|photo by MattGerlachPhotography
So, last night's loss against Panama may not lead to the US exiting the Gold Cup tournament, and I still expect them to qualify for the knockout stages of the competition -- barring an upset of catastrophic proportions by Guadaloupe -- but the fact the Americans lost to Panama on home soil has to go down as a black mark on Bob Bradley's head coaching resume. Actually, the fact that we're even forced to write an article contemplating whether or not the Americans can advance in a tourney against a bunch of CONCACAF minnows is shocking in and of itself....
Continuing where I left off last week, the combination of Sunil Gulati and Bob Bradley is not what is going to help US soccer succeed now or in the future. I include Gulati this time in my increasingly vocal criticism, because he's the man in charge, the one who re-hired Bradley after the 2010 World Cup, and he's also the one who vetoed the hiring -- that's twice now -- of a more offensive-minded head coach such as Jurgen Klinsmann.
To put it simply, US soccer has taken a step backward over the past 12-18 months. Not only does the coach not appear to know who his best 11 are, he doesn't appear capable of putting a strong 11 on the pitch, and the US appears particularly suspect on defense. Which is a perfect jumping off point to begin our analysis of Saturday night's dismal 90 minutes:
o Where's the defense? Sure, it was an almost perfect cross from Gomez that led to Panama's first goal, the ball laid on a platter for Armando Cooper, but what in the world was the US defense doing on the play? The marking was absolutely shocking, and their lapse put us in the hole -- once again.
o Tim Ream handed in another terrible game, adding fuel to the fire surrounding Bradley's continued insistence on playing him. About the penalty Ream conceded, there's nothing to ask except what in the world was he thinking to trip a player with his back to goal heading out of the box? It's just complete inexperience on the part of the Red Bulls defender.....
o Ream had a nightmare virtually the entire game, and appeared to have no answer for the physicality of the Panamanian side. Puzzling for the Americans -- if there's one style of soccer we should be able to play it's the physical type.
o His partner in crime Clarence Goodson didn't do much better, either, as both central defenders appeared outmuscled, outhought and just flat out outplayed by their Panamanian counterparts. Goodson redeemed himself in part with his late header to put the US on the board, but the night was not one to remember for the central pairing.
o Landon Donovan must have thought he had the night off, because that's exactly what he took when the ball was not laying in a set position. Although he lofted in a few nice free kicks, Landon was invisble in open play for much of the contest.
o Chris Wondolowski missed an absolute sitter which could have salvaged a draw late on, inexplicably volleying over the bar from less than two feet out. Michael Bradley also missed a very late goal from what would have been the US' nicest play of the evening. It's finishing like that which will see you continue your career in the MLS, boys.
o On the bright side, Clint Demspey played like a man possessed. He was by far the best US player on the pitch, head and shoulders above anyone else in white, and was a one-man offense for most of the game, as virtually everything with any quality associated with it ran through the Texan.
o Upon first glance, I was ready to excoriate Mexican referee Marco Rodriguez for handing a Yellow Card to Alejandro Bedoya in the game's 65th minute, but upon closer look he got the call spot on. Bedoya went down without even the slightest of touches from the Panamanian 'keeper, and the referee did what more men in the middle of the action should do: he reached for his pocket instead of pointing to the spot. Fair play.
o Overall, a terrible performance, and one that fans of the US Mens' National team have unfortunately become accustomed to during Gulati and Bradleys reign. It's time for the duo to move on, so US Soccer can move forward.
This is farlieonfootie for June 13.