Let me be clear: The person responsible for Bob Bradley getting a four-year contract extension is the president of the United States Soccer Federation, Sunil Gulati. In the end, it was his decision and he deserves the majority of praise or scorn depending on the results.
That being said, the small, yet influential United States soccer press corp are, at least, somewhat responsible for Bradley getting a second chance. In the face of significant evidence, no one with a large platform came out and said what seemed obvious to me and others — Bradley didn’t deserve to stay on for four more years. Strangely, no one among the U.S. soccer media elite stood up and took this stand. If Gulati really wanted to keep Bradley, he should have had to explain his decision to a hostile media. But instead of being under pressure to show Bradley the door, Gulati was, amazingly, under pressure to keep Bradley. Maybe Gulati would have made the same decision no matter what the media said, but he definitely kept him when media said he should.
I don’t want to brag or nothing (awwww, who am I kidding, I really want to brag about this), but since the Gold Cup last year I wrote time, and timeand time again about how good Stuart Holden is.
In January, I wrote he was significantly better than Ricardo Clark; In March, I said if there was a draft and I had to choose between Clint Dempsey and Holden — I would pick Holden; In June, I argued he should start against England in the World Cup. Holden ended up playing four minutes in the World Cup (enjoy Bob Bradley Aston Villa!!!) and though I easily could write 1,500 words just on that, for my own well being, and yours, I won’t.
But after watching Holden play 90 minutes in Bolton’s first two Premiership matches this season it’s worth trying to answer the question in the headline: How good is Stuart Holden? The former Houston Dynamo player (I still chuckle when I write Houston “Dynamo”) didn’t exactly look like a Xavi clone against Fulham and West Ham, but he did look like an above-average Premiership central midfielder. Is he?
Let’s say you think Bob Bradley has done a great job as United States national team head coach. You point to the U.S. winning the 2007 Gold Cup, finishing second in the 2009 Confederations Cup and a very respectable round of 16 appearance in the 2010 World Cup.
You’re willing to forgive some lineup head-scratchers (Robbie Findley, Ricardo Clark) because he instilled a “never give up” mentality and made clever tactical changes when he realized he made a mistake. You also think the U.S. can’t get a better coach than Bradley, his players support him and he’s going to give 110 percent over the next four years.
Even if you believe all of these things, I don’t, but if you do, you should still adamantly be against Bradley continuing his tenure as U.S. men’s national team head coach. Why? History!
I’ve been AWOL in the last couple days, and to my eight dedicated readers, sorry.
So I’ve had a couple days to look back at the United States 2010 World Cup and it’s hard to ignore how close it was to complete disaster. If Michael Bradley volley went flying over the bar against Slovenia or if Algeria could have defended for one more minute, U.S. soccer would have had its disappointing World Cup ever. But the U.S. did put together two climatic last-minute finishes, which for the first time ever put the American public in a soccer frenzy.
About four months ago, with the final seconds ticking away, the United States needed a goal or its tournament would be over.
All across the country, people hoped for a late goal but it was hard to ignore the reality of the situation: The U.S. was about to lose and were going to have to wait four years for redemption. Then, suddenly, an American got himself free in front of the net and buried a rebound for one of the most dramatic goals in recent memory. He went crazy, I went crazy, the United States of America went crazy.
Zach Parise’s goal in the Olympic gold medal men’s hockey game was the defining American sporting moment of 2010. It might still be, but Landon Donovan’s late-winner against Algeria had the same affect as Parise’s game-tier against Canada — we all went crazy.
No matter what happens from here on out, the 2010 World Cup is a success for the U.S. Getting out of the group stage is a significant accomplishment. But, by winning the group and having a favorable draw, you don’t have to be a homer to talk yourself into the U.S. having a realistic chance at advancing to the semifinals (I got a couple goosebumps just writing that).
But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Before looking ahead, let’s reflect on what happened today.
If the United States loses to Algeria Wednesday it will be its most disappointing loss ever.
More disappointing than the debacle at the 1998 World Cup, more heart-breaking than the quarter final loss to Germany in 2002, more devastating than the loss to Ghana to end the 2006 Cup campaign. With U.S. soccer games shattering T.V. records and an American public ready to completely embrace the sport, a loss to Algeria would allow every sport radio blowhard to say, “I told you! Soccer would never become big in this country. We don’t like rooting for losers.” Unfortunately, they might be right.
The U.S. really should win. It has significantly better players, Algeria is one of only two teams at the World Cup that hasn’t scored a goal and tactically the U.S. matches up favorably.
But like I wrote last week, the U.S. has never won won a World Cup match as the favorite. Plus, there are so many question marks it doesn’t take a nihilist to think this game has disaster written all over it. But before we get to that, let’s first look at the tactical matchup.
Minutes after the United States 2-2 tie against Slovenia Friday, my buddy Andy called.
Before hello’s were exchanged, I ranted, “Unbelievable. I can’t believe that goal didn’t count. But that comeback, unbelievable. And that header from Altidore to Bradley was just fantastic. And Donovan, unbelievable. That was just an incredible goal. Man, man, just everything…unbelievable.”
I’ve now had most of the day to digest the match, trying to put it in some historical context and objectively judging the performance. After taking a step back, all I can say is — UNBELIEVABLE!
The United States goes into its second Group C match in a rare position at the World Cup — favorites.
Since the U.S. started qualifying for the World Cup in 1990, only twice has the U.S. been a favorite. The first was in 1998, when in its second group match the U.S. played Iran. Needing three points, the U.S. was outplayed and lost 2-1.
Four years later in South Korea, the U.S. faced Poland in its final group match. In its first two games, the U.S. beat Portugal and tied tournament hosts South Korea; Poland lost to Portugal and South Korea. The game meant nothing to Poland and everything to the U.S., since a win would clinch qualification to the Round of 16. But the U.S. came out flat, conceding two goals in the opening five minutes en route to a 3-1 loss (the U.S. got lucky with South Korea beating Portugal and advanced out of the group anyway).
The U.S. will try again as favorites when it meets Slovenia Friday. But make no mistake, though the U.S. is the better team, Slovenia isn’t Trinidad and Tobago. It can beat the U.S. just like Iran and Poland.
I won’t forget the day I saw Freddy Adu play the one of the greatest games anyone has ever played in a United States jersey.
I was finishing up college at Long Beach State and needed one more class over the summer to get the required credits for my degree. Unfortunately, on this particular day, my class (Media Law) was at the same time as the United States’ second game of the 2007 Under-20 World Cup against Poland. Obviously, the smart move would be go to class, but I have a lifetime track record of not doing the smart move.
1:24 — For those who care, I lost five bets today and won one (the last one). Overall, I won $2.
1:18 — FT: Brazil 2-1 North Korea. Not what I was expecting, but an entertaining match. The Asian teams have been impressing in this World Cup and North Korea continued that theme. Brazil was poor in the first half, but was much better in the second 45. They’ll be fine.
1:14 — North Korea GOAL!!! Pretty good foreshadowing with my 1:12 post. A good goal too. No. 8 splits the defense and fires home a bullet. Now go get another one North Korea! Brazil 2-1 North Korea.
1:12 — North Korea nearly score there, that would have been pretty cool.
1:08 — Best goalie in the world is Casillas, not Cesar.
1:05 — 10 minutes left now. North Korea could beat Portugal or Ivory Coast. I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it’s not crazy.
1:03 — Kaka gets subbed and he seemed quite happy in a relieved kind of way.
12:57 — BRAZIL GOAL!!! YES! That was a little nerve racking! Elano gives me $27. Thanks you very much. Great pass by Robinho on the goal. Brazil 2-0 North Korea.