More of the Same from the US Nats
After today's debacle against Italy, count me in the glass-half-empty gang. Some might point to the US lead, other will surely complain about the unjust red card issued to Ricardo Clark. They are fooling themselves. I gave it some time. Just as some people were cautioning against pessimism after Costa Rica, I did not want to let optimism tint my view after a win against Honduras. It has become obvious that the federation is content with a national team that will show heart but is not interested in a side that displays skill. The Honduras game showed the US at its limited best - full of effort and lacking in class. It is not that they were dirty or underhanded. They just did not display the composure that separates the truly skillful teams from the chaff. Admittedly, the lenses I look through are always tinted by what it would take to win a World Cup. Even before the Costa Rica game, I thought the US would be lucky to even get a point in the Confederations Cup. And I would not complain a bit if Bob Bradley will finally take the training wheels off and let the creative kids have a chance. Against Italy, the effort and heart kept it close, but with three holding midfielders at the outset Bob Bradley’s game plan was no secret. When Clark was ejected, the US attack was pretty much dump-and-chase. Shouldn’t the US have progressed a bit more from the days of Bora? There are some good points to acknowledge from the last two games. Jonathan Spector and Jonathan Bornstein proved again that they are legitimate (if not rock-solid) candidates for the outside back spots. Clint Dempsey showed a bit of substance with the flash. In fact, the best player on the field was an American. Unfortunately, he was dressed in blue. He is the one that got away. The Azzurri from New Jersey, Giuseppe Rossi, changed the game when he entered in the second half with quick, decisive moves. He meshed well with the old guard and proved he will be hard to keep out of the lineup. Do not forget that Rossi's foundation was forged in the US, even though it is the European polish that has made the difference. So what do we need to do to get the same results out of our young phenoms? Getting them on the field would help. Considering the US continues to struggle with possession, why not give players like Jose Francisco Torres and Freddy Adu a chance? I have heard whispers that the reason Bradley yanked Torres against Costa Rica and has not played him or Adu since is that he wasn't happy with their defensive effort. Even if you believe that he has a legitimate beef, the US would need to play a lot less defense if they had more players like Torres and Adu that could actually hold on to the ball. Bradley continues to call Adu and Torres into camp and put them on the roster so he obviously sees their talent, but his reluctance to put them on the field is puzzling. I remember a conversation I had with a former US National Team midfielder who was complaining about the lack of defensive help from Preki. I responded that if he could make moves and score goals like Preki then he would not have to defend much either. I doubt that he agreed with me, and judging by his decisions of late, Bob Bradley probably doesn't agree either. The hoped for inclusion of Schalke's newly discovered American Jermaine Jones will help. After watching him in nearly two dozen games, let’s just say he brings enough defensive intensity to cover for two or three Prekis. If (New) Mexican left back Edgar Castillo joins Jones in the US leap that would be a huge step forward. He is a pest defensively and a threat in the offensive half and he plays a position where the Nats are at their weakest. This is not to say that offensive players do not need to contribute defensively. However, it should not be at the expense of their attacking responsibilities. Look no further than Italy's own Andrea Pirlo. He will provide some pressure at times, but his job is to create. He leaves the piano carrying for guys like Gattuso and DeRossi. Xavi is a genius, but it is not for tracking back 50 yards - he has teammates who specialize in that sort of thing. That allows him to save his energy and his effort on the offensive side of things. It is drilled into Barcelona players from a young age to “run little, run smart.” Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo did not crack the cash register for nearly $200 million by stopping attacks. They did it on the other end of the field. Admittedly, this could all be part of a master plan where Bradley does not want to show his hand before the World Cup hoping to catch opponents by surprise. However, after three years the US play should be a bit easier on the eyes by now. Do we have a Pirlo, a Xavi, a Kaka or a Ronaldo in the US pipeline? Maybe not, but if we did, should they be commanded to defend before they are even allowed to enter the field?