Tag Archives: United States

Canada loses Bunbury

Teal Bunbury plays for the Kansas City Wizards

Perhaps “lose” is the wrong term, since Canada never really had him in the first place. Like Jonathan de Guzman and Asmir Begović (and, to a lesser extent, Owen Hargreaves) before him, Teal Bunbury – a young, promising striker currently playing for the Kansas City Wizards – chose his other nationality. In this case, that means the United States. Make no mistake, this is a serious problem for the Canadian Soccer Association, and it doesn’t look like it’s being taken seriously.

I realize that de Guzman, for instance, never really wanted to play for Canada. He was going to choose Holland (unlike his brother) from the beginning, assuming Holland wanted him. The same is true of Hargreaves, who was always going to choose England (and, really, choosing England over Canada, esp. when you were good enough to start for England in the World Cup, is a no brainer). I have no issue with them for that. I do have issues with both Begović and Bunbury because they both suited up for Canada at various points. They both waffled (esp. Begović), and, in the end, they both set Canada back.

Begović, for example, would be Canada’s starting keeper today. Bunbury, although only 20, would certainly be in the game day roster, and likely see a lot of action (Ali Gerba, Olivier Occean, and Iain Hume [though I’m a huge Hume fan] aren’t getting any younger or better). Bunbury’s father, Alex, played for Canada and scored 16 goals. I know fathers want their sons to make their own decisions (and I can respect the fact that Bunbury has spent half his life in the US), but from a playing perspective, Teal’s path is not blocked the way it is in the US (Jozy Altidore is the starting striker for the foreseeable future). Of course, the US will likely make it to a few more World Cups before Canada, and playing a World Cup is every player’s dream.

On the other hand, this is good for the US. Bob Bradley needs to attract dual-nationality players to (a) improve the team and (b) increase the team’s depth at all positions. He does have the US’s standing as one of the two best teams in CONCACAF (and therefore all but guaranteed to go to the World Cup) as a positive. On the other hand, he is very stuck in his ways and finds it difficult to work in new blood. Thus, while Bunbury may or may not get to play in a World Cup (depending on injuries, skill development, etc.), he definitely would have played more with Canada and could have been, with Will Johnson and David Edgar, the foundation of the Canadian national team for the next decade. However, assuming he fights his way on to the US national team, he probably made the right choice for him.

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US focusing on 2022 World Cup bid

In the official report, that goes down as a Ronaldo-style laser into the back of the net

The United States withdrew its bid to host the 2018 World Cup in order to focus on the 2022 finals. That means two things. One, that Europe is guaranteed to host the 2018 World Cup (England, Russia, Netherlands/Belgium, and Spain/Portugal are the only remaining bidders). And two, that the US will likely get the 2022 World Cup, which is fantastic. Granted, the latter is only my speculation because I don’t think the US would withdraw unless it got Europe’s support. Then again, since Europe is now competing against itself, who knows if there was a deal made (I do think the US will support England for 2018, with the reverse being true for 2022).

So, what of 2022? The remaining bidders, other than the US, are Australia, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea. Of those, I think Japan and South Korea are longshots at best, simply because they hosted the World Cup in 2002. Australia may or may not have the stadiums (there are five with capacities over 45,000 and eight between 20,000 and 31,000). The weather will be fine, though, which is nice.

I figure Qatar will be the main competition, if only because of the money it has. The problem is the temperature, which is about 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit), during the World Cup. That will necessitate covered stadiums, or very odd game times. Speaking of stadiums, there is only one 50,000 seat stadium in the country, while the others are either 20,000 or 25,000. I still think Qatar will be a serious bidder, but that the US will win out.

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More of the same from Bob Bradley

US manager Bob Bradley

Despite the proclamation of a “new era” by Adrian Healey, the two US friendlies versus Poland and Colombia were more of the same for Bob Bradley’s team.

Tragically, against Poland, that included gifting goals to the opposition and trying inane formations (4-2-3-1) and playing players out of position (Maurice Edu). Everyone knows that Bradley has his favorites, which is fine, but playing Edu at center back is inexcusable. It’s a travesty, really, and yet Bradley saw nothing wrong with it. People should have seen this coming, especially because Bradley is an uncreative coach. He’s very unwilling to experiment, much like the USSF is unwilling to take a chance on another coach (I believe Bradley stayed because neither side wanted to break up, even though both knew it was in their best interests). On the plus side, Jozy Altidore scored his first international goal since 2009.

Against Colombia, Bradley went with a 4-3-3 even though the US doesn’t have the skill to play that formation. Surprisingly, he started Brek Shea (who has amazing potential and should be playing regularly from now on) and Heath Pearce (who probably shouldn’t be playing). Bradley seems indecisive in the midfield, in that he is determined to play Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and Maurice Edu together. That’s a mistake. The midfield should revolve around the younger Bradley and the US should take advantage of his skills and his endurance. But the coach won’t do that, because Edu is one of his favorites and he would have to be left out (Jones is clearly better than Edu).

On the other hand, Bradley did a better job incorporating the younger players against Colombia. Bradley needs to see what Shea, Holden, and others have to offer. The US is going to need someone to be Clint Dempsey’s understudy in the next Gold Cup and, eventually, the US is going to need a skilled player on the order of Landon Donovan. Bradley clearly sees both of them as security blankets, and both will be fine for Brazil in 2014, but the fact remains that Bradley needs to go against his nature and bring in unfamiliar players.

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US roster announced for October friendlies

US manager Bob Bradley

Bob Bradley announced the roster for the October friendlies against Poland and Colombia. The big-ish surprise is that Landon Donovan was left off the roster. I am completely okay with that because Donovan has earned a break. His spot is secure. What Bradley should be doing is looking at new talent. Youngsters need a chance to break through onto the national team if the US is to have any hope at next year’s Gold Cup and the World Cup Qualifying campaign. Hopefully US Soccer made that clear to Bradley when it decided to retain him for another 4 years.

Here’s the roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard

Defenders: Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson, Eric Lichaj, Oguchi Onyewu, Michael Parkhurst, Heath Pearce, Jonathan Spector

Midfielders: Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Jermaine Jones, Brek Shea

Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Eddie Johnson

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Bob Bradley re-hired by US Soccer

US manager Bob Bradley

Like water running down a hill, the US Soccer Federation took the easy way out when it re-hired Bob Bradley for a second World Cup campaign. The better choice would have been to let him go – and pursue other opportunities, perhaps at Aston Villa or Fulham – and move forward with a different manager and, perhaps, a different philosophy. But it didn’t, perhaps because it is, in fact, afraid of change.

The US performance in South Africa was decent, but below expectations. It should have advanced past Ghana and into the quarter-finals, because that was an eminently winnable game. Although Bradley’s teams have reputations for preparation and fitness, in reality, only one of those is true.

Bradley needs to shoulder the blame for his tactical errors. The most recent is, of course, starting Ricardo Clark instead of Maurice Edu or, really, anyone else. His substitution patterns were unreadable (which, to a degree, is fine) but he clearly didn’t trust some players. Similarly, he plays his favorites too much and is too reluctant to make changes, either in personnel or in tactics. In short, he and the USSF are made for each other: overly cautious and unwilling to rock the boat.

I think this is a mistake, and I’ll likely be proven right. The USSF should have made a bolder choice.

UPDATE, 22 SEPTEMBER 2010: Grant Wahl at SI reports that Jürgen Klinsmann had all but agreed to become the new US coach. The unspoken reason that the deal didn’t get done was because of power. Apparently, Klinsmann wanted too much for the USSF’s liking.

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Manager a-go-go, part deux

US manager Bob Bradley

Now that Martin O’Neill has left Aston Villa, speculation turns to his replacement. According to the Daily Mail, Sven-Gören Eriksson, late of the Ivory Coast, and United States manager Bob Bradley are the favorites. If Villa owner Randy Lerner thinks Eriksson can do anything for his squad, he hasn’t been paying attention. On the other hand, Bradley is interested in the position and would, in fact, be a far better choice. Additionally, the US Soccer Federation’s silence is indicating that it wants to go in another direction (convenient because Bradley’s contract ends on 31 December).

So, who should replace Bradley on the US sideline? The top choice, in my opinion, is Jürgen Klinsmann. He lives in California and has an American wife. He likes living in the US and led the Germans to a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Cup. He is the only choice, especially since Guus Hiddink is off the market.

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Manager a-go-go

Roy Hodgson introduced as the new Liverpool manager

Now that some of the good teams are knocked out of the World Cup, expect a lot of movement in terms of managers in the next few weeks, for both club and country.

Javier Aguirre, Mexico. Aguirre resigned as Mexico manager, falling on his sword and taking responsibility for Mexico’s showing. To a degree, he’s right (it was a stupid decision to go with Oscar Pérez in goal and he had misplaced faith in the obviously overwhelmed Efraín Juárez). At the same time, he’s wrong because Mexico’s expectations were too high. The team that went to South Africa was a 2nd round team (perhaps a quarterfinal team if it played its socks off). That’s the first problem. The second problem was skill level. Mexico is very talented in midfield, especially with Giovanni dos Santos’s improvement over the last year. But the team has no strikers: Guillermo Franco isn’t that good and Carlos Vela isn’t developing (here’s hoping he makes a dos Santos-like breakthrough in the next year or so). When Cuauhtémoc Blano is still seriously considered for national team duty, the cupboard is bare. Mexico needs to develop young players and put its faith in them (Javier Hernández comes to mind), much like Germany has done.

Roy Hodgson, Liverpool. Hodgson left a decent Fulham team for a Liverpool squad in disarray. What he does get is a massive step up in reputation (no matter what I think about Liverpool, it’s one of the biggest clubs in the world). Hodgson is clearly a stop-gap and he might not even have been the first choice (Didier Deschamps reportedly turned Liverpool down). So, one of the biggest clubs in the world hires a middling manager with precious little success on his resume. Fascinating. I think this was a political choice and I hope Hodgson makes the best of it. But when the clear-out comes – and it will come sooner rather than later, what with the owner debt and lack of European competition – Hodgson will be the sacrificial lamb. He should’ve stayed at Fulham.

Bob Bradley, United States. Let’s make this clear: Bob Bradley should NOT be fired. Although starting Ricardo Clark was a massive error, Bradley’s system works for the United States, as it’s currently constructed. In short, he gets good results out of sometimes lacking talent (the distressing habit of allowing goals in the first 20 minutes notwithstanding). The bigger problem is that, like Mexico, the US has no go-to striker (if we’re being honest, the two best strikers are midfielders: Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey). Jozy Altidore has the potential to be very good but he needs to play like he did against Algeria all the time (he was virtually absent against Ghana). Some of that is the coach’s fault. But national team managers are put in a position where they only get to see their players for weeks at a time. It falls on the USSF, MLS, and players to get into situations to maximize their skill development.

Fabio Capello, England. Of course, the English tabloids are calling for his head. They are, if nothing else, predictable. England’s problem is similar to Mexico’s: it fancies itself a world soccer power when, in reality, it’s a middle-of-the-road player capable of extraordinary results once in a while. In fact, according to Soccernomics, England consistently punches above its weight and wins a lot of its matches, except when it counts. England’s problems are twofold: first, it’s a relatively small country, in terms of population (meaning there are fewer players to choose from) and it’s relatively insular in terms of coaching and skills development (the Everton academy is a bit of an exception). Don Fabio helps with both of those by exposing English players to Italian soccer philosophy. Second, the players it develops are all the same. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard. Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney. John Terry, Rio Ferdinand, and Jamie Carragher. Aside from skill level, they’re all basically the same player. And they can’t play together. I think Capello will learn from his mistakes and I think he has the stones to leave some of those players out next time (clearly Gerrard was England’s best player at the World Cup – he should be the captain).

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