Some perhaps unpopular thoughts on the US-Italy match

So, I don’t think I can sum up things as Aaron did in his first post-match commentary following the United States’ 3-1 loss to Italy yesterday in the Confederations Cup.

But there are a few things that stick out in my mind, both from the match and the aftermath, that I want to get off my chest.

First, while head coach Bob Bradley infuriates me with his substitutions at times, and his unwillingness to go with certain players when it means risking the time of others – whether it’s earned or not – I’m not going to write the Fire Bradley column, yet.

Even in a perfect world, playing well, with a full team for the whole game, and Bradley making the right subs – the US still very could have lost 3-1 yesterday. Italy are flat better than we are, pretty much across the board. Of those who appeared in US colors yesterday, who would fit into the Italian 11? Donovan? Doubtful. Altidore? No. Howard? Perhaps. It’s a shame we can’t build a team that is as good as our goalkeeper.

Second point – all the folks going on and on about the Clark ejection. … Tough. First, if you are a country like the US, Uruguay, maybe a Belgium … you have to know going in that countries such as Italy and Germany (just to name two, there are others), are international soccer’s equivalent of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and Sidney Crosby. There will be things that should go your way perhaps that don’t, and that’s life.

But that’s just it, we know that going in. If we know it, then Bradley should know it. And the players should know it. Going in with a boot up and whacking an opposing player in the leg when the ball is well gone is just flat-out insane. Why make such a challenge, which is definitely going to be a yellow, and give the referee the opportunity to think to himself – “that’s a red?” I’m almost sick of hearing people complain about the call because that tact would seem to absolve Clark of any wrongdoing. Clark is now a veteran player and such tactics are only going to hurt his own team. It was foolish and the more I look at it, justly punished.

The second thing is the backlash toward Giuseppe Rossi. Words like “traitor” and calling him a “Benedict Arnold” are an absolute joke. Everyone always talks about the “American Dream.” As far as I’m concerned, that’s what Rossi has lived. He got the opportunity of a lifetime at an early age, and he took it. We should all be so lucky. He certainly isn’t the first player to do so and he won’t be the last (*cough* Jermaine Jones *cough*). He had the opportunity to start his European career, and he did so, and now he’s reaping the rewards. Good for him. Sucks that he scored twice against the US … but you know what sucks worse? That our team couldn’t mark him or challenge him if their lives depended on it. Expecting him not to celebrate the goals scored vs. the USA is a little much for someone so young.

After he won the ball at midfield just after entering the game, he marched through the US half of the field like a PlayStation figure with the game set on “Amateur.” No challenges, no opposition, BAM! … Goal. The shot was a thing of beauty.

It was a piece of daring that for the most part, this US team doesn’t possess. And you have to ask yourself … would Rossi possess it if he was playing for the US and not Italy? We still have Altidore, who at times is afraid to say, “Screw it, I’m shooting.” We have Clint Dempsey, who would rather show off dribbling skills (or lack there of) as if he’s auditioning for an AND1 Mix Tape Tour. And in recent games, even when there’s been space to work with in the middle, the team would rather make 2-3 passes, put the ball outside, then fire in a bad cross and end the attack. Rarely will players simply have a go at goal – we saw a couple late on yesterday (even one from Dempsey), but it wasn’t enough.

Rossi showed a decisiveness and a guile yesterday that our team doesn’t have. He is making the most of his choice and I can’t find a reason to blame him. He’s not the first to score a brace against the US, and he won’t be the last. If the US team weren’t deficient in multiple areas right now, Rossi would have never been an issue. But now, it’s easier to label him a traitor than consider what actually may be wrong with our own side.

I’ll be watching the match vs. Brazil, and I’m curious to see what kind of effort the US gives. I think that will be a telling statement on where Bradley is with this team and its players.

Still mad, just clarifying

Don’t get me wrong, I am still pissed as hell at the US, but let me clarify some things here.

I am well aware that many if not most of our players are simply not good enough to allow for us to compete with truly good teams. Trust me, I get it. This brings me to my next point.

What infuriates me most is that Bradley’s US team appears to be an accountability-free zone. It takes months and months of outright terrible play for a guy like Mastroeni to get replaced. We’re seeing the same mistake getting made right now with Dempsey and obviously with Beasley. Of course, on paper, Dempsey and Beasley should start every match, but Dempsey and Beasley haven’t put in a truly good performance for the USA in many months. Even if the player beneath them in the depth chart (Adu or Torres) isn’t as good as the starter is, you have to make a change (or at least make the players think you will) if the level of play out of the starters doesn’t improve.

Of course Freddy and Torres aren’t panaceas, I am not suggesting they are. But they are talented enough to at least provide a challenge and a threat to Dempsey’s and/or Beasley’s spot in the lineup. Just like Spector and Demerit should’ve been challenging our defensive starters for a long time now. By sticking by his favorites, no matter what the situation either pre-match or during a match, I think Bradley has bred complacency amongst many players in our team.

In the old days, with our past generation of players like Reyna, Ramos, Stewart, Dooley etc., I think a very cemented starting XI was okay because those players didn’t fall prey to complacency. It just wasn’t in their character. That isn’t to say our current players are lazy bastards. They just have a different (and more common) temperament. Our current players need to be challenged. They need to fear that if they don’t perform that they will sit or maybe even miss out on a selection or two.

None of what I said above is new, or even very controversial. Simply put, I think many of our players no longer fear for their spot on the US team. Really, only Howard and MAYBE Donovan can afford to feel that way. Bradley needs to realize treating our usual starting XI as mortal locks only hurts them, and will utterly destroy what ability he has to push better performances out of his players.