Whomever is coaching the US come summertime not withstanding, yesterday’s game was critical for restoring the confidence of Landon Donovan, who despite his poor form of the last year and his desire to avoid playing in Europe remains easily the most talented American player and who on a good day can still provide world class runs and finishing. While the World Cup was a disappointment for Donovan and for the US squad in general, Copa America is the 2nd biggest tournament the US plays in, and with the USSF finally accepting an invitation to play in the event for the first time since the formation of MLS, the bitter memories of Germany 2006 can be erased rather quickly. (Many US fans have blamed Donovan and DeMarcus Beasley for the poor World Cup, forgetting that both played heroic matches when a nine man US team drew the eventual World Champion, Italy) Donovan can lead this team by example, and he certainly has many complimentary parts to enhance his game. Eddie Johnson, despite not scoring yesterday showed a field awareness and a willingness to make daring runs that he has lacked for the past two years. Pablo Mastroeni seemed to settle more and more into a Claudio Reyna type holding midfield role and Jonathan Bornstein proved much like last month’s game against Denmark that he can use his speed to make dangerous overlapping runs on the left flank. Most importantly, Jimmy Conrad and Carlos Bocanegra seemed to always be positioned perfectly when Mexico was attacking, something that was sorely lacking in the World Cup. Bocanegra has allowed his excellent form with Fulham to boost his willingness to play physical defense, something he was always reluctant to do in the past.
It was also a relief to see Tim Howard appear so confident in goal. Bradley should thank David Moyes for this, because the Everton Manager has allowed Howard to play through his mistakes unlike Sir Alex Ferguson whose perfectionist attitude towards the Goalkeeper position ruined Howard’s confidence and made him unplayable for the National Team for the past few years. The bottom line: Yesterday’s win provides a great lead in for what could be a big year for US Soccer both thanks to the restored confidence of the National Team and the arrival of David Beckham stateside.