Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Last night's dismantling of a veteran US squad by a young Brazilian team bursting with talent proved just how deep Brazil is and just how badly the US needs a new coach and a new direction.
Brazil advanced further than did the US in this summer's World Cup, and their coach, Dunga, was fired. The USSF has held on to Bradley at least through last night's friendly, but the performance of the US teams begs the following question: why? Alexi Lalas is not our favorite commentator. It's one thing to spout your mouth off and be opinionated. We like that in Maradona because the man is flat-out hilarious...and a genius. But it's another to run your mouth and repeatedly make stupid and uninformed comments that are mere opinions--and get paid for it. And yet Lalas got it right last night when he pointed out that the USSF should have fired Bradley after the World Cup. Doing so would have allowed his replacement to begin the next phase of US soccer development at the national level against Brazil.
That the USSF did not at least served the following purposes: it showed just how unimaginative Bradley is as a tactician and just how desperately the US needs a new vision--perhaps a decidedly Germanic vision.
Running out a 4-4-1-1 for the first time this summer looked brilliant in the first ten minutes or so, as the US dominated the young Brazilians and Donovan especially looked outstanding. Putting the best player the US has produced in the center of the field was reaping great dividends, as John Harkas excitedly pointed out.
But once the youngsters for La Samba settled down they proceeded to dismantle the US, sending ball after ball down the US's left side, and the 2-0 score at half time could easily have been 3-0 or worse. And, once again, there were the usual problems for the US: our midfield was unorganized and outgunned, and our back four looked completely out of their league. The Brazilians sent wave after wave at our back line and yours truly completely lost track of how many give-and-gos and through-balls the US was giving up. It was a nightmare.
At what point does a coach alter not only his team's tactical organization to achieve better results but its makeup and vision? Harkas pointed out that while the Brazilians had been able to play a bunch of new players to see who might possibly make it into the XI for the next South American Championship and eventually the next World Cup, Bradley ran out essentially the same team that had played so unevenly in South Africa. More importantly, other than putting Donovan up top and in the middle, Bradley showed no new ideas whatsoever, as if South Africa had been a tremendous leap forward for US football.
Let's be clear. Bradley is the man who led the US to the final of the Confederations Cup last year, to the top of the CONCACAF during World Cup qualifying, and to the final 16 in South Africa. But we think he's taken the USA as far as he's capable of taking it.
In our view, we have the players to do better. As such, it's not that we lack talent, it's that whatever talent we do have is not being utilized to its fullest. Donovan and Bradley (the player, not the coach) are outstanding midfielders who can start in the top divisions in Europe. We have depth at keeper and, finally, even at striker (Buddle, Altidore, Gomez, Findlay). Gomez in particular is just the first of what will prove to be a whole slew of Mexican-American strikers in the years to come, as the sons of immigrants (legal and extra-legal) grow up in the US and choose to play for their homeland and not return to Mexico. In fact, we think once Gomez and his brethren come of age en masse, the US will finally have arrived internationally, with truly International-class keepers, midfielders and FINALLY fast, skilled strikers.
We have seen no indication over the last 12 months that Bradley (the coach) understands any of this, or that he understands how successful tactics are a direct function of the skills of the players on the field and the game at hand, i.e., the challenge posed by the opposition.
There was talk at half time by Lalas about Jurgen Klinsman coming in to take over for Bradley. And this morning on Sky Sports News, Bradley was described as the "leading candidate" for the vacancy at Aston Villa.
Klinsman coming in to reshape the Yanks and Bradley graduating to greener pastures, the first US manager to ever manage in the EPl, would be a win-win for US football. Let's hope it happens.