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This US Team is the Most Prepared US Team in History

Obama, Biden, And Bill Clinton meet the US National Soccer Team in Washington

Since Bob Bradley was named coach of the US National Soccer team shortly after the US crashed out of the 2006 World Cup, he has made it a mission to put his players up against the best the world has to offer.  Since 2006, the US team has travelled to Asia, Europe, Africa and South America looking for games, experience and quality opponents. 

That quest has paid off.  Outside of friendlies, the US has played in more international tournaments than at any point in its history and in those tournaments has played an astounding 16 games against opponents that are going to South Africa next month.  Those 16 games represent all the various FIFA regional groups except for Oceania.  They also represent five of the top 10 teams in FIFA’s rankings.

Mexico  – 4 (2007 Gold Cup, 2009 Gold Cup,  2009 WC Qualifier (twice))
Honduras – 4 (2009 Gold Cup (twice),  2009 WC Qualifier (twice))
Brazil – 2 (2009 Confederations Cup (twice))
Argentina – 1 (2007 Copa America)
Netherlands – 1 (2008 Olympics)
Nigeria – 1 (2008 Olympics)
Japan – 1 (2008 Olympics)
Italy – 1 (2009 Confederations Cup)
Spain – 1 (2009 Confederations Cup)

Not all of these games were played by the US’s first team, or at least not the first team at the time.  However, many players who were at the fringe of the National team after World Cup 2006 – players like Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Maurice Edu, Stuart Holden and Robbie Findley – have played themselves onto the team that is headed to South Africa through their performances in these tournaments.

By comparison, since England went down to Portugal at World Cup 2006, they have played slightly fewer teams in competitive tournaments that are headed to South Africa.  This is a list of the teams that England has played in non-friendlies that are in World Cup 2010:

 (cue the sound of crickets chirping)

That’s right.  Not one.  None of the teams that England squared up against in either their failed Euro 2008 qualifying campaign or their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign are going to South Africa. 

By the time the US takes the field next month against England, this will be an experienced, hardened group that has been through a serious campaign together.  Whether that advantage is telling is something we will learn over the course of the next six weeks.  However, whatever your opinion of Bob Bradley, you cannot fault him for segregating his team away from the soccer powers.  He has taken every opportunity available to prepare this team for the job in South Africa, and having played some of the best teams in the world over the past three years, his team will not look at England as anything more than what they have already seen.

(hat tip to Kartik for pointing this stat out in the comments of a recent article)

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  1. Rex

    June 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    Why is Bill Clinton in that photo?

  2. blissfullyignorant

    May 29, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    i love soccer, but i definitely don’t claim to watch enough of it to know much about statistics or how certain players fair over others in the last 4 years. but i can say definitively that, of the games i’ve watched, i saw more cohesiveness, spark and commitment from the team in the second half of the turkey game today than i ever have before.

    i agree with certain others that bradley could probably have been using this same squad for a while now instead of wasting time on kjestjan, beckerman, johnson, casey etc, etc. i don’t know anything about findley, but he had a similar kind of attacking energy that charlie davies has, that scares defenders, and that is a great thing.

    i don’t know if this is the best prepared squad ever. but i can say for sure, that i have more confidence in this side than in any other us side i’ve watched since 2002.


      May 29, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      You know enough to have an opinion, and that’s all that matters. Findley a bit of an unknown quantity – hard to prepare for a guy nobody knows about. Things can come down to one player. Without McBride, specifically his head, we wouldn’t have gotten out of the first round in ’02.

      the 1990 US squad played over thirty warmup matches in preperation – almost a full club season. Most were domestically based players whose club commitments were made flexible in the post NASL regeneration period. They were a tight, cohesive group, and the same guys played match after match. It would be hard to argue that they weren’t the most prepared, if not the most talented.

  3. Rafael

    May 29, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    The WC trainibg camp and send off matches started way too late. Bradley should have had his 23 final players by mid May not at the end of the month.

    The first team will only get two games to prepare. Is the midfield even sorted out yet? Who’s going to start with Bradley? is it Torres, Clark, or Feilhaber? Dempsey playing FW or MD?

    By contrast Mexico had about three games with buuble players trying to make the team and three games with the first team and final 23. A total of six or more games. Their camp and games started in April and they have been preparing ever since with games against the best in the world like Holland and England.


    May 29, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Results of US Turkey: Findley fighting MLS concession label for all he’s worth. Bornstein embracing it. Almost all chances on counters. Very intriguing.

  5. short passes

    May 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    James — Repeating the same statement doesn’t advance your case. Explain the recent juggling at the Czech and Netherlands games. See you at the next topic.

    • james

      May 30, 2010 at 4:52 pm

      You’re using two games instead of looking at the last two years.

  6. short passes

    May 29, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Bandeeto — The example of the Confed Cup makes my case perfectly. BB had his WC team there so why was he still shuffling people when they played the Czechs and the Dutch. The “real” USMNT midfield did not play together for one second in either of those games.

    James — The US unlike Argentina has a very small pool of high level players so sifting through that pool should not take 3 years and, oh by the way, Argentina had a terrible WC qualification — so much for player variety being helpful.

    My point, which has obviously eluded my friends, Bandeeto and James, is that BB had 90% of his final selection made by last year and he should have been using this time to get them organized instead of playing musical chairs with players that everyone knew would not be on the final team.


      May 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

      If you like Bob Bradley, you have to admit it looks like he was under a lot of pressure from the MLS/USSF Pentaverate. Maradona auditioning players from the start due to his own peculiarities. The Pentaverate trying to keep MLS players from a truly pathetic showing in World Cup: Down from 22 in ’98 to less than 7 in ’10. Looks to me like they really turned screws on Bob, who staged the Czech tryout game to placate them.

      wacky pro/rel supporter loves short passes.

      • short passes

        May 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm

        Now that’s a reasonable response. I have sometimes wondered if BB was being forced to play these shuffling games to placate someone — MLS management— or just PR to keep the interest up.
        Incidentally I loved BB when he was with the FIRE. I would love for him to return.

    • james

      May 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm

      Your claim is this – the US should have been using the same players (which they basically have) in order for the team to play well together.

      Argentina, a team that used a ton of players over the last 3 years, has been playing incredibly well as of late. Of Argentina’s last 13 games, they have lost 4, with losses coming to Spain away, Paraguay away and Brazil at home in qualifying. They haven’t lost this year and recently beat Germany 1-0 away. I agree, they had a poor start to qualifying, but they have turned things around. The point being, using a ton of players in qualifying isn’t necessarily a bad thing and, additionally Bradley has not been playing “musical chairs.” You watch one game against the Czechs where he doesn’t play 8 starters and now he is playing musical chairs? What do you think of England’s game against Mexico?

      You will see that the team that starts is very used to playing with each other. As BB pointed out, it’s essentially the same team that almost won the Confed Cup.


    May 29, 2010 at 1:13 am

    Congrats to Bob Bradley. I think he has really done a fantastic job as the US national team coach.

  8. short passes

    May 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Sorry to rain on this parade but to say that this is the best prepared team is missing a major point. If you changed it to the best prepared 23 individual players, I might be willing to jump on the band wagon. BB has spent entirely too much time trying to weed out players that most followers of this blog could have been rid of a long time ago. Now we are down to two games to build a cohesive team. That’s not a well-prepared TEAM !! BB has followed the US political system where we campaign for two years while other countries accomplish the same thing in a matter of weeks. If you’re thinking of throwing out the issue of preparing for injuries, forget it. Despite all of the line-up shuffling, the loss of Dempsey, Gooch, and Davies would still have created massive problems. as it indeed has with Davies. Another response might be that we might have missed some really good player like Edson Buddle or Herculez Gomez !!! Oh, that’s right we did miss them until their recent scoring binges made them necessary choices.
    The only chance we have is to out-organize our competition and I’m afraid that BB has thrown away the time he had to do that.
    Despite all that I’ll be white-knuckleing it through the WC. Good luck to the R, W, and Bl.

    • bandeeto

      May 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm

      So heres a breakdown of the Confed Cup vs World Cup rosters:

      Confed Cup:
      GOALKEEPERS- Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Luis Robles
      DEFENDERS- Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Marvell Wynne, Jay DeMerit, Danny Califf, Heath Pearce.
      MIDFIELDERS-Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Sacha Kljestan, Jose Francisco Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Freddy Adu
      FORWARDS- Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, Conor Casey, Charlie Davies.

      World Cup:
      Goalkeepers- Tim Howard, Marcus Hahnemann, Brad Guzan
      Defenders- Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Clarence Goodson, Jonathan Bornstein
      Midfielders- Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, Ricardo Clark, DaMarcus Beasley, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres
      Forwards- Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez, Edson Buddle, Robbie Findley

      So significant contributers from the Confed cup roster that are not on the World Cup roster are… Charlie Davies. Some other players got playing time but Conor Casey, for example, is not a loss. Actually from a roster comparison I’d say, except for Davies, every exclusion from the Confed cup roster made room for an upgrade to the World cup roster. There are plenty of Adu fans out there but i’d take Holden over Adu any day. Holden played 1.5 games, some practices, and got a 3 year contract with an EPL team. Adu can’t touch that.

      All significant Confed Cup contributers are on the World Cup roster. Sorry, Short Pass, but your post is bunk.

    • james

      May 29, 2010 at 1:09 am

      You’re obviously clueless as to the progress of some of the world’s best team in qualifying. Maradona played almost 100 players in his qualifying campaign, whereas we have traditionally relied on the same 16.

  9. Tom

    May 28, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    To be a good team this team will have to be better than the sum of its parts. I’m glad it is well prepared.

  10. AtlantaPompey

    May 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    This is easily the most prepared the US has ever been. They have taken care of everything they possibly can that is in their control: four years of world class competition, using a setup that best utilizes the players available.

    There are so many other factors outside of their control that determine their success: schedule,opponents, referee quality, weather.

    We don’t have to beat England to advance. It would be great if we did, though.

  11. Charles

    May 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    England has a 4th place finish and 1966. I hope they are not our measuring stick for greatness.
    Not saying I wouldn’t want a World Cup title to go along with our 3rd place finish. Not saying we don’t have to pass them on the way up, just saying I hope they are not what the US is striving for.

    It is nice having Mexico as our main rivals, you have an opponent you know will make it out of group stage in the World Cup every four years as a tune up.

    • james

      May 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm

      right, because being one of 7 countries to have ever won the WC isn’t impressive or anything.

      • Charles

        May 28, 2010 at 4:51 pm

        Just saying, if we are shooting for just being a top 10 World Cup team ( like England ), we are shooting too low.

      • sylc

        May 28, 2010 at 5:43 pm

        it’s impressive, but how much does a home-field advantage world cup win 44 years ago matter on june 12?

  12. Randy Capps

    May 28, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    I agree that we are as prepared as we can be for the 2010 World Cup.

    Whether or not that fact helps us escape group play is the question.

    And is that the expectation? Will we, as fans, be happy with just reaching the knockout stage? Or will it take more?

    • james

      May 28, 2010 at 3:16 pm

      I think a quarter-final finish is what it takes for us to say we’ve done well this WC. I also think it is definitely within our reach.

      England has some definite concerns about fitness and also have a similar issue, in the 4-4-2, who plays alongside Rooney? I am guessing Crouch at this point, who has shown in the last few weeks (at Tottenham and against mexico) that he has a real poacher’s instinct in front of goal and is more dynamic than Heskey in terms of movement.

      They’re also having issues in the midfield, with no one really a fit to take Barry’s place besides Carrick, Parker or Huddlestone. Carrich played horribly against Mexico and the other two have little experience at this level. Even if Barry makes the squad, it’s doubtful he’ll be fit by the 12th. I think England might be tested by US’s midfield, especially if we play a 4-5-1 and are able to maintain possession in the middle. Unfortunately, England do have a solid defense and an in-form keeper in Green and of course the striking threat of Rooney will be hard to deal with, especially if our starting defense isn’t fully fit or we have to go with Goodson.

      I think we can expect a close game, but we’ll have to see England’s final squad and how the US does in the next two warm up games.


        May 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

        Good comment about who strikes next to Rooney. Point is, everybody in England has an opinion, and I’d love to have that controversy.

        I haven’t heard a strong opinion from a US supporter yet – even about Jozy up there, though most treat it as a foregone. You?

        We tend to be a trusting bunch, but our forwards shouldn’t be a mystery wrapped in an enigma at this point.

        • james

          May 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm

          I think there are two options and this is what I think I’d do against england:

          Play Altidore up top and have Landon as a central attacking midfielder, with Dempsey playing out right and Beasley on the left. I think Beasley’s earned some time with some strong play and Dempsey has been quite good playing as a right footed inverted winger on the right. I think this makes some space for Donovan in the middle in an area where England are struggling to find someone. Dempsey out right might also limit the ability of Cole to get forward on England’s left and Beasley would hopefully be able to deal with Johnson if he comes forward.

          The alternative is partnering Buddle or Gomez with Altidore and playing Landon on the left, which I like because he’s much more dynamic than Beasley, and Dempsey out right. However, against England, I really think we want to limit space in the midfield and having Landon as a midfield attacking option would allow Clark and Bradley to neutralize Lampard and Gerrard. It’s also a line up that could deal with England’s 4-5-1 if Capello decides to play Rooney alone up front, with Gerrard, Lampard and Barry (or Barry stand-in) anchoring the midfield.

          For the US to be successful against England I think we’ll obviously need to contain Rooney, but also stop England in the midfield where they have a couple of players with the ability to really create and also score. I think fullbacks have been a big part of the discussion building up to the WC and I’d like our wingers to make it difficult for one of the best left backs in the world to get forward.


            May 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm

            Ugh. Lone Striker.

            I can’t decide which is worse: Lone striker, or Buddle.

            Lone striker is so Bora, but Buddle is so Garber.

            I am intrigued with Gomez. But he has what, 0 minutes of time with Jozy so far?

            Tomorrow is going to be fascinating. Is Bob going to give Buddle and Gomez one game each to see which plays better? That would go along with the supposed Czech audition strategy.

            Maybe it’s not MLS special interests at work here, but I prefer that theory to one in which Bob Bradley thinks these tryout games are really giving him info he didn’t already have.

  13. eplnfl

    May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    You have to give Bradley credit. He worked from the start when he was still a temporary coach to bring the team along for the 2010 WC. Does anyone remember how made the team looked at times in the 2007 Gold Cup. Yet the heart of the defensive line took shape back then.

    Bradley changes Donovan’s previous role with the team taking him out of the middle and moving him to flank where he has been more effective. Playing the better teams was something other US coaches steered away from but as shown above not Bradley. I though Bruce Arena in his second term as coach especially took a easy approach to the road to Germany in 2006.

    We are battle tested like we have never been before. Now to be healthy.

    • soccerreform

      May 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm

      I appreciate Bob. He’s got the accent. He’s played big clubs. I think players believe. One big question:

      Would Klinsmann be more or less susceptible to Garber Gulati MLS lobbying? I think the evidence is in last year’s Gold Cup.

      Looks to me like Buddle, like David Regis before him, has a great chance to start. If he nets one goal, Bradley’s the hero, even if we don’t advance. If we don’t advance, and Edson/Findley see significant time, he’s the goat.

  14. Eric Altshule

    May 28, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    My “by the time” reference is about the past three years, not the past three weeks. Sorry if that wae not clear.

    • soccerreform

      May 28, 2010 at 2:39 pm

      If you’re saying Bob brought the guys that got us here thru trial of fire, this should be an easy question to answer:

      In 4-4-2, who starts up top?

      • sylc

        May 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm

        It is easy to answer. Altidore and Dempsey.

        There is no correct answer to this.


          May 28, 2010 at 6:03 pm

          Not looking for a prediction, looking for a preference. There’s a dearth of strong feelings about it, which seems weird for a forward line in the World Cup.

          …Just about every Fulham supporter would argue with Deuce at forward. If you take out the guys who aren’t sure if they are forwards or not, the choices are murky at best.

          • james

            May 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm

            I feel strongly that 5 in the midfield is the right way to counter England.


    May 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I want to believe.

    But did you really have to say “by the time”? There were three warm ups, one of which was used as a slightly less shameful, but still bogus, MLS tryout game a la the Gold Cup Final last summer.

    Three weeks and two games doesn’t harden anyone. Though Kartik is dead on about England’s weaknesses, and you’re dead on by piling pressure on the US, international soccer leaves little room for the subjectiveness that surrounds what stands in for our first division. This is the real world, where gumption, sticktoitiveness, hardness, and the fruits of relative parity count for as much as Christiano Ronaldo’s hair product.

    Kudos for the rallying. They’re gonna need all the help they can get.

    When we arrive as a soccer nation, it will be because of one simple attitude shift:

    Caring enough to be critical.

    • Jessie

      May 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

      As long as that shift doesn’t include the idiotic promotion/relegation …..


        May 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm

        Even though you’re just trying to get me started:

        Aw pshaw, can’t you just take the single-entity-imposed-mediocrity-USMNT debilitating-feeder-league out of the pyramid? Why do you need first div entitlement for it? If parity is such a priority, why not just become an independent exhibition league?

    • bandeeto

      May 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm

      “…outside of friendlies…”. Warmups are friendlies. Your comments are about games that have nothing to do with the article.

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