Sunday’s mildly shocking result in the Cup of African Nations Quarterfinals reinforces what we wrote about on Friday here at MLS Talk: Algeria will be no pushover for the United States in the World Cup. The Desert Foxes eliminated pre-tournament favorite Ivory Coast 3-2 after extra time. In the match, Didier Drogba was effectively muzzled by an organized Algerian defense.
Algeria’s shock victory came less than twenty four hours after the US lost to Honduras 3-1 in Carson. This is probably my last blog post ever about the USMNT, considering my new role as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the NASL. So those expecting a flame fest will be disappointed. The teams performed about to expectations: both teams did.
So, what did we learn on Saturday that was not already known about Honduras or the US? From my vantage point the only lessons were reinforcement of what was apparent already. Here is my checklist.
- Honduras lacks killer instinct and has a goalkeeper problem. When David Suazo is injured or unavailable they lack a game breaking striker, who won’t miss sitters as Pavon and Costly (who also plays in Europe and thus was unavailable) constantly do.
- The US has a depth problem. We knew this already. I’m not high on our talent level and those fans who continue to blame Bob Bradley for our problems think we have easy answers when none exist. We have a talent and technical development problem, not a head coaching problem. Our fans want to believe we have far more international caliber players than we really do. Our fans consistently over rate the level of our players and also over state their ability to adjust to sophisticated tactical setups. Simply put, most of our players are not as good as we think they are, or hoped they would be. My big issues with Bradley are his in-game tactics and substitutions. Could we do better than Bradley? Yes, but if the litmus test is hiring an American coach, I doubt anyone available would do a better job.
- For the record, in this my last post on the USMNT, I believe we could do A LOT worse than Bob Bradley as our manager. Don’t believe me? Check out France, Nigeria, Uruguay, Colombia and Sweden among others who have far greater talent than the United States, but consistently over the last three years have had worse results. Has Bob Bradley made mistakes as manager? Sure, but he’s also done far more things right than wrong when you consider what he’s been given to work with. Among, potential AMERICAN BORN coaches, he is hands down the best, unless Bruce Arena wants to coach the USMNT again. Unlike Arena, Bradley actually has a tactical setup and style in mind, but our players have yet to adapt to it. Does Bradley make player selection mistakes? Yes, but so do all international managers, and his track record given again the lack of depth and quality in our player pool have been more obvious and more defensible than many may believe.