Not Really a Friendly
Bob Bradley sure wants to lose that interim label badly. Otherwise I see no reason for him to have selected what is essentially an “A” side with a few younger players for the friendly versus Mexico on Wednesday night in Glendale, Arizona. However, this is Mexico and it is difficult to label any US-Mexico game as a “friendly.” Perhaps it’s the fact that the game is versus Mexico and not Denmark that Bradley has opted for an experienced side for this match. (No insult to Denmark intended- the point is the rivalry with Mexico tends to trump the friendly label.)
With the likely intensity of this match not in doubt and the desire for Bob Bradley to keep his job full time, chances are a great opportunity for player development is being lost. The idea of holding friendlies at this time are to deepen the player pool and give uncapped players a taste of the international atmosphere. Doing this against Mexico will quickly thin the ranks of potential young contributors to future US National Team squads. With a big summer ahead for the US including Copa America and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, further chances to deepen the player pool may have to wait until the fall.
This will be Mexican legend Hugo Sanchez’s first match as Mexico manager. Sanchez for his part knows a loss to the US, which has become almost routine for Mexico over the past 6 years or so will be unacceptable back home and he too has chosen a squad which does little to develop young players. Star attacker Cuauhtemoc Blanco who was left off the World Cup squad by dismissed coach Ricardo LaVolpe returns for Mexico. Rafael Marquez and Pavel Pardo will make the trip from their European clubs for this match and Mexico’s overall squad betrays Sanchez’s original intention to rely on domestic players for friendlies prior to the Summer. Sanchez is probably already feeling the pressure or wants to beat the USA badly, because this is not a friendly in the true sense.
One thing to keep an eye on for the US Squad. Landon Donovan looked uncomfortable deep in midfield versus Denmark, and with Clint Dempsey and Bobby Convey returning from the EPL to take their normal wide positions, I believe Bradley needs to settle Donovan up front or at very worst in an withdrawn attacker position. The attempts to make Donovan a true #10 have failed on the international level and his confidence has suffered as his role has not been properly defined. I would place Pablo Mastroeni in the withdrawn center midfield role vacated by the retired Claudio Reyna and allow Donovan the freedom to push forward.