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Trinidad & Tobago 0:1 USA. Mission Accomplished (Barely) UPDATED


Paul Caliguri had the shot heard round the world on this pitch, but tonight, Rico Clark had the shot that saved the US. With their backs against the wall the US responded after a poor first half.

In the second half tonight, the United States Men’s National Team showed the heart of a champion and the roar of a lion. The character shown by Bob Bradley’s side was not only impressive but it should have been inspiring to any American. This however, came after a first half that could have been filed away with some of the haters of this sport as to why they hate football (soccer).

Facing virtual elimination from the World Cup in a hostile environment which has historic significance, the US responded. Some people will claim the US continues to under perform, but to those fans I would respectfully state have vastly over rated the American talent pool. (As it turns out Costa Rica’s loss to El Salvador, which I predicted the other day has virtually assured the US a top three finish, thus an automatic World Cup berth. The US could still technically miss the World Cup, but it would take something akin to the parting of the Red Sea and crossing the Jordan River when flooded to do so.)

The US right now has arguably its least talented side since Bora Milutinonivc took his boys up to Mission Viejo. But Bradley has managed to scrape by with this rag tag bunch of players who lack the technical gifts of their predecessors and also seem to often lack the pride in wearing the shirt that previous US teams have demonstrated.

This team has no Claudio Reyna, nor John O’Brien type holding midfielder. This team has no Latin maestro like Tab Ramos. This team has no on-field vocal leader like John Harkes or Marcelo Balboa. And this team has only one classy wide/attacking player like Cobi Jones, Joe Max Moore or Earnie Stewart. That man is Landon Donovan, and without him the US would have missed qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

Tonight, Bob Bradley got his tactics and team sheet right. The US came out flying in the first ten minutes taking the game to the home standing Soca Warriors, and declaring a statement of intent. Bradley intended to play a high tempo, one touch passing game, which pinched the middle of the pitch. Instead, we saw an error prone, lazy American midfield get run over.

From about minute ten until minute 55, Trinidad and Tobago controlled the action and created better chances. Kenwyne Jones, a player we see every week in the EPL was particularly good.  T&T had a clear penalty shout in the final ten minutes of the first half. Courtney Campbell awarded a PK for something similar to Mexico, later in the night versus Honduras, but sometimes the breaks go your way, and no call was made. This comes despite the fact that this same official has twice called fouls in the box for less in the qualifying tournament for the 2010 World Cup. (Had a call been made on either Carlos Bocanegra or Jonathan Spector, both of which appeared to foul Cornell Glen, it would have been harsh, but could have easily been defended as well, especially given the previous record of referee Joel Aguilar.

Regarding the handball in the bix against T&T it is a letter of the law penalty, but it is not often given in the circumstance where both players are wrestling for position on the ground. Handballs in the box are more often given when a defender is standing upright and his arms are not tucked in)

The Soca Warriors prospered from the poor play of American midfielders Clint Dempsey and Rico Clark (prior to Clark’s goal). Wasteful possession and bad giveaways once again dogged the Americans on the road. Against CONCACAF level opposition this does not matter, and Bradley’s tactics were designed to minimize the damage the wasteful, technically challenged midfield. Tim Howard made several solid saves. Howard is a good shot stopper, particularly on set pieces. But his communication with the back four continues to be of concern. When Brad Guzan has played for the US, he has been a more authoriatize keeper, though he obviously is not as skilled as Howard.

Bob Bradley again rose to the challenge today. But as for  the American players, they once again stumbled in a road game in CONCACAF.  For much of the first sixty minutes they showed little motivation or interest in what was essentially an elimination game.  Much like last year’s woeful efforts in Havana and Guatemala City, the Yanks scraped by when they probably shouldn’t have, against a team that on paper looked outmatched.

Let’s hope the American players show some more urgency in the final two fixtures of qualifying. This team is lacking in football savvy, and quality but can improve dramatically in the effort department.  If we don’t see any improvement from the US in these final two games, it will be a long World Cup.


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  1. ASRW

    September 10, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    The ref was lost most of the match. He made several bad calls both ways. But T&T certainly deserved a point or three from this match. They were the better team. Considering they did not even qualify for the Gold Cup and the likes of Haiti and Nicaragua did, this is one bad team.

  2. Johnathan Nosta

    September 10, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Kartik- been listening to you for two years and used to think you and DD were crazy, but have come to the conclusion that your concerns over our players and program were well founded all along.

    Serious question though. How can this culture be changed? Does anyone have solutions?

  3. Roy J.

    September 10, 2009 at 5:17 pm

    The take down of the T&T player was a stone cold penalty.

    The handball against T&T not so much. totally incidental.

    The US was lucky to say the least.

  4. soccer goals

    September 10, 2009 at 3:40 pm

    We were lucky to earn the win last night.

    But to say that that the USMNT quality is that poor goes to the other extreme. I do believe that we miss several elements in the central midfield, but the team is better than you suggest. They are two different teams in two different Eras. Leave it at that.

  5. The Ghost of Josimar

    September 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm


    You are of course welcome to your opinions. But let me suggest the following: The idea that Bob Bradley has “risen to the occasion” — well it is risible.

    The team was virtually hapless last night. We played soccer that was ugly and ineffective. A moment of class from Ricardo Clark saved our behinds — but we could easily have lost.

    Bornstein? Should never have been on the field. Cherundolo could handle the right back. Spector regularly plays left back for West Ham.

    What does Dempsey have to do to get an early rest? Is Michael Bradley ever going to come off the pitch so long as his dad is calling the shots? How in heaven’s name do we have a player with Torres’ qualities rotting on the bench? Why is Feilhaber only introduced in minute 60? Clark and Bradley are manifestly unable to orchestrate the offense.

    Our talent is what it is. Tab Ramos, Reyna, O’Brien…these guys have not been replaced. But we have the makings of a very solid side. And the squad selection, substitutions, and tactics are just not up to snuff.

    The way you give Bob Bradley a pass…it is simply stunning.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      September 10, 2009 at 3:47 pm

      Again, Bradley is the product of a dysfunctional system. Would I have hired him? Heck no, but then again I wouldn’t run the USSF the way it is run either.

      The Torres point is very good. We don’t like guys who hold the ball and have individual flair. Again that is a system thing, not a Bradley thing.

  6. Not Ryan

    September 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Sorry other Ryan!
    And I apologize to you as well Kartik, I probably shouldn’t have used the word whine.I respect you as a writer and for your coverage of CONCACAF, I am just frustrated. We may just have to agree to disagree on this, but the handball IMO was a penalty. It was not the result of a scrum as you stated, but a lone T&T player sliding along the ground. If he does not stop that ball with his hand, Dempsey would have run onto it with a decent chance to score. Again just my opinion.

  7. Rafael

    September 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Ricardo Clark played a much better game than he is given credit for. He put out a lot of effort. He was the best midfielder out there besides Donovan.
    Dempsey was flat out horrible and Bradley was not much better. Sadly, I don’t think Bob Bradley will ever take his son out of a match when he is playing bad if he doesn’t have to.

  8. Ryan

    September 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t know who this other Ryan is, but as a long time commenter I am staking my claim to that name dammit.


    I have trouble figuring out how all of these points can exist at the same time
    1) CONCACAF is getting better quickly
    2) The US has it’s worst team in almost 20 years
    3) The US won a CONCACAF WCQ game on the road, something only Costa Rica and Mexico have done this cycle
    4) The US plays poorly

    I just don’t see how we can have a lesser talented team, play below our abilities, and still win road games against an improving region. Something’s gotta give.

    • Kartik Krishnaiyer

      September 10, 2009 at 2:21 pm

      T&T is regressing. They did not even qualify for the Gold Cup, losing to Grenada and Cuba in qualifying. If we had won at El Salvador or Honduras we’d be having a different conversation.

  9. csar

    September 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm


    I failed to DVR the game so I can’t look back but regarding the T&T handball I don’t seem to remember a scrum. The US player (I think Davies) skated around a T&T fullback forcing the central defender to come over and cover. He was too late and slid to the ground while the US player did a cut-back pass that hit the outstretched arm of the T&T player. It was pretty clear and there was no scrum and the handball from watching on TV was obvious. The official might not have been 100% and didn’t have the view we had but his hand did prevent the ball from finding its target.

  10. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    September 10, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    True, Ryan but that was after Mexico had been awarded a suspect penalty earlier and was probably a make up call in front of an angry home crowd. So in fact the non call on Spector may have also been a make up call. Bottom line is that the US showed a grit, character and quality after a terrible start that should inspire this nation to follow the sport more closely.

  11. Ryan

    September 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I don’t know all the games as well as you do Kartik, but wasn’t El Salvador given a PK against Mexico when a cross touched the arm of a player sliding along the ground? Back in April I think it was. I was just saying that as you mentioned, the Spector play could have resulted in a penalty, but I think it was unfair to not even mention the handball situation.

  12. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    September 10, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Big difference between the calls-

    The T&T handball was when the players were in a scrum on the ground- yes I have seen it called, but more often not called as the handball did not really affect the play. I’ve seen the same call made in CONCACAF before

    Example- In the Mexico-Costa Rica game in late March, Magallon was on the ground fighting with Andy Furtado, the ball went off his elbow or arm and rolled out of bounds. The Ticos were awarded a corner.

    The take down by the American defenders, did however affect the play and I have seen PKs called in CONCACAF qualifiers for a lot lot less.

    For example, the Mexico-Honduras game in San Pedro Sula on April 1st saw El Tri awarded a PK in the box for incidental contact. It was this dsame ref who made that call.

    That foul was a lot less severe than the one Cornell Glen suffered.

    I’m basing what should have been a PK and not been a PK on the established “common law” standrad if you will of CONCACAF. Fans cannot make up their own stanard without watching other games, especially other games that this particular official has reffed and then selectively say, that was a pk but the other one wasn’t. Furthermore, considering the US should know all these refs well and they are assigned weeks before the match, you should know what you can and cannot get away with.

    So in other words, Bocanegra and Spector were lucky to get away with that. Damn lucky.
    In fact, to avoid any further confusion on this matter, I am editing my post.

  13. Ryan

    September 10, 2009 at 10:36 am

    You can’t whine about how T&T should have had a penalty when the ref missed a clear handball early on that should have been US penalty.

    • Patrick Johnson

      September 10, 2009 at 12:38 pm

      Sorry folks, but there was no hand ball early on. The referee correctly judged it to be accidental. You’re the one who needs to quit whining. Maybe if you watched more international football and actually understood international refereeing instead of becoming dumb downed to the way football is called in MLS and the Premier League, you would get that. Oh wait, what am I saying…the US fans commenting here are nothing but a bunch of idiots with no basic foundation or understanding of the game itself.

      T&T should have been awarded a perfectly legit penalty in the first half. If you are too blind to realize a lunge from behind BY TWO players should always be a penalty, do the sport a favor and quit watching right now. T&T were screwed Wednesday night. The game should have ended 1-1.

  14. Lenny

    September 10, 2009 at 10:06 am

    You people are all forgeting that we got to the final of the Confederations Cup by beating Spain. Was England there? NO Was Holland there? NO Was Argentina there? NO Was Italy there? NO Was the US there? YES

    Is Mexico leading the hex? NO Is the US leading the hex? YES

    Clearly people like Trecker, Kartik, etc have nothing to write about because all we do is win so you try and tear us down by saying we have no talent or rip Bob Bradley or worse yet some of these comments ripping GREAT players that 95% of the clubs in the world would die for like Dempsey and M. Bradley.

    You people are sick and know nothing about soccer. This US team could win the World Cup next year. We’re better than all the teams I listed, as proven by recent results.

    As for last night, T&T was in the 2006 World Cup and almost beat England there, and also tied Sweden. So winning down there on the road is a pretty bnig deal. Mexico lost to them down there, you guys realize.

  15. Rex

    September 10, 2009 at 8:58 am

    No mention of Michael Bradley?? The guy was not existent. His movement off the ball was pathetic. I have never seen someone disappear in central midfield like he does. Good to see he got another 90+.

  16. Seybold

    September 10, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I agree with Lee, there’s no team leader. Maybe these guys have a bad habit of playing to the level of their opposition. Can you imagine what the scoreline would’ve been if they’d been playing against Brazil or Spain in either of these two qualifiers? It makes me wonder, because these two matches were very difficult to watch. At least they kind of woke up in the 2nd half.

    They give the ball away much too easily, and the spacing in the central midfield has not been good. Time and again El Salvador and T&T were able to attack vacant space in the middle of the pitch, leaving the back four exposed. Thanks goodness Gooch was in there today.

    You can get away with this kind of play against bad teams. If they allow that kind of space to Honduras, it will get very ugly, very fast.

    And will someone tell these guys that in the last minute of added time, when the other team is exhausted, and you have possession of the ball, keep it! Or take it to the corner to kill the clock! Don’t just blast a shot that gives the ball back when you’ve got 4 players forward. And force a completely unnecessary save from Howard in the dying seconds. That drove me nuts.

  17. Jimi

    September 10, 2009 at 2:35 am

    TODD, bravo. You got it right. Kratik or whatever your name is, you really like to hype things up and verbally showboat. I’m just gonna call you Don King. So, Don, for the most part, I do not agree with you. Bradley didn’t get anything right. By the grace of God the Father Almighty we won, again versus a very inferior team again. Dempsey is lazy. Donovan is good, but sucks in big games, esp since right after the 2002 WC. Michael Bradley is on the team because Daddy prefers nepotism over logic and rationality. I do not believe we suck because we are becoming more European. If anything that is a good thing. We play mongrel ball. A hodge=podge of central American, South American, European and English ball, but instead of taking all the best parts of those styles, out coaches let individual players play their style, so the team has no cohesion, no focused attack, no focused defense. And that boils down to shitty inept coaching. And you are half right, that isn’t solely BB’s fault but he is the head coach. You want the reigns, you gotta take the responsibility for being the schlep who can’t bring a team together and coalesce their individual styles and talents into a team that exceeds expectations when they walk out onto the pitch.

  18. csar

    September 10, 2009 at 1:59 am

    What a horrible writeup from Kartik. Nonsense like this:

    “Facing virtual elimination from the World Cup in a hostile environment which has historic significance”

    Really? Silly me, I thought we had two more games after this. Not only that, Costa Rica is in a free fall. Hardly “virtual elimination”.

    And then Kartik goes on talking about how T&T should have had a penalty, then does a Trecker and forgets to mention the handball in the box at the beginning of the game from T&T which the US should have had.

    I could go on but I will leave it at that.

  19. Angel

    September 10, 2009 at 1:25 am

    @ Lee
    You are absolutely right and the problem is that we are becoming too European Style of playing but thats what are making us think, This academy are just Americanizing the game and have us play a style that is becoming so lazy, Awful and robotic. Thanks guy that W. Cabrera is Changing the style of playing. If you see the U17 style of playing is beautifully because he inputting South American Style. That last time this team play a better game was against Egypt, Spain and the first half of the Brazil game. Have you ever wonder why? Cause the were feeling the pressure from the fans and knew that their coach was getting the heat and may even get fire if there was no good result. That is why baby boy M. Bradley came out and tell the media to F up and to shut up. What we need is to install an new system with a mix of South American and European ala (Spain, Holland, France, Portugal and even now England playing under Capello) which play more technical, can hold the ball and play more the ball on the ground and know to defend and play the counter attack.

  20. Bobby

    September 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    T&T really should’ve scored in the first half, the defensive players were awful. It certainly looked like they (somehow two of them at once) fouled Glen. You won’t hear me complain about it though.

    But it speaks to the character of the team to win when you aren’t supposed to.

  21. Lee

    September 9, 2009 at 11:56 pm


    While I tend to agree with you on Bradley playing only a minimal role in our obvious regression, why is it that we don’t have any vocal leaders out there?

    In the past if we struggled, you’d see Harkesie, or Reyna or McBride screaming at the guys to get moving. This team sleep walks through games. I don’t think it is a talent issue. I think the issue is since we created Bradenton and all these programs, we’ve stressed “team” and “composure” over “fire” and “individualism.”

    This means our guys simply go through the motions. They’ve been taught to be robotic from the age of 15 when they first get to Bradenton on through their professional life.

    I watched Honduras tonight and even though they lost, they will kill us. Such good ball control, and spacing on that team, and some real vocal leaders. Guevara is suspended but I am sure they’ll just slide some EPLer into the fold in his place.

  22. Hahaa

    September 9, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    when is the post match podcast??

  23. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    September 9, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    It was virtual elimination because needing 4 pts minimum from Honduras (away) and Costa Rica at home is lot to expect even of Brazil, let alone the US in pressure games.

    Honduras has looked so much more composed and competitive today at Azteca against El Tri than the US did, until the usual PK call that went Mexico’s way late.

    • todd

      September 10, 2009 at 12:51 am

      Blanco in the last 20 minutes (incl. 5 of stoppage) was ridiculous. He managed to kill like 30% of that time with faking. It was awful

  24. Chris Webb

    September 9, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    “facing virtual elimination”

    Seriously Kartik? You’re my boy, but even that steps all over the boundaries of hyperbole.

    Mission accomplished. There is no category for “pretty soccer” in WC qualifying. It’s about getting to the next step and Bradley has the team on it’s way to doing that, in spite of the many critics who feel they know better.

    Well done USA

  25. kyle

    September 9, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Bocanegra is a freaking donkey out there.

  26. jcr

    September 9, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    I appreciate your comments, but to say this side is the least or one of the least talented squads the U.S. has fielded is so off base. Alexi Lalas and Marcelo Balboa would never start or even make this team. Eddie Pope while good in the air could never handle the ball well at his feet. Wynalda, please. The only thing I can say that we don’t have is Ramos or Reyna at their prime and they barely played together and never at the World Cup as Reyna was injured prior to 1994. Donovan is pretty close and a more dynamic attacker than either and this team is a lot deeper. When Ramos had is skull fractured at the World Cup in 1994, the team collapsed. That would not happen today.

  27. sal

    September 9, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    I think its worth repeating that this will be our 6th World cup in a row.

  28. Nick

    September 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Dempsey looked absolutely terrible. Maybe he caught the Swine Flu…?

  29. Kartik Mehta

    September 9, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    dempsey is starting to a a beasley….except worse because dempsey is just lazy

  30. todd

    September 9, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    1) Davies was really really really out of step this game

    2) Holden has grabbed super sub duty by the balls.

    3) Anyone who was worrying/whining/hating on Howard can STFU now.

    4) Dale Dynamo!

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