Thursday, June 4, 2009

What went wrong and why it hurts

Despite what we may have hoped and what LB believed (forgive him, he's been a bit busy), last night's game was a World Cup qualifier and not a meaningless friendly. So then, it's with wounded pride that some of our American contingent share their thoughts on the shitshow that was last night's Costa Rica-USA match. See if you can spot some themes.

Autoglass was the first to chime in (I know! We never hear from him!), and therefore gets to take the lead. Enjoy them all.

OK, I'm fucking pissed off.

That was a ridiculous, gutless, unprepared, lazy-ass effort. Utterly unacceptable. Bradley should be fired immediately. I don't care if you have to play under fucking water or while being shot at, Costa Rica is ranked 41st in the world and we’re supposed to be top 15 . We're supposed to be a rising power? As Bigus would say...HAHAHAHAHA!!! You don't go to fucking Costa Rica and embarrass yourself.

Gulati is an idiot. We never should have picked Bradley. We'll never fucking learn. We are making no progress. Negative progress. Our best player plays for the fucking Galaxy. The rest of this lot sit on assorted lower division benches (except for my man Super Clint...and
he sucked ass tonight as well).

It makes me insane to think that we are a year from the typical World
Cup hype. How the US can do well. Then we shard ourselves and it reflects badly on the game. US Soccer would be better run by Relegation Zone Mikey.

Dire. A shower. Embarrassing. Unacceptable. This past Saturday, I was at Wembley. Setting aside Chelsea’s beautiful play, let’s focus on overmatched Everton. They worked their asses off in front of the very same keeper, and to the very end of thegoddamn match. In that context, tonight's display just guts me. We have no character, no tactics, no fucking clue as to how to build a competitive program in the game I so dearly love.

It started with El Salvador. We could well lose to Honduras on Saturday. No disrespect to our neighbors to the south, but THESE ARE CENTRAL AMERICAN COUNTRIES!!!! They are practically city-states! Costa Rica were better on every level tonight. We have every goddamned kid in this country playing youth soccer. How does this happen?

The Confederations Cup will be a blood bath. Which makes me happy. At least Sunil can't pretend we're any good. I hope fucking Egypt beats us 4-nil.
Spectator collated his thoughts that he put on Twitter.

One bad game does not make or break anything, but tonight exposed all of the USMNT's weaknesses. They've plateaued over the last six months and if they have any hope of success at the next World Cup (and I would define success as making the knockout stage), they need a new
coach. Bradley has done a good job pulling things together after the WC2006 debacle but he is clueless how to take the team to the next level. The Beasley experiment at leftback is a failure, and Bradley has done a terrible job of identifying potential starters.

The ESPN commentators kept talking about the US team's strength being its defense, but to me that's always been the worst part of their game. Bocanegra and Gooch are mediocre at best, and starting Wynne and Beasley over someone like Spector is just confounding.

I'd like to see what someone like Klinsmann could do with this team. Not saying that the USMNT has enough talent to do anything special, but they need to model themselves after teams like Australia or Egypt -- gritty, committed, and playing to strengths. For the US, that is using speed
and counterattacking. Of course, I fear that it'll just be more of the same going forward because there is a total lack of vision for this team, starting with Sunil and going down the line.

The way that the US was beat on those three goals was terrible marking and spacing. That's down to bad preparation and a failure of coaching, plain and simple. I'm willing to wait and see what kind of reaction there is after this one, but no matter the scoreline if there's another mediocre couple performances all the blame goes to Bradley.

Last thoughts: the US... A few good role players (Dempsey, Howard, Landycakes), a few decent prospects (Altidore, Edu, Bradley, Adu on a good day), lots of mediocre and over-the-hill players. What they are most lacking are leaders.
The NY Kid
A complete shitshow. Anyone remember Project 2010 (that spawned the Generation Adidas program), designed to make the US a threat to win WC 2010? Playing this we are going to get killed in the Confederations Cup this month and we have no shot of even making it out of the group stage in 2010. This lineup was a complete joke - the Bradley nepotism era needs to come to an end, as Michael is far more competent at getting carded than anything else; the DMB at LB experiment is a clear failure; on the big stage Landycakes once again comes up empty (sorry, the PK that you had nothing to do with doesn't count); the substitutions were a failure (why would you take off Torres?).

We can argue about whether Howard should have started at GK given the short turn-around from (and disheartening - for him - result of) the FA Cup, but in his position I would have been screaming my head off at that bullshit defense. Gooch can be imposing, but he tends to get lost; despite his strong start in Ligue 1, the end of the season has clearly demonstrated that Bocanegra is getting a little long in the tooth.

Players I would much rather see in the lineup: (1) defense - Spector, Bornstein, Demerit; (2) midfield - Gavin and Rogers; (3) striker - Cooper. Bradley's team selection has been consistently baffling, and I think it's time for a new direction. It's easy to say that he should be gone if we finish anywhere other than 1st in qualifying, but that doesn't leave much time for the new gaffer to get things going for WC 2010. A loss or draw on Saturday, and Bradley has to go.
Precious Roy
That was bad.

No shame in losing at Costa Rica. The Ticos are almost unbeatable at home. And playing on green concrete doesn't make things any easier for opponents.

The way we lost, however, was an embarrassment. On every level we were outclassed, 0utworked and outplayed by Costa Fucking Rica. There's aren't even any "Yeah, but..." positives to take away. "Yeah but we broke out scoreless streak in San Jose." Bullshit, we got a meaningless PK in second half stoppage time. It was a shellacking.

Preparation—personnel and formation—decisions fall squarely on Bob Bradley; but the effort from the players was equally as poor. Still, it's time for Gulati to start thinking about Plan B (if he even has one). We've taken one point from the last six in qualifying. That's not good.

Last night is done. Spilled milk and all. And at this point I'm more interested in how the USMNT responds. If we lose to Honduras Saturday, Bradley should be jobless on Sunday. If he goes to South Africa for the Confederations Cup after a home loss in qualifying, he'll be taken an unorganized squad that had been drained of any confidence and will be free-point fodder for the rest of our group.

A win on Saturday, that might almost be worse from a longer-term perspective. Gulati will think all is well and Bradley is still the right man for the job. He's not. He's done a good job to this point. Or maybe to some point a few months ago. In the wake of the last World Cup he's stabilized the USMNT but these guys are regressing and younger talent isn't developing. No way to look at last night and think anything else.
The sad thing is, even if we lose at home this weekend, and then fall on our faces in South Africa, I still don't think its enough to get Bradley fired. This isn't like Europe where you would have every newspaper in the country calling for his head. There is no pressure on the federation or Sunil to make a change unless the team really screws up and is in danger of not qualifying. I'm pretty sure they are happy just feeding the bullshit line to clueless mainstream journos who pay attention once every four years that this is the World Cup where the team finally "takes the next step." Even though in reality they are content with just showing up.

Also I think its time to say that our Golden Generation of prospects is turning out to be underwhelming. Freddie can't even see the bench at Monaco, Jozy can't play for a second division side in Europe, and Bradley put up one of the flukiest seasons ever two years ago in Holland. And looking down the line, I'm not sure who we have waiting in the wings that is capable of doing much. I really like Torres and think he he should play more, but other than that I'm pretty uninspired. WTF ever happened to Danny Szetela, anyways?
The Fan's Attic
I watched about ten minutes of the match and I have never been happier that my wife forced me to watch So You Think You Can Dance. There were more laughers in that match by US in those ten minutes than your average Judd Apatow flick. There were more US missteps than the George W. Bush administration. The lineups made as much sense as Joaquin Phoenix's career change. The backline was a soft as Kim Kardashian's. Remember, I only watched ten minutes.
I saw the 3-4-3 and I had such high expectations. The problem is that I did not pay attention to the personnel. Neither did Bradley, I think, and the end result is what we all saw. Let's look at the personnel decisions.

Tim Howard is undoubtedly the number 1 for the US, but he just played a pretty big game on a pretty hot day in London. And lost. So he couldn't have been in the best mindset for the long (and slower) east to west flight. Not to blame for the first two goals, but his positioning was terrible in the third. Perhaps starting Guzan would have been better? Brad would have been rusty, though, so that's probably a wash.

Marvell Wynne, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Demarcus Beasley
The painful back four. Wynne's strengths are his leaping and speed. Neither helped tonight. Plus, he has not been playing for Toronto in the last couple of weeks because of injury.
Onyewu has always been the big central back who sometimes gets lost. No change in Costa Rica.
For a captain, Bocanegra was mostly invisible. He had an early-season renaissance at Rennes, but this was a guy who got deep benched by Hodgson at Fulham last season. Maybe the European season is too long for him?
The less said about Beasley the better. His touch was awful. He hasn't featured for fucking Rangers in months. A very, very odd choice for left back.
The center two are ultimately hard to quibble with, but both had off games. Wynne was out of his depth. TFC have tried to get anything out of him by putting him up front recently. Should not have even been selected.

Pablo Mastroeni, Michael Bradley, Jose Franciso Torres
Torres bailed out on defending the first goal. Mastroeni then fell down. Boom, 1-0. A disastrous start possibly caused because two players who are not used to each other thrown into playing a system they are not familiar with at this level. That's down to coaching and selection.
Torres played very well, once he settled down. At 21, and with only two previous USMNT matches under his belt, he needed that time to settle. Too bad that by the time he did, it was 2-0.
The pairing of Mastroeni and Bradley works best with at least four in the middle. Both are holding/defensive minded and need a sparkling offensive middie to advance the ball. Tonight that should have been Landycakes, but no, Donovan was up top.

Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore
We love Jozy. He's the Haitian Sensation, after all. But the only playing time he has had in '09 is for the USMNT. Xerez, the second division Spanish club, did not see fit to put him on the pitch. Plus, he just had toe surgery. He should have been, at best, a late sub.
Did Deuce play? No American is more exciting when on his game, nor more frustrating when off. Dempsey, more than most, benefits from good link up play through the midfield. There was no chance of that last night.
Let's face it. Landon is a middling player. He can do wonders, but will also lose the ball from benign defending. At least he didn't blow the PK.

Sacha Kljestan, Freddy Adu, Charlie Davies
Kljestan subbed in for Torres at the half and disappeared. He was winded by the 70th when he meekly let Herrera around him to score the third goal of the night.
Since we have all been following NYK's France reports, we know Adu has not played in forever either. It showed.
Davies has heart, according to Lalas. I just say he is dirty. Should have been sent off within two minutes of being in the pitch for a petulant kick to the nuts.

It's not the end of the world. We probably should not have expected even a point from Costa Rica. The problem is the way the US lost. It was a flat effort of a confused team. Where that blame lies, well, you can probably guess how we feel. This is a team hampered by their own
country's lack of a decent league, by injuries, by inactivity and by the calendar.

Saturday needs to be a bounce back. Three points will put the US halfway home with 10 points. Good, but not great. A draw, and the US is starting to sweat. A loss would mean that the US likely wakes up Thursday in fourth place. I say a loss or a draw and Bradley has to be gone. For now, replacement should be on the table anyway.
Anyway, those are our collective takes on the game last night. Now, watch out for Bigus to come into the thread and make fun of us all for gnashing our teeth over a loss to Costa Rica. Just remind him of Croatia at Wembley and he might pipe down.


30f said...

I was just as mad at Bradley the Elder as some of you guys last night. But then i started to think about it.

Teams cannot change all their players - so they blame/fire the manager. I don't think Bradley is a genius, and I don't get why he can't make his Rooney-tunes copy-cat card-machine of son stop acting like his last name is Barton. The conclusion is that the PLAYERS we have are good enough to qualify for the World Cup (in part thanks to the very generous number of slots that CONCACAF gets) but we don't have enough talent to go much farther.

The USMNT doesn't (at this juncture) have the players to be much better. The turf in Saprissa was not the 'problem.' A fancy new Euro manager (Klinsy) won't make Beasley a top notch defender or summon a better defending option from the ether.

Though someone should ask Hodgson what he says to Deuce before games and repeat it when he 'plays' for the USMNT.

Ibracadabra said...

I think describing Davies as dirty is a bit much. In the event you refer to - the Costa Rican had a delayed Drogba-esque reaction of about 5 seconds after the accidental/intentional/who cares nut kick by Davies. Davies shielded the ball well there and didn't deserve to be called for the foul on that play.

I thought (though his stint was super short and the game was already lost) that he gave it his all and he impressed me way more than Altidore - who lost the ball more than he retained it - rarely hustled, seemed rusty, and seemed like he "Deserved" something all game - when in reality, he deserves nothing.

Davies could be a legitimate bench option going forward and I hope he improves and makes the WC team.

EbullientFatalist said...

We all need to rethink the idea of American soccer after last nights performance. I wasn't expecting victory, but did think we could draw, but our play was so awful that a draw was too much of an ask for the squad. Bradley needs to go; his tactical decisions are terrible (Kljestan on) and his strategy is worse. "Don't tread on me" is fine and all and raises our patriotic gumption, but at this point we don't have the play on the field to say it; we were literally tread upon last night. Furthermore, how can we get upset at erstwhile Americans choosing to play for other national teams? The product on the field is so bad that I can't argue with Subotic, Ibišević, and Rossi choosing to play for other countries.

30f said...

The product on the field is so bad that I can't argue with Subotic, Ibišević, and Rossi choosing to play for other countries.

Ouch! Agreed, and Ouch!

Precious Roy said...

Yes, our players are only as good as they are, but they aren't 3-0 bad at Costa Rica (not really counting the PK).

Better tactics could have gotten out of there with a draw. For as bad as it was, we actually had long stretches of possession, they were just completely ineffectual. Bradley's job is to maximize the talent. Didn't do that last night.

ü75 said...

No. Charlie Davies is dirty. Sadly, this doesn't make him stand out too much on the current US roster.

Ibracadabra said...

@u75 I'd never seen that video before - so you have a point. Nevertheless, it looked like your basic reckless swinging of the elbow to me but nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to a poor, mistimed jump/elbow. Straight red and a 3 match ban if it was in the EPL. No big deal. Part of the game. You live and learn.

Last night he didn't look like a dirty player to me at all. I think it was a clear dive on the CR defender's part.

I am only judging him by his performance last night, as I don't follow the Swedish top flight, but he looked determined and had a decent first touch. Once again, more than I can say for the more heralded Altidore.

ü75 said...

Yes. Once he got the reprieve, he was very nice on the ball. I look forward to him doing more with the ball, and less acting out when frustrated.

Goat said...

I'm not sure what Beasley's doing anywhere near the field. As much as I hate to say it as it would take away from my Columbus Crew, I agree with NYK about Robbie Rogers. I see him playing the same role (only better) that Beasley played in 2002--speedy, creative, unafraid, young, and hungry. Also, as Ian said, I think we're wrong to assume that there will be any pressure on Bradley the Elder or Gulati. Barring a complete fuck up like in 1998, the Gringo gaffer job seems pretty secure and impervious to outside pressure.

phil said...

Agreed on the personnel points, but Bradley seems to have no knowledge of his players' strengths. He consistently plays players out of position, makes poor subs, and has the tactical sense of a casual fan.

The real black mark on the players is the complete and utter lack of an on-field leader. Landycakes is a shite captain, but I can imagine to whom we could hand the armband. This team folds under pressure, committing stupid fouls, and acting like petulant twats after the match. Bradley can only do so much in this regard, and the players on this team have shown zero capacity for pulling themselves together on the pitch when faced with adversity.

WC 2010 may be a bigger debacle than WC 2006.

thapeez said...

I give Bradley credit for going with an aggressive, if risky formation. But I have to question the team selection. Does Beasley really look that much better than Bornstein in training? And Wynne over Spector? And why are we keeping Mastro around? Is he really coming to South Africa? Lastly, where is Kenny Cooper? Or even Jaqua for that matter.