-decent chance? One retort might be that Freddy isn’t playing regularly. Fair enough.
EXCEPT THAT BEASLEY ONLY MADE SIX APPEARANCES IN AN INJURY-FILLED SEASON WITH RANGERS AND THAT FEILHABER STRUGGLED TO FIND ANY MATCHES LAST SEASON!
I cannot for the life of me understand what Bradley’s beef is with Freddy. If it was a training-ground issue, Freddy has enough enemies that someone would’ve leaked something to someone. Instead we’re left with this image of Freddy earnestly Tweeting away while Bradley uses and ignores him seemingly randomly.
I am left truly dumbfounded at Bradley’s overall tactical principles. I thought I did before, when I thought that he was a pragmatist who understood that our defense wasn’t good enough to tolerate too much of an attack. For a while I agreed with that, and at least that was defensible. But now, after his bizarre lineup against Costa Rica and increasingly erratic personnel selections, I have no idea what he’s thinking.
While the result was good, let’s not get past the fact that this team developed very little from open play against Honduras. Yes, the defense and midfield improved after the first few minutes against Honduras, but that still was a performance that wouldn’t cut it against even a halfway-decent opponent.
Which brings me to next week’s Confederations Cup, where the our expectations should really be just minimizing embarrassment. This tournament comes at a terrible time for the US with a team that will still be teetering after the disaster in San Jose. A win against Egypt (who won the last two African Cups of Nations including winning the 2008 edition with two victories over Cameroon and a win over the Ivory Coast) could well the only points the US can expect to get in this group which is far harder than anything you can expect at the World Cup. If Egypt plays well, we could only get one point out of the group. An 0-3 performance would be truly horrific, because not you’d probably looking at open hostility to Bradley in the crowds during the Gold Cup and the “When will he go” drama serving as a massive distraction during that tournament, and then if we do anything but win it, going into the Azteca qualifier.
I keep trying to remind myself that the Confederations Cup doesn’t actually count for anything, but what it counts most for is determining the narrative that this team is either working with or fighting against going into the second half of qualifying. If the Confederations Cup were to go badly (0-1) points, and we were to not win or finish second in the Gold Cup, you can almost guarantee a team as frail as the U.S. will bomb in Mexico and head into the match against El Salvador slumping and absolutely needing points before going on the road for the next two.
Hopefully it won’t come to that.