Major League Soccer Talk correspondent Michael Haley and I both attended the US-Trinidad and Tobago match yesterday at the Home Depot Center outside Los Angeles. The US made ten changes in the starting eleven from Thursday night’s victory over Guatemala. Most interestingly the new players seemed to adjust well to Bob Bradley’s attacking formation which features many overlapping runs and requires the defensive midfielders to occupy a lot of space in the middle of the pitch. Ricardo Clark was particularly impressive in this role.
Overall the most impressive US player was Jay DeMerit whose baptism by fire at Watford has made a tough smart defender who knows how to use his hands to gain position without being called for silly fouls or worse get booked.The entrance of Landon Donovan in the match at half time changed the way the US attacked and instilled some confidence in the side. Donovan spectacular run down the right hand flank set up an easy finish for Eddie Johnson who until that point the match looked completely lost. Another important note from the match was the first US cap for Michael Parkhurst who now is ineligible to play for Ireland’s National Team. Parkhurst had been capped at every youth level for the US, but had recently aroused the interest of Steve Staunton and the Irish Football Federation.
The intensity of the Gold Cup matches is higher than I recall in the past. Nations such as Guadeloupe, Haiti, Panama and Honduras are viewing this event as a genuine continental championship and are going for goal early in matches against higher rated opposition. This has led to a remarkable number of upsets and near misses in the first weekend of the event. For example in the Miami based Group A, Guadeloupe whom I had mentioned as a possible dark horse last week is leading the group which features a solid Canada team and Costa Rica who has participated in the last World Cup. In Group C, Mexico’s loss to Honduras and struggle to defeat Cuba indicates that Coach Hugo Sanchez better get things moving soon in the right direction of he may not be coaching the national team much longer.