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Lessons Learned from the American Summer


Thirteen competitive games in fifty three days: That’s what the USMNT faced in June and July. We had no friendlies this summer or practice games but deadly serious qualifiers and tournaments. Here is what we’ve learned:

Charlie Davies is the real deal.

Dave Denholm, my former co-host of the American Soccer Show on CSRN and myself had called for Davies inclusion on the first team since Spring of 2008. Yet, it took two horrible results in South Africa for Bob Bradley to finally take the training wheels off of Davies and let him loose. Better late than never though, as Davies made a strong impression and now must be considered one of the most feared players in our region.

The US Can Play With Anyone

The victory over Spain and the near miss against Brazil in the Confederations Cup final taught us the when the US is healthy, we have top of the line athletic and energetic players that can give the opposition fits


More Attacking Leads to Historic Blowouts

For all those fans who have wanted the US to play a more attacking and pressing style than in the past, three results from this summer standout. The loss to Italy was our worst to the Azzuri since 1934. The loss to Brazil in the group stage of the confederations cup was our worst ever to the five time world champions. And our Gold Cup defeat to Mexico is the worst competitive loss for the US since 1957 and the worst loss in any match since 1979.

Stuart Holden is Ready

The Gold Cup exposed the United States depth problem. The US was outplayed for large portions of matches against Haiti and Panama, being level with both after 90 minutes. But one field player stood out: Houston’s Stuart Holden. Holden is one of the few MLS players who I’d continue to call in and not require he move to Europe or Mexico to improve his career: why? Playing for Dom Kinnear (or Sigi Schmid) is not like playing for other MLS managers.

Holden is for sure ahead of Sacha Kljestan in the pecking order now. In fact, Holden’s emergence could give the US another left sided option even though he did not play out there in the Gold Cup.

Clint Dempsey plays better in center of midfield

Dempsey seems to get lost out wide. That’s a shame because the US has traditionally needed good flank play to be successful. But when Dempsey is on, he’s an assassin which is why Bob Bradley must fit the tactics to Deuce and not vise versa.

Jay DeMerit is better in central defense than Carlos Bocanegra

A few things stand out about DeMerit. His positioning sense is better than any American central defender since Eddie Pope, DeMerit also clears the ball with more intent than I have ever seen a Central Defender for the US show: this includes Alexi Lalas, Fernando Clavijo and Marcelo Balboa who had very sophisticated games despite limited talent.

American defenders have for years just played the ball out danger with a certain degree of desperation and quickness in big games without picking calmly picking a spot to play the ball. DeMerit doesn’t do this- he’s calm on the ball and his clearances and distribution from the back are first rate. The story “from PDL to Premiership” that has been much written about DeMerit still has a chapter or two about international football yet to be written.

DaMarcus Beasley Needs to Find Regular Playing Time

Has Beasley become the latest American to simply flame out at a youngish age? We saw it with John O’Brien, and it took our national team a few years to recover. Now in Beasley, we’ve quite possibly lost our best left sided midfielder ever. The Beasley we’ve seen for the last year in now way resembles the player who was so effective in the 2002 World Cup and in the Champions League for PSV. Perhaps physical British football and injuries has dented the smallish Beasley’s confidence? Or maybe he’s just done for?

Jonathan Spector > Steve Cherundolo

Dolo has been one of the most successful Americans ever in Europe. The longevity and success of his club career is only matched by Claudio Reyna, John O’Brien and Dutch born Earnie Stewart. But his future with the national team is as a backup while Spector’s versatility and tactical sense is of great benefit to the entire program.

Bob Bradley has become a great tactical mind before matches

Bradley outfoxed the likes of Marcello Lippi, Dunga and Javier Aguirre with his pre match tactical setup. He outdid Vincent Del Bosque all match long


Bradley still doesn’t get in game changes

When Lippi, Dunga and Aguirre all made critical tactical changes in the 2nd half: not just substitutions but actual formation changes, Bradley did not recognize the switches until at least one and sometimes two goals had been scored. Then Bradley made perplexing substitutions and sometimes bizarre tactical switches.

Obviously we learned more than just these points this summer, but this is a quick summary of my overall thoughts. On a personal note, this summer of US National Team madness has burned me out. I’m going to take the next two weeks to recharge my battery before we get ready for the showdown at Azteca.

This means more infrequent posting from me until August 8th, when the USMNT arrives in Miami for training. I will be working on two big pieces however, which many or may not be complete in the next two weeks: one on the US Development Academy setup and another on the MLS Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. Of course, you can still count on the MLS Talk podcast which will have no interruption in its schedule.

I also will be serving as the color analyst for USL Live’s broadcast of Miami FC vs Montreal on August 1st. By that time we should know if the Saputo’s have had their expansion application approved to move the Impact to MLS in 2011 or 2012.

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  1. soccer goals

    July 28, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Bradlye tactics are suspect.

  2. Mexico, 2009 Gold Cup Champions

    July 28, 2009 at 1:01 am

  3. Ronny

    July 27, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    The Spain game was a one off as was the Mexico game. Both were outliers. The real US team is somewhere like the one we saw against Italy, able to compete at a high level for 35 minutes but then if one thing goes wrong, they collapse. Actually the Mexico score was an outlier but the performance was similar to the Italy game- a good first half but one critical mistake and the team lacks the character or poise to ride out the storm.

  4. JOHAS

    July 27, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Bradley’s adjustments were brilliant in game yesterday, weren’t they?

    Our worst loss in real game since 1957? Those who claim it’s okay are smoking something good. We’ve had plenty of bad teams in the past, and fielded plenty of subpar sides because of club commitments, injuries, etc.

    We also have played plenty of teams with subpar sides better than Mexico “B” who got one fair play goal against Nicaragua, ranked 142nd in the world. So in other words, yesterday was meltdown of historic proportions and yet Kartik doesn’t advocate Bradley’s removal just urges him to improve as a coach. Daniel the jerk off says the refs cost us days after talking about Bradley as some sort of great coach less than two weeks after we needed a miracle to tie Haiti. This isn’t 1974 this is 2009. We are supposedly the big dogs in this region with a thriving professional league, a good second and third division and more and more media/TV interest.

    Simply put we cannot perform like we did yesterday with any team, It was 0-0 at HT and the teams were equal. The coaches were not equal and that showed in the 2nd half. Bradley must be fired if we lose at Azteca again.

  5. Larry

    July 27, 2009 at 3:26 pm


    U left out one very important thing-

    Bradley has no idea how to manage a roster.

    He took Torres to South Africa and then after said he had no intention of playing him because he was tired. Then why take him in the first place? It was obvious that the US was scrambling for answers with the likes of Kljestan and Bornstein being forced to play major roles and ultimately that is why we lost three of the five games there.

    It humorous that you and others would label the Confed Cup a success when we one twice and lost three times out there. A fluky set of events which probably will never repeat themselves caused that.

    Then in this Gold Cup Bradley admitted Adu, Davies, Feilhaber and Cherundolo had to leave early for the European season. Then why the heck didn’t he sleect adequate cover for them? And to think CONCACAF bent the rules to give Bradley seven extra spots and he selected guys he wasn’t going to use or didn’t play the same roles as the guys who left.

    He may do okay setting up a team for 45 minutes but he has no idea how to manage a roster in a tournament and should be terminated on that basis alone. These are monumental F ups that a 10 year old could avoid with proper planning.

  6. Andrew

    July 27, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    A surprisingly balanced and readable piece from someone so prone to hyperbole and Bradley bashing it hurts. This is one of your better pieces.

    Even when you are proven right like when you said we’d beat Spain you typically are using all kinds of over the top things like Spain never winning outside Europe and never winning on narrow pitches all of which no one else on the internet touched because it is so ludicrous.

    Will you be able to provide training reports from Miami when you come back from vacation? I’m curious how they prepare for the altitude? Is their some simulator they bring in?

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 27, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks Lou!

    Adam brings up a very good point. We brought it up in MLS Talk Podcast #100 and I have asked the question- basically the answer is Miami gets a lot of commercial nonstop flights to Europe and is closer to Central America than any other city. So it’s an easy gathering place.
    Of course it is at sea level which is an issue, but from a logistical standpoint US Soccer long ago determined that it is the most logical place to meet up and train if we are fielding a mostly European based squad. An MLS based squad could train in Colorado Springs or Mission Viejo as we have done in the past.

  8. eplnfl

    July 27, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Well, deserved rest for you. You have served your public well. Think about the book idea. I’ll contribute. This website has made the summer of soccer all the more enjoyable. We would be half the fans without it.

    Adam does bring up a good point!

  9. AdamTheRed

    July 27, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Why are we training in Miami instead of Santa Fe or the Air Force Academy?!

    Don’t our guys need to acclimate to 7000 feet above sea level?

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