The headline is pretty ominous until that last word. Still, this will be the second time in a year that Bob Bradley is coaching for his job in the final game of a group stage. Last June it came against Algeria and we all remember what happened that day. This time around it should be a little less tense when the USMNT takes on Guadeloupe in Kansas City (Fox Soccer Channel, 9pm et). Should be. The US should have taken care of an underwhelming Panama squad, but a slow start (that’s being generous) from the American’s led to an upset and the first Gold Cup group stage loss ever for the US.
I’ll get to da huggin’ and da previewin’ shortly, but first to vent on Saturday night’s debacle. Honestly, the game displayed the danger of keeping a coach for a second World Cup cycle. It’s tough to keep the edge needed to come out and take it to an inferior opponent. No offense to Panama, but we saw in the second half where these teams measured up as the US mortared the Panama goal, albeit with minimal success. I said in an earlier preview that a challenge for this United States squad was to show that it could dominate teams and while we saw flashes against Canada, it was an utter failure on the players’ and Bradley’s part Saturday. The US put on an embarrassing display in the first 45 minutes that included a foosballian level of standing around.
If the US wins or ties tonight it moves on to the knockout stage. Bob Bradley better hope for a statement win or his job is in serious jeopardy. How will the US go about getting that victory?
The US won’t win by coasting to a close-ish win with mostly reserves starting, as we previously hoped. Bradley will need to come with his most dangerous 11 tonight and there will be some nerves from the US side to be sure. Here are a few questions I’m asking leading up to tonight’s match.
What will the lineup look like? For the first time, I really have no idea. The first two starting groups have been close to predictions, but it’s hard to tell what Bradley will do tonight. Many are predicting major changes like a start for Sasha Kljestan, a benching of Tim Ream, and Jozy Altidore starting as the lone striker. I can certainly see Bradley trying to spark something with a lineup change, but this team needs an attitude adjustment more than a tactical one. I’d keep the 4-4-2 look that this squad is most comfortable in, shifting Clint Dempsey up top and starting Alejandro Bedoya as a wing midfielder. Jermaine Jones probably reserved his bench spot with his tantrum upon being subbed out against Panama, so look for Maurice Edu to start as a holding mid. I would keep Ream and Goodson in the middle to show the young pairing a little confidence after a shaky match. Alas, it’s Bradley’s team and we’ll probably see something closer to what the Shin Guardian has predicted.
How will the US start? Dating back to the World Cup this has been the primary concern for USMNT supporters. The US started poorly in every World Cup match and the habit returned on Saturday. Was an embarrassing loss to Panama the wake-up call the Yanks needed? Could be. In the World Cup, the US always managed to come back and draw even or win, but maybe a bad loss will be the cure. I would expect a fast start from the US considering the ramifications of a bad one, but then again I said the same thing last summer before the Algeria match that saw a shot past Tim Howard and off the bar before the US realized the match had started. Another slow start and we’re in for a long night and possible disaster.
Will Donovan be present for more than just set pieces? Landycakes doesn’t escape criticism from the Panama loss. Landon Donovan was awful start to finish aside from some great services on set pieces. Gone was the dangerous and creative attacker, replaced with some guy that consistently gave up possession with bad touches and lazy passes. Carlos Bocanegra may be the current “Captain America” but this team goes as Landon goes and the US needs a much better effort.
They gon’ win? Yes. I think the Panama result woke this team up. Especially seeing how dominant Mexico was in the first round, the US will save face tonight with an impressive win. Dempsey and Michael Bradley are the only two players who have turned in two solid games for the US so far and I think they lead the way again tonight with a much better supporting cast. 4-1 US.