So, the US has made the World Cup. Now what?

Now what? Well, first of course there is the matter of trying to win the group with a victory Wednesday at home over Costa Rica. The match, to be played at Washington’s RFK Stadium, won’t do much at all for the USA with regard to World Cup seeding I don’t believe. And the US will be facing a team with everything to play for, as Costa Rica tries to avoid finishing fourth and having to face a South American club in a playoff (Uruguay sits in that 5th CONMEBOL spot right now, but hosts 4th-place Argentina in the finale Wednesday).

It’s been a qualification run of extremes for US fans, from the excitement of another 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus back in February, to struggling to even get a point at El Salvador, to the constant call, sometimes at a low simmer, sometimes at a rapid boil, to replace coach Bob Bradley. And after the 2-1 loss at Mexico, there seemed to be a small bit of skepticism as to whether or not the US would even make the World Cup at all.

I think as this final round of qualifying went on, more and more felt the US was going to need at least a point vs. Costa Rica on the final day to get in. I thought perhaps four points was the most the US was going to get out of the just completed two road matches – which as things worked out, would have left the Americans with work to do, sitting on 17 points for second place, while Honduras would have had 14 in fourth. You would have certainly liked the USA’s chances of getting a home point Wednesday given that scenario, but it’s quite the relief that we don’t have to worry about it, isn’t it?

So the question then is, what do you make of Bradley and his squad now? I don’t ask this in any kind of mocking, or I-told-you-so way. I had doubts as to whether he and his team would reach this point. To say I’ve been a Bradley Believer all along would be a joke.

But his task over the course of these 10 games was simply to survive and advance. Get the points required to qualify our nation for the World Cup – what will be the USA’s sixth consecutive appearance. Of note, the only other nations that can make that claim are Italy, Brazil, Germany (as West Germany in 1990), Spain, and South Korea. That’s pretty good footballing company. Note: Argentina could too, if they qualify.

People can fairly wonder about Bradley’s lineups sometimes, and the substitution patterns still seem a bit odd to me now and then. But no coach is perfect, either. And let’s be honest, I saw multiple folks post in various venues last night proclaim that Conor Casey needed to hit the bench at halftime. Then, he went out and scored the game-tying and go-ahead goals. That doesn’t mean Bradley is a genius, or that the fans were foolish, but it depends on your perspective I guess. Either he’s brilliant because he saw a reason to leave Casey on and the player delivered, or he’s foolish for doing so and happened to get lucky, to the tune of winning PowerBall.

If it’s the latter, then there’s not much Bradley can do about it – his moves and decisions are never going to please everybody. And those that truly have it out for him are never going to be satisfied – even a run to the World Cup semifinals would leave a small percentage of fans second-guessing everything they saw.

But for me, this is a time to put any criticisms of Bradley aside. Going on the road for these two matches and getting six points to clinch qualification is a wonderful accomplishment. Honduras hadn’t lost at San Pedro Sula in more than six years – and it was nice to turn it around and beat them there after the disaster at RFK in 2001. No, I don’t hold a grudge. Me?

In short, beating Honduras away is no small accomplishment for the US side, and it should be celebrated. And reaching the World Cup for the sixth consecutive time is really amazing, when you think about it (even though the US was automatically entered in 1994 as hosts). Like him or not, Bradley and this team did the job, and with one game to spare. That’s about as much as we could have realistically asked for.

Does that mean we’re guaranteed success in South Africa? Absolutely not. But there’s no way to judge that now, short of knowing the draw. Bradley enters a new, equally vital stage beginning Wednesday, with regard to putting together the absolute best roster he can for next year’s World Cup. How he does that, in terms of who is called in, who gets significant minutes, and when/where the US plays over the next 8 months will be the next set of evidence upon which to judge him. We’ll find out the draw on December 4, and certainly there will be no shortage of folks in print and online declaring how the US will advance or crash out within minutes of the draw being completed. Such is the world we live in.

For now, however, I’m putting any second-guessing aside and enjoying the moment.

We’re in … and for now, that’s all that matters.

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22 thoughts on “So, the US has made the World Cup. Now what?

  1. I thought Honduras played pretty well. If we’d brought the same effort to El Salvador we’d have smoked them, and we might have gotten a point against Costa Rica.

  2. Get your vuvuzelas ready! Seriously, I went to see Chelsea play Club America this summer in a preemie at Cowboys Stadium and they were selling blue plastic versions of that crazy South African horn that made watching the Confeds Cup so mind-blowing. The whole stadium sounded like a fart-fest and combined with the effect of the $8 beers, it was probably the greatest night of my life.

    I’m glad the US is going to the home of Mandela and Biko to wipe up those losers from Brazil and Spain. I’m predicting a trip to the quarterfinals, regardless of the draw.

  3. now what? ok i didn’t read your post til the hangover ended, but after some thought, we need to get some balls, bob bradley has to be bold enough, to not just advance out of the group, but win the whole damn thing

  4. Wait…so he starts Conor Casey and Stuart Holden in the biggest match of the year, while absolutely no one would have criticized Altidore and Feilhaber (and if you say you would have, you are a liar full stop).

    Bob doesn’t lack for balls.

  5. Ed, most armchair coaches wouldn’t know a soccer ball if it hit them in the ass. Some of the suggestions for improvements and substitutions I see are ludicrous beyond belief. I’m quite content in the knowledge that Bradley and his team of professional coaches who see the team practice daily are more capable of gauging talent and form than I am.

    Bob should be congratulated on getting us through qualifying with a game to spare. Now the work begins to build a team that can put up a fight in the World Cup.

  6. Now what?

    …Now you can have a Marcelo Balboa Mullet party to christen our clinch for WC ’10…

    …and pray we don’t draw the group of death again… although part of methinks another game with Italy and a win would be righteous…

  7. I would also add fair competent refereeing.
    These 2 things far outweigh anything else (including whos the coach) as far as determining how deep the US advances in SA.

  8. Now what? We hope that no one gets injured, or finds themselves in a steroid scandal.

    At this point it’s like the last 5 minutes before you have to turn in your test. It’s a bit too late to start formulating a new strategy.

  9. Given FIFA’s seeding system, two European opponents seems likely. In the last five World Cups, 11 of our 15 first-round opponents have been from Europe.

  10. oh boy. can’t wait for another one and done/three in out whatever you want to call it. USA won’t do well unless Jones, Torres, and Adu are featured next summer.

  11. We have a 5 in 8 chance of getting two European teams this time.

    Last time:
    Pot 1 was the seeds
    Pot 2 was non-seeded Europe
    Pot 3 was South America, Africa, and the one European team left over (Serbia) because so many qualify
    Pot 4 was the rest of the world, including us.

    This time I believe 13 European teams qualify, 5 of which should be seeded (if Argentina fails to qualify but France succeeds, it would be 6, because that will bump the Netherlands up into a seed). The difference there is that it’s a non-European team this time taking the host seed.

    Now, in Pot 1, those teams are all, on paper, very good, except South Africa, who could be the first home team not to advance, and I wouldn’t lay any money on them winning the group even if they do. If I had to pick the next weakest, it’s probably Italy, though they went undefeated in their group (it was an easy group, though).

    It’s Pot 2 where the draw usually swings. Last time around, we got fairly unlucky with the Czech Republic, which is was made it a tough draw for us. This time out, Bosnia and Greece are still alive. . . or we could wind up with the Netherlands.

    Pot 3 has some of variability as well, since there always seems to be an African team that surprises everyone, and it seems like it’s a different team each time. But not as much as Pot 2, I think, because they tend to all be solid-but-not spectacular South American and African sides. Ghana didn’t exactly dominate us last time, and there weren’t any teams from that pot who did much better. The only two teams that even came close to advancing from Pot 3 (the others were all at least 2 points back) last time were Ghana and Ecuador.

  12. It appears that Bradley pays little heed to his critics. He probably does listen, but makes up his own mind with logical, solid soccer reasoning and decision making. Casey has been on fire in MLS. Altidore has not been playing regularly and is still quite young to be thrown into such an important match. Casey is an experienced pro, and experience is usually the deciding factor in matches as important as this one was.

  13. “And reaching the World Cup for the sixth consecutive time is really amazing, when you think about it”
    Well, I thought about it and you know what? BIG DEAL! are you forgetting a little detail? USA plays in the second most mediocre footballing region in the planet for godsakes. Try qualifying six consecutive times playing in S. America or Europe big shot. Heck, put Chile or Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia or Ecuador in ConcaCRAP and any of those sides would be certain to book a trip to the WC every four years

  14. “it was nice to turn it around and beat them there after the disaster at RFK in 2001″

    I was there, I remember… what it’s strange, it’s that the goal sequence this time went exactly like 8 years ago…
    1-0 for the home team
    1-1
    1-2
    1-3
    2-3

    Strange, no?

  15. I agree with this, even if it must be said that even Concacaf is getting more competitive, as a group of nations; I would have never expected such a good proof from El Salvador, for example; 4 years ago, it was T&T… Honduras was really good this time, while Costarica was more a disappointment. But all in all, it was a good group. I think right now US and probably Mexico as well in the whole american continent stay right behind Brazil and Argentina. Teams like Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, are too “seasonal”, they may be good for some time (2~3 years or so) then they go back from where they went. The exception is probably Paraguay. In the long run, US and Mexico are just better teams.

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