The archetypal Bradley result

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.


3 thoughts on “The archetypal Bradley result

  1. I think your assessment ignores the fact that there was another team on the field.

    The US is not good enough to simply enforce its will on every opponent in every location. Plus, Guatemala is not a “bad” team. They may be a bunch of hacks and divers, but they have some talent, are physical, and had a home field advantage that the US rarely sees. To expect the US to go down there and enforce some attractive style of play, maintain good ball movement, and control possession through midfield is naive.

    Guatemala plays a “win at all cost” type of game. They do not care, nor to their fans and countrymen, whether they look good winning or not. All they have to do is win. That mentality breeds cheaters, divers, hacks, and clowns. And that type of opponent will prevent any team in the world from controlling the game (especially in the conditions the game was played in last night).

    To say that this is Bradley’s archetypal result is also cheap. The US had never won a World Cup qualifier in Guatemala before last night. How can this game be typical of any other ever played?

    We survived a game that tests our mental strength and preparedness more than anything else. Sure Cherundolo got red carded for two stupid fouls, but it wasn’t for retaliation, which is what Guatemala plays for. Guatemala knows that a referee will card the second player before the first, so why shouldn’t Ruiz try and kick Howard in the face. That’s their style. What strategy can you use to counter that? How to you play against it?

    The US sat back, took the pressure, and allowed Guatemala to hack away. Then, we beat them where we knew we could, on a set piece.

    There’s nothing pretty about it, and there’s no way to play a pretty game against it. If teams like Guatemala actually made it to the World Cup, no one would want to watch the games, because there wouldn’t be anything beautiful about it.

    That’s CONCACAF. That’s the way it is. I’m glad we’ve finally demonstrated the mental toughness needed to win on the road. If you want pretty soccer, then you’ll have to wait for meaningless friendlies. That’s why Bradley has been playing them, and Gulati has been scheduling them… with non-CONCACAF opponents.

  2. I never expect “pretty” from an away qualifier. I just want to see more possession. If the US has the ball, it’s far harder for the other team to score.

  3. It’s an archetypical Bradley result because his tactics guaranteed that this would happen. The two d-mids was the wrong philosophy, even if Mastroeni wasn’t past his prime. You’re one of the two best teams in the region and playing a team that uses a 4-5-1 even at home. Take the game to them.

    Landon on the wing simply does not work. It takes the best player on the field away from what he does best. We needed one-touch passing and nobody does that better than he does. And his lack of defensive skills exposed Cherundolo.

    Eddie Lewis (who doesn’t have the greatest history against Guatemala, by the way) was awful from the beginning, and by pinching in so much, it isolated Pearce to deal with Rodriguez’s speed. He should have been out at halftime. But Bob left him hanging and he got an elbow to the face for his troubles.

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