Commentary: Bob Bradley’s Job On the Line Tonight Against Panama

There was a lot of discussion around the internet during the group stages of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, most of it circling the USMNT and the future of its manager Bob Bradley.  Many, unstable though they may be, would have been pleased to see Bob shown the door in the aftermath of the Panama debacle.  Suddenly to this vocal (at least on the internet) group, a gallant Confederations Cup final appearance and winning a surprisingly difficult World Cup group were not enough to overcome the embarrassment of losing 2-1 to Panama in Group C.

It was never in doubt the Americans would advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.  It would have been difficult not to advance to the final 8 from a field of 12 that included Grenada, Cuba and Guadeloupe.  (The former pair really were a disaster, losing their six matches by a combined 31-2….31-2!!!!!!!) If Bradley didn’t escape the group stage, Sunil Gulati might have petitioned the White House to charge treason against Montclair Bob and order his immediate public execution.

It was always the final or bust.  Mexico or bust.  That was every even-thinking US fan’s approach to this tournament.  But the tournament has broken in a way very few of us expected, with the US sliding into the second group slot (C) and the Hondurans failing to overtake Jamaica for the top slot of Group B.  Instead of having to overtake one of the CONCACAF “powers” to reach the final, the US needs only to best Panama.

Panama?  Panama.  The team that started this whole mess.  If the US were facing Honduras tonight and lost a match in PKs, I think Princeton Bob might have survived.  But no manager of the USMNT will ever survive losing twice to a side like Panama in the same tournament.  No manager of the USMNT can ever inspire belief in supporters, players and the higher-ups – belief that he can elevate our nation to compete with the best Europe and South America have to offer – if he cannot defeat Panama in two tries on home soil.

That is why tonight Turnpike Bob manages for his job.  Barring a complete meltdown against Mexico in the final, a win tonight will secure his passage into the boring early stages of World Cup qualification.

A loss tonight and we’ll all have to endure the courting of and rejection by Jürgen Klinsmann once again.

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