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Despite Injury Setbacks, US Team Building Confidence Heading Into Mammoth Showdown

It has seemed at times that every moment the U.S. Men’s National Team begins to get a glimpse of what their squad will look like come the first group match of the World Cup, the injury bug strikes. 

At the Confederation’s Cup, Charlie Davies became a household name and the U.S. finally had a much needed injection of youth into the striking corps.  Davies’ pace and ability to get behind the opposing backline were something the National Team had been desperately seeking for years. 

Sure, Eddie Johnson had displayed some glimpses of the kind of game changing speed that can put a match away.  However, Johnson was woefully inconsistent and it soon became clear that he was not a future top – goal scoring threat for the Red, White and Blue. 

Davies, on the other hand had flown under the radar for some time.  Though the hardcore fans will remember his strong performance as a substitute at the last Summer Olympic games.  He was given his chance to reach the next level, last summer in South Africa.  And that he did.  Davies became one of the top stories in the United States’ suprising run to the Confederation’s Cup Final.  An early goal during qualifying in Mexico, essentially sealed him and Jozy Altidore as the U.S.’s duo up top. 

Then the injury bug struck.  Davies survived a horrific car accident with both his life and amazingly, the ability to continue playing the game he loves, intact.  Despite intensive efforts to make a miracle comeback in time for the World Cup, Davies fell short of his goal and will not make the return trip to South Africa. 

All of the sudden the U.S. had lost their speediest striker and a potent scoring option.  No problem … Bob Bradley and his staff would have to adjust.  Jozy Altidore finished off a solid campaign in England and Clint Dempsey plays well not only in the midfield, but also as a withdrawn striker.  In fact, some may argue that Dempsey is better served in that hybrid playmaker / striker role, than out wide.

So it appeared that a new frontline partnership was in place, right?  Wrong, next the bug bit Altidore, right on the ankle.  A sprain in training has left the Haitian – descended striker doubtful for the much anticipated clash with England.  Again Bradley and his crew may be forced to improvise. 

Without his top two strikers, Bradley decided to keep Dempsey in the midfield for the squad’s final friendly before the World Cup.  He went with two MLS strikers up top, in Edson Buddle and Robbie Findley.  This is in fact, basically the same dynamic combination that Altidore and Davies brought to the table.  A combination of game breaking speed, coupled with strength and quality finishing.  For the most part this experiment worked out well, with the exception of Findley’s finishing. 

Buddle continues to do for the National Team, what he was accomplishing for the Galaxy, finishing quality opportunities in front of goal.  While Jozy may still get the starting nod against England, it’s good to know that an in form Buddle is waiting in the wings. 

Hercules Gomez has also proven to be an excellent insurance policy.  Gomez has taken on the role of late game changing sub and is perhaps the most complete striker on the U.S. squad.  His ability to link up in the passing game along with the midfield is what seperates him from the others. 

Oguchi Onyewu appears to be at least still psychologically recovering from the injury that sidelined him for months.  The towering center back isn’t playing bad football, he just appears a bit hesitant to fully test his body.  Luckily for Bob Bradley’s team, Clarence Goodson has filled in solidly, if unspectacularly in place of Onyewu. 

The recent performaces in the last two friendlies has showcased the adaptability, versatility and newfound depth of the US squad.  No matter what has been thrown at the team, they have found a way to play both attractive and productive football, though not without some nagging inconsistency.  Still, even with all the injuries to key attacking players, Bradley has had his group push forward more recently. 

This increased interest in attacking football has payed off.  The team has managed seven goals in their last three matches and seemed to create numerous high quality scoring chances against a fellow World Cup opponent in Australia. 

Bob Bradley has received his fair share of criticism since taking the reigns of the National Team.  But it’s time he also be given some deserved praise.  He has rolled with the punches and formed a versatile squad that does not give up.  For so long, fairly critisized for some baffling squad selections, Bradley has put together a squad that compliments itself well. 

In the Confederation’s Cup, gritty defense and an efficient counter – attack led to suprising success.  The U.S. really managed to frustrate Spain and Brazil for a game and a half respectively, with their compact defense.  Now it’s nice to see them also venture forward well and also show the ability to knock the ball around and play a more possession oriented game.  There has still been some awful touches, however, there has also been increased fluidity in the team’s passing as a whole.   

The U.S. team has always been known to have good athleticism.  We have also been known for a relatively sturdy defense.  However, when it comes to offensive capabilities and being able to score goals, questions have been risen.  The improved play in the mifield (largely thanks to Donovan perhaps finally finding where his best spot on the pitch is) has made it easier for the team to get the ball into quality scoring chances.  With the midfield playing so well, it’s taken some of the pressure off the strikers and enabled them to do their job more comfortably, putting shots on frame. 

Last summer’s results and the grind of qualifying, coupled with solid play recently has the U.S.’s confidence right where it needs to be.  This team believes that they can compete with anybody.  They may not be the most aesthetically pleasing side to watch at times and they certainly don’t have the hype many teams have coming in. Yet their athletic capabilities and propensity for adjusting well on the fly, bode well for a tournament that has already been testing teams’ adaptability through a gamut of injuries.

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  1. Gwenn Marconis

    April 14, 2013 at 9:31 am

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  2. short passes

    June 7, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    “The recent performances in the last two friendlies has showcased the adaptability, versatility and new-found depth of the US squad. No matter what has been thrown at the team, they have found a way to play both attractive and productive football, though not without some nagging inconsistency. Still, even with all the injuries to key attacking players, Bradley has had his group push forward more recently.”
    —-Just to address the “pink balloons” term in my email using only one or two references from this. “Adaptability, versatility and new-found depth”. The defense in both games was, to put the best face on it, suspect. Gooch is not up to speed and it’s becoming increasingly likely that he won’t be at full capability for this WC. DeMerit and Goodson may not be awful but they are at best mediocre and unlikely to allow us to get out of the knockout stage. Cherundolo is playing well. Bocanegra is quite competent but on the outside will be problematic agaisnt speedy wingers. Midfield– we have always had Donovan and Dempsey and both are true World Cup level players. But that’s nothing new! In the middlle we have Bradley who is competent as a ball winner ONLY. We have no true creative midfielder — oh wait there’s Torres and possibly Feilhaber neither of whom is on BB’s play list. At striker we have Altidore (young extremely promising but not there yet) and Findley (he runs like lightning but can’t find the goal). None of this is new!! Oh yes, we have Buddle and Gomez. Both of whom BB has been less than thrilled with giving any playing time. If we exclude Torres, Buddle, and Gomez, what is so new or
    exciting here? The same cast of characters that has been on the periphery of this team for the last couple years.
    Finally, “Bradley has had his group push forward more recently.” Were you actually watching the Australian game?? The Roos dominated possession. If you want to respond that, “oh, that’s our style of play, absorb the pressure, then counter-attack.”, that also is nothing new for BB and the USMNT.
    I want this team to win as much as anybody, probably more than most but this article and its “positive attitude” does no favors to anyone.
    BTW, if you think that my original post was cruel and bitter, maybe you are in the wrong business. I have only scratched the surface with what was problematic with this one paragraph. “attractive and productive football” —– responding to that could be a full length article in itself

  3. Chris Riordan

    June 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Not sure I see the “pink balloons” you refer to. The article is about their growing confidence, it’s not saying they’re gonna tear up the World Cup.

    Also, you might note that I pointed out the fact that their touch on the ball has been bad at times and the fact that while some good has come out of recent play, there has still been plenty of inconsistency.

    Not every piece has to point out the negative, this was one with more of a positive spin.

  4. short passes

    June 7, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Congratulations on writing the shallowest, happy-talk analysis of the USMNT and its prospects. Life and my time is much too short to attempt to point out all of the holes in your pink balloons.
    Never-the-less, good luck to the R-W-Bl.

    • erp

      June 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm

      How is it shallow? I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, although I didn’t find the article shallow at all.

  5. Chris Riordan

    June 7, 2010 at 12:31 am

    I agree that Findley’s speed definitely adds a dynamic element to the attack. As I said in the article, the Buddle / Findley experiment worked out pretty well. All I noted is that the finishing was suspect, which is true. In fact, Findley’s goal scoring production has dropped off this year.

    Still, I think Findley can be an important and potentially game changing component of the US team.

  6. erp

    June 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    I think people are not giving Findley the credit he deserves. Ok, so he blew two chances. Let us not forget that both chances were created by him and his speed. That speed draws a second defender, which frees up Buddle in the middle. His movement is very, very good and is key to winning against teams with solid back lines (England).

    I don’t think BB will risk further injury to Jozy for all 90 minutes on Sat against England. We don’t HAVE to win that game. It’d be a great opportunity to give the Buddle/Findley team another shot at it.

    As far as our defense goes, I am concerned. Goodson and Demerit can play good D. We saw it last year in the Conf. Cup. But without a strong leader in the middle (Gooch) they will fall apart. I feel the game against England will rest upon the shoulders of our back line. We need vintage Gooch to win this match. Not 45% Gooch as we’ve seen in the last two games.

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