The following is a re-blog of an earlier piece:
US Soccer, and soccer for most of the teams in the CONCACAF region, is not like the rest of the world. The US is a guaranteed Gold Cup participant, they don’t truthfully enter World Cup qualifying until the late stages and their friendlies are played at times when most of their top tier talent is unavailable. Thus managing/coaching the USMNT was a rigorous job for Bob Bradley from summer of 2009 through last night – a demoralizing Gold Cup final loss to Mexico. He had the Confederations Cup, the completion of WC qualification, major international friendlies as tune-ups, the World Cup and then Gold Cup. It was an exciting time for the game on a national level in this country.
And Bob did well. The final of the Confed, winning the group in South Africa and reaching the final in the Gold Cup are not achievements to sneeze at. Except I’m sneezing. There ain’t enough tissues in the world to stop what’s flying out of my nose. Especially after last night’s performance.
And it is not on Jonathan Bornstein’s shoulders. Jonathan Bornstein has no business playing for the US in a friendly against Turks & Caicos, nevermind against Mexico in the Gold Cup final. When Steve Cherundolo suffered his sprained ankle last night, the move was simple: bring Tim Ream into the middle and slide Carlos Bocanegra back to his natural left back spot. Mexico is one of the youngest, fastest, fiercest attacking sides in the world currently. Giving Bornstein his first action in months was not the solution for a thinking football man. It was the solution for Bradley. And a predictable one at that. (Someone explain to me how moving Eric Lichaj to the right side could even be CONSIDERED with the way he was playing.)
And that is ultimately Montclair Bob’s problem. He can only take this country so far. In two of the last three major tournaments in which Bradley has coached, the United States have held 2-0 leads in the final and lost. Brazil (Confed) 3-2. Mexico (Gold Cup) 4-2. The defense melts. The offense dries up. In most of their group stages matches, slow starts have doomed the team but in tournament finals its been fast ones.
We’ve come a long way as a football playing nation. That can’t be disputed. And Bradley should be credited for rekindling some of the magic in Freddy Adu and finally recognizing that Dempsey and Donovan belong up front – even if it was only the Altidore injury that forced that recognition. He should be credited for continuing to bring this country along the path to international viability.
But last night should be where it ends. It is time for a new man to look at this collection of talent and bring new ideas to the pitch. A man who will the eleven best Americans at their respective position, regardless of past duty for the national side. It is time for the U.S. to find a manager, American or not, to take the 2-0 lead back to the dressing room and hoist some silverware after a major tournament. Nothing less can be acceptable any longer.