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USA 2:1 El Salvador: American Grit


The US survived a scare in Sandy, Utah tonight. Credit to Bob Bradley for making the key tactical changes to give the US a victory over a pesky El Salvador side. The rest of CONCACAF has clearly closed the gap on the US. In fact, it can be argued that the gap has disappeared entirely. But credit Bradley for getting the most out of a side whose talent level is highly questionable and whose depth is suspect. A squad full of journeyman players who lacks a quality star like a Wilson Palacios or a Rafa Marquez, cannot be considered a runaway favorite any longer in the region.

Bradley isn’t the best choice for US manager, but he is far from the worst. Right now, the issues with the US are far deeper and wider than a manager that is easy to blame for shortcomings. The entire US program needs to be overhauled, and given the tools available to him, it is entirely possible even the best manager in the world would struggle with this set of players, and the current structure of US Soccer.

The USA is likely to finish in CONCACAF’s top three.  Costa Rica can be counted as overachievers that could not sustain their play for the long haul. The shocking 3-0 defeat at Saprissa, to a rejuvenated Mexico under Javier Aguirre bucked two trends. The first being Mexico’s road woes, and the second being Costa Rica’s previous mastery of its own home stadium.

It is entirely possible, perhaps even likely at this point that the US will need to improve dramatically to avoid the 3rd position in the Hex, though in 2002, third position in the Hex turned to World Cup Quarter finalists the next year. But that team had the likes of Earnie Stewart, John O’Brien, Claudio Reyna, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope anchoring the team.

This side looks comparatively young, immature, and weak. Perhaps it is too much to expect anything but a three and out World Cup 2010.  But the good news is that the Americans after last night’s results are almost a lock to qualify.

The lesson is clear. The US plays hard, and I for one cannot criticize the  effort. American grit continues to be the best virtue of the US Soccer program. But developing talented players who can hack it at more than mid level European clubs, and sustain a certain style of play is something that continues to allude the US program. Until changes are made to the program, 2002 will remain a high water mark for football in this country, and something we remissness about endlessly.


  • The table may say that Costa Rica still has a shot at qualification, but the table can lie. We now can be almost certain that the CONCACAF top three will be Mexico, the USA and Honduras based on quality of the squad and the level of current play.
  • Mexico’s class shone through yesterday in San Jose. Under Javier Aguirre, Mexico is proving that they can get results away from home and don’t need to experiment with naturalized players not good enough to play for their native country to do so. Sven Goran Eriksson set Mexico back many years, but Aguirre is bringing the side to life at the right time. Don’t sleep on Mexico: unlike the United States they do have the talent to make serious noise without outside fluke events at a World Cup, and may just do so next year.
  • Honduras destroyed T&T despite having three key players missing due to suspension. The Hondurans are finally, after many years of falling short, reaching their potential.
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  1. Hahaa

    September 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    if u look at how different our squad looks from the first game in qualifying after barbados to the squad we should have on wednesday more than half the players are different and the quality of the newer players is much higher

    i think when we bring in a top class manager with better assistant coaches the player pool is good enough to do real damage in a world cup

    were right on the edge of being a top class international team. the only thing were missing is a manager

  2. LUYO

    September 6, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Et Tu Kartik?

    Bradley is doing the best job possible?

    Dude, we’re one freak handball against Honduras from being out of the World Cup.

    Honestly, we have much better players than you think. But you are so latinized that guys with accented names impress you more than someone who may do an honest days work.

    That’s why I take your analysis with a grain of salt when comparing Latin teams to Anglo ones.

    • SSReporters

      September 6, 2009 at 7:26 pm

      A freak handball from being out of the World Cup?


      We’d just be in 4th.

      Then we’d face a South American team. Maybe Argentina.

      Never mind you’re right.

    • Kevin_amold

      September 7, 2009 at 12:34 am

      Come on LUyo. You can’t just pick one play and say “Well, if _________ hadn’t happened, then we’d be out.” Games hinge on dozens of plays, the reversal of any one could change outcomes. The table never lies.

  3. Tom

    September 6, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    We have much too much talent to be performing this way. We’re clearly the best in CONCACAF. Other than Guevara, Honduras has nobody and Mexico’s players are either really old like Franco and Blanco or too young like Vela and Dos Santos.

    Franco wasn’t good enough for MLS and signed for some Argentine team, showing again how strong MLS is when compared with other leagues.

  4. Leo

    September 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    The mls better than mexican league? obviouly you don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to world football. In the Americas the Brazilian, argentine, and Mexican leagues are the top three no questions asked. This coming from a brazilian-American who watches more mls than the brasileirao.

    We need to start torres and call in castillo (so much better than bornstein going forward and can he be any worse than bornstein defensively?) to help us possessionwise. Though i’m not sure who’d come out for torres. Bradley the way he played today

  5. Bolacuadrada

    September 6, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    No big deal. The USA will be in first place after Wednesday games. After Wednesday games the standings will look as follows.
    USA 16 points
    Mexico 15 points
    Costa Rica 15 points
    Honduras 13 points
    El Salvador and Trinidad Tobago 5 points each.

  6. Brad in SoCal

    September 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Altidore was great! Why don’t they get the ball to Donovan more? Dempsey: he’s up, he’s down, he’s brilliant, he’s mud…sigh. Hope the ref gets punished.

  7. Rob

    September 6, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Open Question: Was Bradley wearing number 4 because of Bornstein having first choice as a “veteran” ?

    I get my customized Bradley jersey a week before last night and then he comes out wearing number 4? God, that’s annoying.

    • gmonsoon43

      September 8, 2009 at 8:33 am

      He was wearing number 4 for a while in late 2007 early 2008 so when i got my jersey that spring i got 4 but since then he has gone to 12(I know if Pablo plays he takes 4).

  8. Ryan

    September 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

    If we take 3 points in Honduras, we finish top of the group. Granted that’s a huge if, but still.

  9. Trey

    September 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Kartik, you are a bigger fool than I previously thought if this was a good effort. Do you realize how bad El Salvador is? This game was at home? So maybe Costa Rica is worse, but this team is going nowhere, and Bradley is to blame.

    We have better players and a better league than Mexico or Honduras. You claim they are so much better, but Blanco who is Mexico’s best player is a marginal force in MLS. Honduras’ best player, Guevara may not even get his team to the playoffs. We have Donovan, Dempsey, Jozy, Bradley, Davies, etc.

    Bradley’s inept tactics are what has kept Mexico and Honduras alive. If we had another manager, say a Dom Kinnear or a Sig Schmid, we’d be unbeaten in qualifying.

    • Matt

      September 6, 2009 at 4:40 pm

      We have a better league than Mexico? Is that why MLS teams get b-slapped in the CCL every single year?

  10. eplnfl

    September 6, 2009 at 11:13 am

    In the end a typical US effort. The good news is that this group always plays better in the second game of the sequence so watch for a big effort against T&T.

    If we play up to our potential and get a big win on Wednesday then the US really is in the drivers seat on the qualificiation run. Mexico should knock off Honduras and a US big win puts the US on top of the group if I am not mistaken.

    As to last nights game, the defense looked terrible. Missing players account for that much. Give El Salvador credit, they have a habit of keeping things close and did so again last night. The US started out slow as normal and you then saw them go into another gear once they were behind.

    I’ll end this since I have to run out, but say more later.

  11. tyduffy

    September 6, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Spector and Altidore showed why they should have played against Mexico.

  12. Hahaa

    September 6, 2009 at 12:55 am

    dont forget maurice edu, jermaine jones, and edgar castillo should be in the squad soon which should improve the quality of depth.

    The US should be fine, quit overreacting

  13. Doo

    September 6, 2009 at 12:50 am

    u r absolutely wrong, not sure what game u were watching

    first off we were missing 2 defensemen so the lapses in the back can be put on their absences. second off we should have won 3-1 on a dissallowed goal that shouldnt hav been and we hit the post twice.

    i thought our quality was obvious in davies, donovan, feilhaber, bradley and altidore.

    and u dont need a kobe bryant to be a great team so that excuse doesnt cut it

  14. Seybold

    September 6, 2009 at 12:08 am

    Grit and determination are wonderful qualities, but if that’s what you have to rely on to get 3 points at home against El Salvador, then Kartik’s right: don’t make reservations yet for South Africa.

    Agree re: Bornstein and Beckerman, but not just that: the back line is not safe without at least one of Gooch and DeMerit in the middle. If we don’t have all 4 first choice defenders away to Honduras, it could get ugly.

    Holden’s looked pretty good off the bench the last few matches, so there’s something to take from this. And Altidore had two legit goals. I agree with Mark Fishin however–this is a win that gives me more foreboding than anything else.

  15. jk

    September 5, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    The US was the better team no doubt. The disallowed goal was as phantom as I have ever seen. We still continue to give away the ball way too much in the midfield. We are also still closing games by booting it down the field. Does Bradley know that it is ok to keep possesion of the ball. Beckerman did not belong on that field. (Well at least tonight. He is fine for RSL games.) Did Bradley seriously put Beckerman on b/c he was on home turf?? That was ludicrous that moment was way too big for him. Michael Bradley was dreadful today. He gave the ball away cheaply tonight non-stop. We deserved the win but still didn’t play that well.

  16. Brad

    September 5, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    I thought the US is lucky to get 3 points. I thought the were poor. Luckily Howard made up for his 1st half mistake and had a great save late. The passing and defense were particular dissapointing.

  17. al

    September 5, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    what the hell are you even talking about? Did you see the same match I did? It would have been 4-1 if it wasn’t for a greased official. Outside of that they played solid. Not great, but solid. They’ll do the same to T&T next week.

    The US is just fine, stop making news when there is none.

  18. DrJonS

    September 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Agreed with all said. Beckerman is not international quality. Bornstein is not a good left back… Castillo?


    I am thinking yes.

  19. Gitecmo

    September 5, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Bornstein = horrible in the left back spot. I mean total shit.

    We fought hard to come back, but honestly it should’ve been 3-1 USNT. What the hell was that stupid ref do?

    MLS refs aren’t even that bad. In fact, an MLS ref wouldn’t have made that stupid call.

    I’m tired of always feeling like we’re screwed from the get go when I see some Che Guevara sympathizing Central American ref calling on of our games.

    I want Canadian or Caribbean refs from here on out.

  20. Mark Fishkin

    September 5, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    The inability of the US to put shots on frame is baffling. With better finishing, the
    US could have leapt over Honduras in the crucial goal differential tiebreaker.
    While the Honduran ref was miserable, the Yanks’ inability to put the match away was mindblowing.
    Bradley again took too long to pull the trigger on his subs, and bringing on
    Beckerman reeked of desperation. I have felt this badly about a US win maybe ever.

  21. kyle

    September 5, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Beckerman is nothing more then a headless chicken out there.

    Spector is clearly are best right back. Some of his crosses were absolutely fantastic.

    It would have been nice to see Davies and Altidore start at Azteca.

    I am so sick of hearing about hard work and effort. For once I want to see the US beat somebody of note with skill and technique.

    Bornstein is an absolute freaking disgrace. He can not defend and cant attack, absolutely useless.

    I am honestly torn between if maybe the US not making the world cup is a good thing. Look at England they miss out on the Euros, get a quality coach and have a real chance of winning the world cup. Every game where we claw and fight out a one goal victory against a concacaf team, it just continues to hide the cracks.

  22. Fernando

    September 5, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    El Salvador is either underrated or the US is overrated or both.

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