Stars and Gripes

Occasionally interesting insight (and gripes) about the USMNT

USA v. Ghana – Thoughts.

with 13 comments

Well, that was quite a run.  An excruciating, enjoyable, perplexing, rewarding, and ultimately disappointing run.  And that’s the World Cup, and I thank my lucky stars that it is here for another two weeks, and that it will dawn again a mere 1,500 days from now.  The last few years watching the boys was a joy, from the blowouts against Barbados and Grenada to Rico’s laser in Trinidad, Dempsey’s header in Sandy, and Bornstein’s equalizer at RFK.  I welled up today for the first time in years, and right now, at 7:22 PM EST, there’s a sole thought occupying my mind: I cannot–cannot–wait for the next match.

Like most fans, I’m a bit caught up in it all, and don’t have many coherent points to make.  I’ll leave with some straight-forward thoughts on today’s game only.

Before that, a quick note.  Thanks to all of you for reading.  This thing is only four weeks young, and was initiated with the sole purpose of airing some thoughts.  Instead, for some reason, a healthy number of people started reading.  So, we’re not going to shut it down, as was the initial plan.  I’ll continue through the WC and beyond, with a focus on the international game, and the United States in particular.  As the World Cup goes on, there will be a special focus on England (hopefully past tomorrow), for a plethora of reasons that can wait for another time.

Anyhow, check back at your leisure, and thanks.

1. I’m really, really not sure what Bob Bradley was thinking.  I’ve already worn down a new keyboard with rants about how and why Robbie Findley was not ready for this level.  I’ve lost my own internal breath screaming about why Maurice Edu needed to be on the field in place of Rico Clark.  And yet, that’s what we saw.  It spoke for itself.

2. I want to give a big, big round of applause to Jonathan Bornstein and Steve Cherundolo.  If you had told me six weeks ago that they would be our starting backs, I would’ve accepted a point in the group stage.  Cherundolo was fantastic–quite possibly the United States’ best player.  And Bornstein?  I really can’t put into words how impressed I am.  Like every other fan, I was taken a bit aback on Wednesday morning when he appeared on the team sheet, with memories of Honduras and the Netherlands helping to resurface old pains.  Instead, he was fantastic.  There were no nerves, no jitters, no deadly mistakes.  There was a guy utilizing his speed, closing down attackers, and positioning himself well.  I’m shocked, and I hope he keeps this up.

3. Dempsey was immense today.  He needed to be in that forward role from the beginning, but we’ll save that for another column.  There were a lot of OK efforts today–his did not fall into the category of abject mediocrity.

Finally, one more thing.  We’ll be in Rio in a shade under four years.  Michael Bradley and Jose Torres will be 26, still a few years short of their primes.  Maurice Edu and Charlie Davies will be 27, just hitting their stride.  Jozy Altidore will be a ripe old 24.  Benny Feilhaber will be 29.  Donovan will be a late-peaking 32, and Dempsey 31.  They’ll be complimented–or supplanted–by a wealth of new talent.

The last four years were fun.  The next four?  Well, get on board–it’s gonna be a helluva ride, and I couldn’t be more excited.


Written by Pete Kavanaugh

June 26, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

13 Responses

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  1. Great stuff. Its been a fun ride the last 4 years and hard to see it come to an end.

    I agree with you on Rico and Findley.. but on the whole B Bradley has done a great job developing and incorporating young talent. I hope they keep him around.

    How much did we miss a healthy Charlie Davies? Every time Findley tried to run on the ball I couldn’t stop thinking about that finish in the Azteca a year ago.

    Thanks for putting this together, definitely keep it going!

    Mark R

    June 26, 2010 at 8:36 pm

  2. Pete,

    Thanks for a fantastic blog. Look forward to you continuing this.


    June 27, 2010 at 1:44 am

  3. Looking forward to what the future might hold for this site!

    Also, as someone who is just getting into international soccer leagues (Serie A, La Liga, Premiereship, UEFA), I was wondering where you get your soccer news? ESPN and other traditional American media outlets are pretty sparse in this area.

    Pass along any good websites you might have..

    Brian E.

    June 27, 2010 at 2:17 am

  4. Brian- reading about the international game is good to an extent, but there’s nothing like watching the action for yourself. If you have cable try fox soccer channel.. Else if you look in the right places you can find streams of pretty much every decent match.

    Mark R

    June 27, 2010 at 3:25 am

  5. Great website! My heart sank when I saw the starting XI. If Edu and Felihaber start, it could have been much, much different. Now I know how the English feel every 4 years.


    June 27, 2010 at 9:11 am

  6. I’ve noticed some internet chatter about the next USA coach today. Obviously, there will be a lot to talk about, but I do hope that the next coach will be able to continue the modesty, humility, and team spirit that Bradley cultivated. This team was fun to watch, even though it lacks the star power of other nations — and I think this stemmed from the fact that there was no (apparent) in-fighting and that the guys fought for EACH OTHER on the pitch.

    Can a foreign coach sustain such a culture? I’m not so sure.


    June 27, 2010 at 1:45 pm

  7. Anyone know how the our U-20, U-19, U-18, etc teams are doing on the world stage? I ask because for 2014 we’re going to need to replace a lot of guys on this team.

    Bradley, Altidore and Onyewu are young and we can pencil them in for the next 2 WC teams, but for 2014, we’re (probably) going to lose Cherundolo, Bocanegra and DeMerit to age, and Dempsey and Donovan potentially as well.

    What about Jermaine Jones? Is he going to be an impact guy?

    Any insight on what the next four years (might) look like is appreciated.


    June 27, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    • Keith – In the coming weeks, we’re going to start a number of features on the youth national teams. The first will be released relatively soon and will focus on the U-20 squad, for whom the player pool for qualifying was released today. Stay tuned….

      I wouldn’t pencil Gooch in for anything yet. It’s not just the ACL tear–you wonder how the knees on a 6’4″ are going to hold up when he’s in his early 30s. I would say Donovan will be back, and likely Dempsey. Jones is a complete wild card–it’s unclear if he’ll ever be back to the form he was in 18 months ago, which is bizarre shin injury that just won’t go away.

      Pete Kavanaugh

      June 29, 2010 at 5:23 pm

  8. Great stuff over the last few weeks. Glad to have a spot to go for in-depth analysis of the USMNT. Appreciate the optimistic tone of this post. I’m still not there. The once-every-four-years thing is tough to deal with.

    More so than the Edu/Clark substitution (which you could at least pin on Clark’s yellow card situation), the Feilhaber-Findley switch at halftime was a concession by Bradley he’d started the wrong guy. What does it say if pulling a forward off the field makes you a better offensive team (the implicit assumption for a halftime substitution when you’re down a goal)?

    I’m hopeful this WC represents a tipping point in terms of the US having enough truly-international caliber players to compete on a level field (would have been even more true if not for the Davies/Onyewu injuries). I think we’re going to need a coach with a broader resume’ to better take advantage of that shift in 2014.

    Kyle J

    June 27, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  9. Thanks for all your work Pete, it’s been a great read since I found it. Can’t wait til the team is in action again!


    June 27, 2010 at 9:50 pm

  10. I’m glad that you will continue your blog. I have enjoyed it quite a bit over the past two weeks.

    I have never been a fire Bob Bradley proponent. I think he was overall excellent during qualifying and the World Cup and did about as much as can be expected. We’re all second guessing him now (and rightly so I think), but that doesn’t lessen his achievement I think.

    I am wondering one thing, though, and I’d love to hear others’ take on it. Does the USA need a different coach to move to the next level? Has Bradley taken us as far as we can go or is it unrealistic given our still for the most part modest talent level to expect more from someone else?

    (Also where can we find a striker who can finish?)


    June 28, 2010 at 1:37 pm

  11. Unless Bradley is moving on of his own volition(it wouldn’t shock me, he’d do very well in the Bundesliga or with a lower echelon EPL side), then I’m not sure what the upside is to not renewing his contract. If Guus Hiddink were available, he isn’t, I could understand the decision. I’ve kind of soured on Klinsmann after his performance at Bayern, I also don’t think Jurgen would succeed with the type of players we have now.

    The U.S. is a top 16 team they reached the final 16. Ghana is pretty good, they were damn near even with Germany on run of play in a game where Germany thought they would have to win.

    All of the issues that Bradley had coming in to the World Cup; wouldn’t play Torres(did), would bring Ching and weaken the roster(left him off), wouldn’t put Dempsey up front(made that adjustment during games)… he addressed and at least partially fixed. He gets crap for early goals but simply put our back line is not up to snuff right now. Onyewu was our most imposing international defender and he wasn’t ready to play at all.. We were going to give up goals no matter what.

    As for the future.. We need a third striker for depth behind Davies and Altidore, we need to rebuild the backline.. Onyewu’s knees won’t hold up well, Spector needs to get better and we may be relying on a 29 year old Bornstein. The US needs to find a trustworthy #2 behind Howard.. if its Guzan, he needs to play.

    2014 (4-4-2)
    Dempsey(he’ll be 31 but he hasn’t relied on pace)
    Omar Gonzalez
    Chad Marshall
    Edgar Castillo

    Justin Braun?
    Brad Guzan
    Freddy Adu
    S. Klestan
    Troy Perkins

    The front 6 of this team would be extremely dangerous.. there would be depth in the midfield.. but unless we get some serious upgrades along the backline the team probably won’t be any better than 2010.. with the exception that a healthy Davies may let us win a few more 3-2 games.


    June 28, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    • Patrick – Tough to argue with that. Again, it’s just very difficult to achieve consistent success at the international level for eight years. If I were Bradley, and had any suspicion that there were opportunities available on the club level, I’d jump at them. As for not being able to replace him with someone of value, I disagree. Certainly the Hiddink’s of the world are a step above the rest, but there are quality managers out there who will be available.

      I think the United States job is becoming more attractive every year, particularly for coaches in the twilight of their career (which isn’t a bad thing). I outlined the reasons in the full post, but just to reiterate:
      1. The money isn’t there yet, but if the USSF has someone they really like, they’ll find the cash.
      2. It remains a low pressure job with relatively little media focus.
      3. You don’t need to live in the United States–you just need to be here for a few months, and usually in Southern California.
      4. You have a chance to make an impact on one of the last remaining potential superpowers of the game.
      5. You have a player poll and system that has established a team-first, can-do attitude. That’s priceless for a lot of coaches on the international level, who simply tire of egos (which can take on a whole new meaning on a national team).

      As for your lineup, I won’t dive into specifics here, but it seems like a pretty good place to start. There will always be players to arrive out of nowhere (Bedoya, Torres) and those that we think will progress and don’t (Bobby Convey, anyone?). I’m not on the Chad Marshall bandwagon, but we’ll see. I think we’re more likely to see Donovan starting then Dempsey–I see Clint as an impact sub in four years.

      Anyhow, thanks for chiming in.

      Pete Kavanaugh

      June 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm

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