Wednesday, June 8, 2011

U.S. Beats Canada in Gold Cup Opener; So What?

Having watched bits and pieces of last night's Gold Cup opener for the United States men's national team against Canada, there were several striking observations about our beloved national side:
  • The pace and tactical imagination of last night's game was miles beneath Saturday's friendly against Spain. 
  • Gobs and gobs of space were available in midfield for the taking for both teams.
  • The U.S. certainly plays down to the level of its competition; playing up remains an issue. 
  • Tim Howard is class, and I posted this on Twitter immediately after his back-to-back point-blank second-half saves last night. I was immediately corrected, however. He's world class. Point very well taken.
  • Defensively, the USMNT remains an abomination, but gobs and gobs better without Oguchi Onyewu clogging up the middle.
  • The more I watched, the angrier I got that Bobo Bradley put this tournament ahead of a good showing against Spain. Confederations Cup be damned. Beating Canada in front of family and friends (I know 28,000 were there) and on a dismal pitch is pointless in the long run. 
  • That said, Bradley is the world's best coach this morning. Yay Gold Cup, we beat Canada. Bring on Guadelupe.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Time Has Come to Fire Bob Bradley

I am loathe to call for people to lose their jobs. No matter how wealthy or comfortable people are, losing a job has to be traumatic; thankfully it's never happened to me. I've always left jobs on my own terms. That said, being a sports fan always gives you special license to cross that line. You're emotionally invested in certain teams and situations, and when things are clearly, obviously and shockingly wrong, your heart forces your mouth to utter the words: "Fire the bum!"

And most of us do it with a clear conscience. You don't know the person in question on a personal level. You're saying it for the greater good of the team winning whatever thing it is that you want them to win. This person's ineptitude is in your way of enjoying the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

So now that I've rationalized my thinking and qualified what's to follow, I must utter the words: "Fire the bum!" as in Bob Bradley, U.S. men's national soccer team coach. There is no recourse. There is no gentle way of saying it. Bob Bradley must go. He's a nice man, I'm sure. Maybe he's not. Don't make no never-mind difference to me. He's not right guy for the job.

Yes Saturday's humiliating 4-0 loss to Spain in Foxboro, Mass., was the last straw (praise the Lord I didn't pay the ransom USSF wanted in ticket and parking money for that mess). I have no illusions the U.S. should have won, or been in the game with Spain. But when you see the same mistakes being made the by same players being trotted out there game after game after game, then the problem stops being the players and becomes the bald man behind the curtain.

Bob Bradley is no wizard. He is a fugazi, though.He's got a battery of media apologists propping him up for some unknown reason. Soccer columnists in the U.S. are a small clique of clacks who were probably given the soccer beat as an ultimatum: Take it, or here's your pink slip. These guys have a cushy life; few loyal readers and very little scrutiny from the outside world. Hell, how many sports editors give a damn about soccer that they critically read what's filed from these columnists?

And from the columnist's point of view, well, why screw up a good thing. Following football isn't heavy lifting, especially if you happen to like the game. And if Boob, er Bob Bradley, gives you prime access to the U.S. staff and players, why mess that up? You're certainly not going to get that kind of existence on an NFL or Major League Baseball beat -- trust me, I know of where I speak. So keeping Bob propped up nice and straight and tall benefits a lot of people.

That has to change, and it has to change at once and at the top. Sunil Gulati has to find the sack to admit he made a mistake in extending Bradley's current contract after the 2010 World Cup. Remember that debacle? Only coach in the world who got a raise for barely winning his group and bombing out in the second round: Bob Bradley. And if Gulati can't locate his manhood, then he's shouldn't let the door hit HIM in the ass on the way out either. On second thought, Sunil has to go too. Bye. Want a ride to the airport? I can do it, but we have to pick up Bradley on the way.

I'm done watching the U.S. defense play Keystone Kops back there. It doesn't matter if the U.S. is playing Spain or Trinidad and Tobago, there are always a handful of heart-attack moments with players miserably out of position, panicking trying to cover for someone 20 yards too high or too low on the pitch. Bradley's player selection sucks too (Hello, Ricardo Clark), he's too slow to substitute and too loyal to players are aren't that good (Hello, Gooch and Jozy). Bradley's saving grace is that he's had the sense to put good keepers between the posts. Tim Howard is world-class. And before him, Keller and Friedel were more than serviceable; their European careers more than justify this. But Howard hates the four guys in front of him. You can see his agony and helplessness as he's left to try to dive 20 meters to his right to stop a 60 mph bullet from 10 meters away. Most people hate goalies; figures in the U.S. it's all ass-backwards. We love Timmy. Usually it's the quarterback who buys the offensive line Rolex watches after the season as a gesture of gratitude. The U.S. defense should be paying Tim Howard's mortgage as a way of apologizing for their play in front of him.

We've long been told the U.S. is approaching the elites of the football world. This is such a crock, such a lie perpetrated by the apologists. Time after time, it's been proven that the U.S. cannot hang with the world's best. Well, check that. They can hang, they just can't beat the world's best. They spend their time scheduling cupcake friendlies against Canada, Honduras and El Salvador and when they do put England, Spain, Brazil or Argentina on the schedule, the U.S. is exposed. The gap between these teams and the U.S. is Grand Canyon-eque. There's a class difference and a talent difference. Why? Tactically, the U.S. is miles behind the rest of the world, never mind the fact that we don't breed footballers here the way they do elsewhere. I don't think you're ever going to win that phase of the game. Therefore, you have to work harder elsewhere in instilling stronger tactics and strategies on the field. Build from the back; you have a great keeper, it's criminal to put that defense in front of him.

Goals can come from this team. They do have a lot of heart, and guys like Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey are approaching or are in the prime of their careers.There needs to be a stronger presence in charge. It doesn't have to be a name coach, but it does have to be a football coach with a football mind. I think that's what's missing here. I think Bob Bradley learned the game from a book and from a recreational field. He's probably a perfect guy to rejoin an MLS team or help run the developmental program. But these unacceptable results prove again and again he's not the man for the USMNT. Let's not continue down this path where the Gold Cup is placed in priority over beating Spain et. al., and the apologists all nod their heads in agreement.

I hate to say it, but Bradley needs to go. It has to be done.