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Struggling USA still controls its Gold Cup fate
by Ridge Mahoney, June 14th, 2011 1:32AM

TAGS:  gold cup, men's national team


[USA CONFIDENTIAL] Thanks to fortuitous scheduling, a possible "dream matchup" of the USA and Mexico in the Gold Cup knockout rounds is still on, but perhaps not at the final stage as has been anticipated. Heading into its Group C finale against Guadeloupe (0-2-0, 0 points) Tuesday in Kansas City (9 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, TeleFutura), the USA (1-1-0, 3 points) is tied for second place with Canada (1-1-0, 3 points) and can finish first, second, third, or even fourth. Group leader Panama (2-0-0, 6 points) has qualified for the quarterfinals but could finish as low as third if it loses to Canada.

Since never before had it lost in group play at a Gold Cup, the USA faces the most uncertain scenario of its 11 appearances in the competition.

Guadeloupe battled back against Panama in its opener before losing by a single goal, 3-2, and narrowly lost to Canada, 1-0, despite going down to 10 men in both games. With zero points and a minus-2 goal difference, its chances of advancement are nearly infinitesimal; it must hammer the USA and get a lot of help.

Regardless of whether it plays for pride or points, its match against the USA is Guadeloupe’s final opportunity to get something out of the Gold Cup. The Americans are reeling in the aftermath of a 2-1 loss to Panama that triggered a bombardment of criticism, most of it aimed at Coach Bob Bradley. Beating Guadeloupe won’t mute that vitriol, but a victory would move the USA into the knockout rounds and could win it the group.

The possible scenarios are these:

With a win, the USA finishes either first or second, depending on the result of the Canada-Panama game that precedes its game with Guadeloupe. The USA can advance with a tie or a loss if Canada loses, and will have that knowledge at hand when it takes the field for the last of 18 games in group play. Four of the eight quarterfinal slots are still to be decided.

The winner of Group C faces a third-place team, which if the Americans win the group would be Guatemala, which finished third in Group B by beating Grenada, 4-0. The Group C runner-up plays Group B winner Jamaica (3-0-0, 9 points), which finished group play Monday with a perfect record by beating runner-up Honduras (1-1-1, 4 points). The Hondurans play Group A runner-up Costa Rica in the first game of a quarterfinal doubleheader Saturday in the New Meadowlands.

Should the USA tie Guadeloupe, it cannot finish first in Group C. It would finish second if Canada ties or loses to Panama. If Canada wins, the group title would be decided on goal difference; Panama is plus-two (five scored, three conceded) and Canada is minus-one (one scored, two conceded). Sandwiched in between are the Americans at plus-one (three scored, two allowed).

If the USA ties Guadaloupe and Canada wins, the Americans would finish third with four points. That would set up a date with Group A winner Mexico in the quarterfinals Saturday at the New Meadowlands Stadium, and deprive the final of one of its projected participants.

Otherwise, by finishing first or second, the USA plays at RFK Sunday. As Group C winner, it would play Jamaica; as group runner-up, it would face Guatemala, with a better goal difference (plus-two) in comparison with the Group A third-place team, El Salvador (zero).

“We expect a hard game,” said Coach Bradley on the federation's Web site, “Guadeloupe is talented team, and the past Gold Cups show that as well. We understand what the game is like. Our team has always responded really well coming back from games that we weren’t satisfied with, and I know that will be the case.”

The U.S. trained for about 45 minutes Monday at Livestrong Sporting Park. No significant injuries have been reported; the session consisted of a 15-minute warm-up, followed by 11-v-11 run-through on positioning, followed by a final segment of crossing and finishing.

“We’re a little bit pissed off, frankly, at ourselves,” said captain Carlos Bocanegra of Saturday’s defeat. “You know? We have to take that one on the chin. There’s no one else to blame for that one except the players. Now coming out we need to win and we knew what this is going to take.”

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 9:46 a.m.
    Correction: If the USA wins the group, here are the scenarios: 1- If Canada beat Panama, the USA play Guatemala and Mexico plays (Canada or panama). 2- If Canada loses or draws, the USA will play El Salvador and Mexico plays Guatemala.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
    No effective tactics, no playmaker, no dependable scorer, no patience on the ball, no movement equal mediocre performances.

  1. Geno Genowicz
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 11:43 a.m.
    Here's a thought: Start your best scorers in the forward positions. Put Dempsey and Donovan up front and leave them there through the next WC, especially considering their ages by 2014. They score goals. Find outside mids Dono-Demp can work with and can also work with the Bradley-Jones tandem who have great potential. Choose your pick for today, but try starting those who are hungry, perhaps Bedoya and Adu. Gooch or Spector for Ream (or send Gooch packing). If both Gooch and Spector are match fit, Bench Goodson. Above all, stop putting forwards in who haven't already proved they can score consistently at the club level. Sub-in Wondo until we can figure out if he can score internationally, as we did with Ching. Try playing like Spain and Barcelona: Allow no easy passes, even out of the back. Stop sitting back (when was the last time Altidore sprinted to pressure the ball out of opponents' defensive third?). I am sick and tired of pretend jogging when we should pressuring the ball. It's basic soccer: shorten the opponent's time and space everywhere on the field. Continue building a patient, short-passing offense, also out of the back. Note that Howard did not punt against Panama, which is one of the few good things about that match. If Ream is so good at this type of passing, perhaps try him as an outside mid, but not today. Work on those combinations we used toward the end of the Panama match, and the goals will come.

  1. John Soares
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 2:14 p.m.
    WOW!!! Thank you Ric. All we need is a new coach and change the line up and we WILL be.... "playing like Spain or Barcelona". It's so simple. Why are you the ONLY one that sees it!?

  1. David Huff
    commented on: June 14, 2011 at 6:32 p.m.
    Well . . well . . well, I see that Ragin' John has provided his "insight" that no change is necessary to the Team Bradley jalopey. After all, if nuthin' is broken why fit it? Even if something is broken, why bother? Well I refuse to accept the status quo of intentional mediocrity. If change doesn't start now, then when? If we are even having to think seriously about the danger of being eliminated from the Gold Cup competition by "mighty" Guadaloupe what does that say about our program? I don't know where Ragin' John has been when he states that Ric is the only one that has said that changes are needed but evidently he has not been following the many posts on the SA boards submitted by USMNT fans requesting fundamental changes to the USSF's structure, including the dismissal of MLS Bob. SA's pre-eminent writer no less, Paul Gardner, has written several article pieces calling for similar changes. It is time for Bradley, Gulati and Flynn to go, their time has passed.

  1. Jamie Nicewander
    commented on: June 15, 2011 at 12:29 p.m.
    William Walkiewicz-good assessement of what needs to be done. I agree. We need players who are hungry to prove themselves and who aren't there for a free ride.

  1. Philippe Fontanelli
    commented on: June 15, 2011 at 2:08 p.m.
    I didn't even waste my time to read Mahoney's article. I am sure it is full on inanane excuses of the Bradleys. He is an idiot and one of the "good old boys" who sold his soul. I have only read the "rebuttals" of all of you. Thanks to all!

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