The US national team has had a busy couple of months, 13 games spread across World Cup Qualifying, Gold Cup and Confederations Cup. They ended up winning 7 (1 in extra time), loosing 5 and drawing one. Not bad, but hardly world class when you look at the opposition.
On the plus side there was the obvious highlight of beating Spain, making it to the Confederation Cup final and being 2-0 up against Brazil at half time. However the same tournament had big losses against Brazil and Italy in the group stage in what is ultimately a fairly meaningless tournament.
Where it counts is World Cup qualifying it’s not been so bright. There have been two games this summer, an unconvincing draw against Honduras and a big loss in Costa Rica. The next qualifying game is in Mexico, if the US loose in the Azteca, the away game against Honduras in October may have a huge say in who goes to South Africa.
Ultimately the US are good enough that they should qualify for South Africa next summer, but it’s not an easy path at this point.
The 5-0 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final really showed up some ongoing problems with the current set up. Finishing in the red-zone is woeful, the defence seems to lack discipline with players consistently being caught out of position and not able to pick up the runs in the box. Yes this was not the US “A” team, but nor was Mexico.
I feel that the coaches have a far bigger influence over the B team players than the first team. A lot of these players play in the MLS and don’t necessarily have access to top level coaching and opposition week-in-week out the way the European based players that make up a bulk of the first team do.
It’s not a bash on the MLS, just reality that a player that goes against top level defenders every week in training and games is going to be better than a player that goes against defenders earning $40K in the MLS.
This lack of exposure to top level football places more of a burden on the US coaches to provide tactics that work for the players they have, and I don’t think the current coaches have done this very well.
Bob Bradley inherited a team from Bruce Arena that was well drilled with players that understand their role. It was a team that knew where they had to be during set plays, especially on defence but also in the red zone. When playing internationally, not giving away cheap goals to teams that have the ability to close a game down is absolutely paramount.
Looking back over the last couple of months the Spain win looks like something of a lucky win (granted, to a certain extent you make your own luck at that level) and constantly changing line ups don’t help, but during the two games that really meant something they did not play well.
This summer I don’t think the US team has played with the same level of discipline, knowledge and confort, and I think in large part that’s down to the coaching staff.