That last sentence explains much of what has ailed the US over the last four games, including last night's win over Guadeloupe. Bradley's 4-4-2 requires both Dempsey and Donovan to pinch in and play as attacking central midfielders rather than as wingers. The US gets its width from the two fullbacks. In this system, Altidore and either Aguduelo or Wondolowski play as strikers, and both Dempsey and Donovan press forward from either flank, looking to create and shoot from central positions but generally arriving from the outside. Neither player hugs the sideline, for example, or tries to get behind the opposing fullbacks. Bradley plays as a type of box-to-box midfielder (although whether such a position still exists in the modern games is subject to some debate), with Jones as the true holding midfielder. The point being that in the US 4-4-2, Bradley will press forward when he can and Jones will hold back (generally speaking). Finally, both fullbacks, Bocanegra and Cherundelo, for example, push high up the field. providing support to the attacking four of Dempsey, Donovan, Agudeuelo and Altidore (although through three Gold Cup matches, Donovan has typically stayed deeper than Dempsey, while the latter has often started from deep but has then looked to get forward, mostly on the left but frequently switching sides with Donovan). To see how the US shape changed as the Panama game went on, click here.
The end result is that the US typically has 6-7 players in the attack phase when they are in possession, which has been fairly frequent in the three Gold Cup matches (I can't find any time-of-possession data thanks to the continued lame statistical coverage of the US soccer media). This is inspiring and shows how much confidence Bradley has in the quality of the US side. But it must be pointed out that Bradley's approach leaves only 3 outfield players (plus Howard in goal) to defend. And what every team over the last three games has shown (Spain just tore us apart from every angle possible) is that you can get behind our two fullbacks and create havoc. Panama did it and won, and Guadeloupe and Canada each created quality chances.
The point is that if Bradley is going to attack, he needs to get his players' respective and collective heads straight from the start. Respect your opponent and come out and win the first 20 minutes--and win them hard. I do not see the US quality as being so far above Panama, Mexico, Jamaica and other countries that they can play without a sense of passion and purpose for a full 90 minutes and be assured of a positive result. In the next stages of the tournament, Bradley needs to consider dropping the two fullbacks back or even going to a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1. Whatever the case, something has to change if the US hopes to advance to the final. Panama showed that we are vulnerable physically and tactically. We may have more skill and experience then the other teams (save Mexico), but it's clearly not enough if we hope to maintain our dominance of CONCACAF.