Friday, June 26, 2009

Confederations Cup

I tend to keep this blog focused mainly on DC United, because there are hundreds of other blogs you can visit for USMNT match reactions, but with one of the greatest US Soccer upsets of all time on Wednesday, and with the biggest US Soccer match of all time coming up on Sunday, I just can't help myself.  Whether we take first place or second place in this tournament, it's been a really thrilling ride.  In the matter of just a week, we've gone from wanting to fire our coach and turn over the entire roster, to having a legitimate shot at winning a major international tournament.  US Soccer fans have a tendency to overreact in both directions, so let's put this in perspective in advance of the Final with some nice broad points that we can all take home with us.

1. With our backs against the wall, the US team prevailed.  This team might not have the talent to match the best teams in the world, but they've shown in this tournament that when they NEED to win, they win.  That gives me a lot of hope about the remainder of WCQ.  Even if we drop a couple points in some difficult matches that are coming up, I now have faith that if we go into our last match needing a certain result, we will get it.  This also raises our chances of advancing once we get to the World Cup.  If we're stuck in a tough group as usual, the other teams better not let us hang around, because if we've got any mathematical chance of advancing, this team has shown that they will give it their all and fight their way into the next round.

2. How's that for confidence?  For years, US Soccer has played with an inferiority complex.  We often take the tactical move of bunkering when faced with difficult situations (like Costa Rica).  Now I think Bob Bradley and the boys have learned that that is not a winning combination.  The US put out a pretty attack-oriented lineup against Spain with Donovan and Dempsey on the wings.  There was no bunkering involved.  And by keeping the pressure on the Spanish and the Egyptians, we were able to pull away late in each match.  If that tactic was effective against the #1 team in the world, it's certainly worth a try against Mexico and other Concacaf opponents.  Surely the 4-4-2 formation is here to stay.  Right Bob?

3. I think we've found our Starting XI.  Our lineup against Spain is the exact lineup I'd like to use against Mexico when we return to WCQ.  Rico Clark and Michael Bradley were studs in defensive midfield, blocking more shots than you see in an average hockey game.  And it's great that we've found another competent center back in Jay Demerit to allow us to move Bocanegra out to left back, a position that's been up for grabs since Agoos retired.  And while I'm not sold on them being our default starters from now until next summer, the current combination of Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies is the best we've got up top.

I'm really excited about the possibilities for the future after watching this team.  And I'm also excited to see some fresh faces getting a chance in the Gold Cup.  I'm not counting on seeing anything more than a losing fight on Sunday, but as long as it is a fight and not a comprehensive victory for Brazil like in the Group stage, I'll be satisfied.  A win would just be icing on the cake.


Jeremy said...

I do not agree with "biggest soccer match of all time".

This is a little stage. Even though it is a final, I don't think that it is a bigger match than a quarter final in the World Cup (2002), and certainly is not bigger than a semi-final and third place finish in the World Cup (1930).

You would not say that winning the SuperLiga was bigger than a sem-final in the Champions League.

rob said...

re: starting 11

I'm comfortable with Ching-Altidore and would love to see what Donovan-Jones-Bradley-Dempsey looks like in midfield, but, yeah, you're basically right.

Shatz... said...

Jeremy- I'm definitely not up on my knowledge of 1930 soccer history, but I'm standing by my assertion that the Confederations Cup Final is the biggest match that the modern US Soccer team has played. I think that winning any international tournament that includes the A-teams of Brazil, Spain, and Italy is worth more than just reaching the quarters or semis of the World Cup.

Rob- The team has looked good at times during WCQ with Ching at forward, but after what I saw against Spain and Egypt, I think Davies passed Ching on the depth chart for now, at least in situations where we want to be on the attack.

I agree with you on the midfield though. I'd love to see what that line looks like, and hopefully we will get to see it soon.