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Gold Cup Squad With Olympic Feel

USA vs Mexico

Watching the USMNT play Grenada last Saturday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, something dawned on me. A strong core of our squad in this installment of the continental championship, played for our country at the Olympics in Beijinlist of players on roster at both competition at bottom). It’s apparent that since departed Peter Nowak had a very good feel for the pulse of our young talent. He had an eye for what the future might look like, and cultivated a solid group of young talent.

I’ve heard people say that the US didn’t play very well at the olympic games. Having woken up early to watch each match, I have to strongly disagree with such thoughts. We actually played quite well in Beijing, though not without some problems.

In fact, three critical errors in an otherwise brilliant effort, proved to be our undoing. While the Japan game was hardly a barn burner of a match, we played reasonably well en route to a 1 – 0 victory. Stuart Holden scored the game’s only goal in the 47th minute.

In the game against Holland, the US controlled several stretches of the match and lost due to the first critical error. Playing agasint the likes of Ryan Babel and Jonathan de Guzman, the US squad showed just as much if not more quality. Holland got off to the better start and Babel put them up 1 – 0 in the 16th minute. However the US took the lead on goals by Sacha Kljestan in the 64th and Jozy Altidore in the 72nd. The first critical error occured when Stuart commited a bad foul on Gerald Sibon just outside the penalty error. The US was up by a goal and the match was in the final minute of stoppage time. Sibon stepped up and managed to drive a shot that skimmed under the wall and found the back of the net. It was heartbreaking because the US would have advanced with the win.

The second critical error occurred when Adu and Bradley both received their second yellow cards in the tournament, eliminating them from the key final group match(seems to be a recurring theme unfortunately for Bradley). In the final, only a point was needed to secure advancement. However the third critical error reared it’s ugly head just three minutes in … Michael Orozco was sent off by perhaps a questionable red card. He lamely elbowed Solomon Okoronko, regardless of whether the ejection was warranted, he hurt his team by putting the match in the hands of the official. Forced to play a man down for virtually the whole match, the US valiantly warded off wave after wave of attacks from the very talented young Nigerian team. Nigeria ended up scoring in the 39th and 79th minutes. But the US refused to give up,halving the deficit on a Kljestan penatly kick in the 88th. Needing only a draw to move on, Charlie Davies nearly got us there heading a free kick off the crossbar in the 90th minute. In the end, these errors undid us and it clouded some of the positives to be take from the tournament.

The US featured a midfield of Stuart Holden, Robbie Rogers, Sacha Kljestan and Michael Bradley. Freddy split time in the midfield and as a striker. Benny Feilhaber was used as a sub often. Altidore played a lot and Charlie Davies was brought in as a supersub. Brad Guzan was the starting keeper and Michael Parkhurst partnered with Maurice Edu(showing his versatility) at centerback. Watching how this team played together, the interchanges in their passing, team cohesion … a glimpse of the future for the USMNT was revealled. Kljestan actually played some of his best footy at this tournament. Unfortunately for him, that momentum didn’t carry him too far forward. But Stuart Holden used his excellent Olympic performance as a springboard. With the departure of Dwayne De Rosario, he has begun to really mature in the starting playmaking role for Houston. The Dynamo havn’t missed a beat with Holden there, once again on top of the West.

Robbie Rogers is a bit of an enigma. It’s hard to tell what you’re going to get out of him on a consistent basis. He had a great showing in Beijing. Then has gone on to show flashes at Columbus, yet also disappear and hasn’t earned steady playing time. Brad Guzan also did well in the Olympics, but hasn’t gotten much time on the pitch since then, playing behind fellow American Brad Friedel. He was great in the Egypt game at the Confed Cup and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him a bit in the Gold Cup.

So really, the future isn’t so bleak … the talent is on the way. As the Gold Cup continues, we will know even more about these younger elements. The unfortunate thing is that Peter Nowak will be dearly missed. He was one of the first people to recognize the talent we had in young players like Charlie Davies and Robbie Rogers. Will the person who replaces him have the same knack?

GK : Brad Guzan(overage exception)

DEF : Michael Parkhurs(overage exception)

MID :  Robbie Rogers, Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Sacha Kljestan

ST : Jozy Altidore, Charlie Davies, Freddy Adu

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  1. Deron

    July 9, 2009 at 11:32 am

    I agree with what you have written.

    I too felt the USA played well in the Olympics, and I think you’ve pointed out the critical errors.

    Too many of the criticisms of that team are driven by player preference, or rather a desire that Benny Feilhaber would get more time. That may have been preferred, but to prove the point too many critics discount the play of the players who did play, magnifying errors and minimizing successes.

  2. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 9, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Adam Edg,

    VERY VERY good points. Same points I’ve always made about officiating vis a vis CONCACAF and the rest of the world. Also the reckless nature of some of our players has to be weened out or we are really going to pay.

  3. Adam Edg

    July 9, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Whether in the Olympics, Confed Cup, WCQ, or any other important event, the only consistent thing about the USMNT is a lack of discipline. We get far too many reds & yellows – especially Bradley. We need to reign in our tackles and maintain our composure.
    How many games would have turned out differently had we avoided a stupid and/or reckless challenge resulting in a second yellow or straight red? Would we have lost 3-1 to Italy in the Confed had we not been a man down? Is it possible that we would have beaten Italy in WC 06 if Mastroeni didn’t get a straight red? Would the Olympics have yielded a better result if we kept our penalties in check?
    Granted I think that not all of our penalties are warranted. Pablo’s red in 06 still seems very questionable, for example. It’s not secret that much of the world openly hates the US, so why not punish us through our soccer team? I hate to think that refs bring this kind of bias but sometimes it seems that way.
    I know that bias is a constant theme in CONCACAF, although in our conference we are on the good side of that bias. Watching last night’s game, I could not believe some of the calls against us that were not made. The problem is that our guys experience CONCACAF refs and expect similar non calls overseas, which results in the decks of cards we receive.
    Hopefully Bradley or his successor can figure out how to not only use our current wealth of talent, but also learn to keep them disciplined. We are blessed with a crop of players and a deep pool that the US has never experienced before, hopefully we do not screw it up. Looking at our “B squad” in the Gold Cup, I think they could beat some of our “A squads” from the last 20 years. That is a great situation to be in…

  4. Dave

    July 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    i’m already pumped for the upcoming U-20 World Cup.

  5. Joe in Indianapolis

    July 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm

    Are these games available for free on the internet?

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