June 14, the U.S. Men’s National Team round off their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group C play versus tiny Guadeloupe in a must-win game to advance to the quarterfinals. Panama has already claimed one of the two berths.
By all counts the USA should win, but then again, the USA was not expected to be overshadowed by Panama in that lopsided 2-1 result, the first time the USA ever lost in Gold Cup group play. Public frustration over the stagnant quality of U.S. play and the re-hiring of head coach Bob Bradley will likely spill over into an uprising should the United States not win big and move on to the quarterfinals.
Group A Mexico and Costa Rica have advanced and so have Group B Jamaica and Guatemala. Mexco swept Group A with 14 goals and only one allowed and are heavily favored for the finals.
Guadeloupe, an archipelago with a population of only 500,000, fell 1-0 to Canada and 3-2 to Panama. Guadeloupe might not advance to the quarterfinals, but would happily play the spoiler for the U.S. Analyzing both teams’ results, it’s possible to envision that scenario.
The USA defeated Canada and like the U.S., Canada also plays the big, fast and physical game, relying on long passes to move the ball. The USA play that style better than Canada and the match-up’s 2-0 result was no surprise, and it’s also no surprise that Canada might shut out Guadeloupe 1-0.
But Guadeloupe got two goals past Panama and was a more equal partner in their 3-2 result. Panama owned the USA in the first half, throwing forward little teams of attackers that rigidly spaced USA was not equipped to manage. Panama will study that first half and look to capitalize on that weakness.
Bradley will likely switch up his starters, but right about now he’s probably wishing he rostered Herculez Gomez or Jose Torres, technical players that can compete with the Latin American style. There’s an overused expression coaches and players often repeat – “We’ll make them play our game” – which certainly didn’t work for the USA versus Panama. If the USA wants to win, the coach must consider the opponent and the brand of officiating, which also differs within regional areas.
Bradley sacrificed the historic USA-Spain game at Gillette, a 4-0 debacle which exposed 62,000 New England fans to sub-quality play by second-string players and showed just how vast the gap was between the U.S. and Spain. The dubious strategy behind that pride-less performance was to save the best players for the Gold Cup, which the USA planned to win. The U.S. not reaching the Gold Cup finals would indicate once and for all that Bradley’s tactics and strategies are poorly conceived and constructed, and that new management is required.
USA-Guadeloupe kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas and will be broadcast on Fox Soccer and Telefutura.
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