Last night’s 1-0 win Guatemala played out almost precisely as the archetypal result of the Bob Bradley era as US coach. The US comes with almost zero competent midfield play, relies on pounding balls downfield to relieve defensive pressure and eventually hangs on for either a goal off a set piece or the opposition doing something dumb. That’s how Bradley’s US teams play. And for now, for now, it’s worked. I thought last night’s example was about as close you could get to blowing a game without actually having done so. About the only thing missing was a desperate clearance off the line.
I started out as a big advocate of Bradley and of his hiring, but when you see a team playing with about the same degree of ambition (at least on attack) as Greg Ryan’s old women’s teams, it’s hard to keep saying the coach knows what he is doing. I suspect this kind of play, especially if he is a bit more attacking-minded at home, will prove adequate to get us qualified. But in terms of results at the World Cup, or any tournament really where it matters more to win than draw – the US can count itself doomed. Few teams can “pull a Greece” and slog their way to a title or much success based on set pieces and running into things at high speed.
But this is how Bradley operates, with a fear of midfield giveaways (which when you have them as packed in as we did last night, does make some sense) and a mandate to pound the ball wide or just down the field to the forwards as soon as they received it. All that appeared to do though was allow Guatemala to keep attacking our fatigued defenders as they scrambled back to position. Then when the defense does breakdown, it all hangs on the keeper, either Howard or whomever, to singlehandedly keep the USA in matches. Howard to his credit, did precisely that yesterday.
I though Pearce and Cherundolo were terrible outside backs last night. Chero got rightly sent off for two profoundly stupid yellow cards. I thought the rest of the team did a fairly good job not being provoked by the usual Guatemalan nonsense.
If they play this badly against Cuba, then it’s time to freak out. But for now, that’s three points on the road and a job well done…. job that was completed.