Slow start, sloppy play doom USA

[USA-PANAMA] Here are three points of emphasis following the USA’s 2-1 loss to Panama in the Concacaf Gold Cup Saturday night in Tampa, Fla.:

Sluggish first half is costly. Again. After scoring in the 15th minute to take a lead they held until the final whistle against Canada, the Americans said all the right things about how important a strong start would be against Panama, which lost, 2-1, in the 2007 and 2009 Gold Cup quarterfinals after playing them to a 0-0 tie in the 2005 final.

But the Panamanians outhustled and outmuscled the USA early, and scored the first goal when Eduardo Dasent nailed a header that keeper Tim Howard parried but couldn’t smother, and defender Clarence Goodson, who was grappling with Luis Tejada for the rebound, scuffed the loose ball into his own net. The play began when the USA cleared a free kick but nobody marked up on Dasent when Gabriel Gomez played the ball back into the goalmouth.

The second goal resulted from a penalty kick when Tim Ream wound up to clear a ball from his own penalty area and instead whacked Blas Perez as the Panamanian stepped between Ream and the ball. Gomez slammed the penalty into the top corner for a 2-0 halftime lead; the U.S. got one back when Clarence Goodson nodded in Michael Bradley’s header from a Landon Donovan corner kick midway through the second half.

At the World Cup last summer, in three of four games the USA fell behind and had to rally. It successfully did so against England (1-1) and Slovenia (2-2) in group play, and against Ghana in the round of 16, it rallied from 1-0 down, but conceded again early in extra time and never caught up.

Poor play under pressure. Canada conceded a lot of space in midfield and seldom put high pressure on the U.S. back line and central midfielders as they built up U.S. attacks. Panama took a different approach.

Panama pressed from the outset, and kept a tight watch on U.S. forwards Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo. Without those outlets up top, and space and time constricted in many parts of the field, the Americans struggled to keep the ball and move it forward cohesively. Not until Coach Bob Bradley used all three of his subs on attacking players – Alejandro Bedoya, Sacha Kljestan and Chris Wondolowski -- did the USA mount anything more than disjointed, sputtering efforts.

Its primary attacking catalysts -- Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Dempsey -- all seemed off their games, and once the Panamanians scored the first goal, their athleticism and enthusiasm -- plus a monster game by centerback and captain Felipe Baloy -- overwhelmed the USA until Bedoya and Kljestan came onto the field on the hour.

Feeble finishing. After Goodson scored, the Americans fluffed numerous opportunities to equalize. Wondolowski hit the most egregious miss, volleying over the bar from about four yards out when presented a hard, centering pass by Altidore. Michael Bradley steered a first-time shot just wide to nullify a superb sequence of one-touch combination play, and in stoppage time, after keeper Jaime Penedo turned a bouncing Altidore header over the bar, the big striker headed a shot on frame that caromed off Dempsey and fell to Donovan, who blazed his shot well off-target.

27 comments about "Slow start, sloppy play doom USA".
  1. ckg beautiful game, June 12, 2011 at 7:32 a.m.

    if I lost accounts like Bradley has lost games I would be out of work.

  2. Bill Anderson, June 12, 2011 at 8:21 a.m.

    FACT: US Soccer and Bob Sr. just lost to the FIFA #67 Panama at home. FACT: US Soccer head coach Bob Sr. is well known to be the "fallback position" manager (a second stringer). FACT US Soccer has not put the product on the field at the forefront in decision making. FACT: Sunil Gulati and Chuck Blazer have been instrumental in the current state of demise of the US National Team. OPINION: The US has played in front of EMPTY stadiums (except for the visiting fans), and this may well be the reason Sunil would sack Bob Sr. How long must this madness continue?

  3. Paul Bryant, June 12, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.

    If the USMNT doesn't get to the Gold Cup finals, Bob Bradley should be sacked. Watching the game was proof positive that either Mr. Bradley's message isn't getting across, or he is send the wrong message to his players. Panama's defensive agressiveness neutarlize the US forwards and Panama's counter attack had the mids and backs on their heels. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but Landon Donavan's body lanuage tells me he is disinterested in playing full-out under BB system. Also, is Jonathan Spector hurt? Ream and Goodson looked overmatched in the backline. If they meet in the finals, Mexico will have a field day with them.

  4. Roque Lopez, June 12, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.

    Yes, Probably most of you have some bit of reason to blame Mr. Bob. At the end of each game I always think the players are 90% responsible. even if Bob make a wrong decision in having a player on the field that is not performing good, he still have other that should be giving their heart fro this country. This US team posses good players but their mistake is believing that they do not need to work anymore. Do not forget that always you will have somebody out there trying to beat US teams.
    The issue with US teams is not Bob, for me always ends on the US Soccer Federation. The future of a team should not be based in one night loss. The future should be based in how the Federation is working with the youth soccer. I really do not feel sorry or sad because of the loss, I feel sad when I look at the future and I do not think we are getting somewhere. Who will we blame it to then?

  5. cony konstin, June 12, 2011 at 11:35 a.m.

    It is hard to swallow when someone comes into your house and hammers you in front of your fans but it is even worst when they do it to our red, white and blue. And it should matter even if you hate soccer or love soccer. No body should come into our house and hammer us. But the US team will be fine. They will go back and lick their wounds and go at it once again. Meanwhile the question we must ask ourselves is what do we need to do to become a soccer nation and win a world cup? We don't need an international coach. Why? Because coaching is overrated. Players win championships not coaches. But I will tell you what we need and actually one part of what we need to do is what Spain implemented after they flamed out in 1982 WC. They established futsal in every grade school. I have a little different twist to that. We need to create a NEW SPARTA but first we must do this first. Soccer in the US is considered a hobby. Soccer outside of the US is considered a way of life. Until we have 5 year olds playing futsal everyday in the inner cities of America we will never have magical players that can help the US to be the best in world soccer. Coaching is totally overrated. Players win championships not coaches. We need players and they are not going to come from $250 soccer shoes, beautiful soccer complexes, gimmicks, suburbia soccer environment, or the soccer system that exist in the US. There is GOLD in them mountains. But them mountains are located in the HOODS of America and not the suburbs. Suburbia soccer has it's place. For some it is a form of day care and for others it is country club. If US wants special players they will only come from the Barrios and Ghettos of America. US Soccer is wasting their money and time with Suburbia Soccer. The US needs a soccer revolution and that revolution must begin in our inner cities. Until then we will continue to hang in there. I have been preaching this for 36 years. I have been almost all over the world. I know exactly what we need to do and that is to create a NEW SPARTA. Everything else is smoke n mirrors.

  6. David Sirias, June 12, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.

    This is all on bob. Player development is a long term problem The immediate problem I'd bob and the sychophantic media
    His roster, tactics, and lineups are the same Even in a tournament
    Form and fitness should be everything on a national team. But not with bob.
    Because the whole world knows that bob plays without a central creative mid and a big hole between the defense and attack, bob makes it easy for other teams to prepare The USA is not going to the world cup with bob at the helm. That's the reality we face But will the media jeopardize their " access" by telling the truth ?

  7. Bill Anderson, June 12, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.

    David, no attacking mid and no cohesion between the mids and the backs. No logical progression on how to work the ball forward. No ideas on how to create opportunities in the box (see no attacking mid). Anybody doubt this?

  8. David Parsons, June 12, 2011 at 12:21 p.m.

    @Cony Konstin:

    The only thing I will add is that suburbia will still be a part of the solution. Futsal is the answer, then mix the melting pot of American cultures to create the American Soccer player. The best mix of strength, speed, skill, and unpredictability that the different cultures bring to the table. Coaching is overrated, but we need examples of style and approach from the all levels. U17 Coach Wilmer Cabrera is a great example of the above.

  9. Mike Terich, June 12, 2011 at 12:22 p.m.

    5 observations:

    1. Backline play was shockingly poor

    2. Entire team seemed disinterested until the final 20 minutes

    3. Howard could/should have smothered the the shot he parried that lead to the first goal

    4. For the 2nd consecutive game, Donovan's touch, pace, & creativity seemed lacking

    5. The referee lost control of the game and once that happened our boys seemed to check out (more so than they already were) whereas Panama knuckled down & used the poor refereeing to their advantage

  10. Tom Kondas, June 12, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.

    Con on Konstin, you're arguing against yourself. You are absolutely right that we need to get the game into the inner city and that is where are best athletes are. In practically every othr country the best athletes play soccer because it is the national game, here soccer has to compete with the other ssports, just imagine if a Lebron or a Wade had gone into soccer. However, you are wrong about coaching being irrelevant, we need experienced players, after they've hung up their shoes, to give back to the game by coaching the youth. How can we instill the talent you call for if we don't have coaches who can show kids how to trap, possess, or other foot skills, unfortunately we have too many parents who have never played (ie: Bob Bradley)
    and therefore cannot teach something they don't know, not only foot skill but defensive alignment, midfield possession, etc. We have not become any better in the past 30 years because we have not developed our youth as other countries where by age 9 the youth know the skill, here they are just learning how to kick at that age.

  11. George Harrison (Jr.), June 12, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.

    Some interesting comments. Personally, I think that perhaps we already have some of the types of hard working, creative players many folks here reference, our system never goes to seek them out, never identifies them, and never develops them. I'm thinking that some of those players are at it right now in fields, streets and other places, but no one goes to find them... just and odd thought of mine after a disappointing USA performance... coaching and managing do matter... if not there wouldn'nt be anyone doing it...

  12. Steve Buttle, June 12, 2011 at 2:47 p.m.

    Ridge, admit that it is time to write the article that Bob has to go. This is the last last straw. What else does the guy have to do to get fired? You wrote an article defending him the other day, now you need to be honest. His greatest achievement was the Confed Cup. Let's look at that accomplishment. He gets credit for using Davies with Altidore in a 4-4-2. Our formation of the last two years. What you don't admit is that he ONLY put in Davies and used the 4-4-2 after he had NO choice because he needed an attacking line up in the final group game. Crickets re Davies before the Egypt game. We never used the 4-4-2 against good teams before he was forced to use it. Hard to give him credit for something he had no choice, but to use it. At the WC he gets credit for winning the group, when in reality our play underwhelmed and England imploded. Thanks to an absolute gift of a draw we should have been semifinalists, but we did our notorious slow start and choked that away. Does that slow start sound familiar? Every example of a coach doing 2 successive WCs indicates disaster (don't bring up the ones that won it, we don't fit in that box). Ridge do you believe Bob is the exception to history? He watches games, but that doesn't make him a tactician. Quit being an apologist and and write the truth. Thank goodness I get these writeups for free. I still feel I paid too much. Unfortunately we are starved for coverage or I could ignore you. Admit it...BOB MUST GO!!!

  13. John Singer, June 12, 2011 at 3:25 p.m.

    Panama--population 3 million, far less than my local metro area, yet most of their players seemed more natural, comfortable with the ball on their feet than our national team. The broadcaster repetetively mentioned that Panama was bunkering on defense; yet he also repeated that they were flustering the US by committing so many players to the attack. I think both are true--getting forward and getting back as a team. Love my country, but after down 2-0 I was thinking, maybe another 2 or three in our net would catalyze some change in the system. Little Bradley stays, but sadly, because he seems a nice man, big Bradley must go. As has been said, the first halves have exposed our team as unprepared and unmotivated.

  14. Robin Andrews, June 12, 2011 at 4:35 p.m.

    It is shocking to see that a small country like Panama has better atacking play than the USA. Better touches on the ball than the USA. Also less diving than the USA. At least there was little of the constant ugly fouling that has become chronic. I believe that the Panamainians were just too big and strong to be bullied unlike many other teams we play. I am so tired of watchiing Bob Brabley's excuse for soccer. Why has this gone on for so long? I think that the blame has gone past Bradley. We need to get rid of Gulati and Bradley. Maybe then things can at head in the right diection. If you need an American coach, try Jason Kreis. At least he has the right idea.

  15. James Froehlich, June 12, 2011 at 4:47 p.m.

    Don't anyone get too excited about Ridge stopping his blind support for BB and everything USSF. Why? Because there is a bigger conspiracy than even Ridge will admit. It's the soccer cabal consisting of MLS owners, upper management of USSF and the college coaching fraternity. This ancient order of soccer troglodytes is determined to prevent the overthrow of the current soccer regime by anyone bearing the banner of skilled, small, Hispanic players!! This group ensures that only positive things are said about US players in blogs and on TV. Anyone who violates that rule is banned from all soccer positions, club, college, or professional. If you play by the rules you get press access and jobs. NOW that's a conspiracy Ridge -- want to compare notes?? I have a small Bisto in St. Louis that we could meet at and no one would know!!!!!!!

  16. . Lev, June 12, 2011 at 5:47 p.m.

    Anyway you view it -all roads lead to Rome.
    Bob must go.
    It's a no-brainer

  17. Andres Yturralde, June 12, 2011 at 7:25 p.m.

    Maybe we’re being overly critical— overly analytical— and blowing things out of proportion. The fact is that Panama ruled the first half, and the USA dominated the second half. It was nice to watch Panama work its own style to move the ball upfield, and it was just as nice to watch the USA do its own thing. Without taking the match too out of context, the truth is the USA missed a couple of clear opportunities to defend better and to equalize. We should certainly blame the coach for the team’s sluggish start, but this fact remains: the chances were there for the USA to defend better and to capitalize— but they did not. Howard and Ream messed up defensively; Wondolowski and Donovan messed up offensively. It’s as simple as that. The players must be held accountable for the execution.

  18. Paul Bryant, June 12, 2011 at 9:46 p.m.

    Andres, it wasn't so much that the team "messed up," but the enormatiy of the game. Winning this game would have put through to the quarter finals. Everyone who is a fan is extremely disappointed.

  19. Luis Arreola, June 12, 2011 at 11:06 p.m.

    Ric, When are people going to wake up? What interest would Academies have to develop players if their reward lies in winning Championships? All these youth travel leagues and federations are designed to help them do just that so they get their piece. Can you believe that a club can fly in up to 50% out of state players to play in a State Cup for them? Can you believe that these same rules state that a U12 player can't play on 2 state cup teams within his club(his age and U13) ?
    Academies are usually the only ones that can afford to fly kids in to make sure they win to further falsely market themselves as a Player Development Academy. Meanwhile the much cheaper clubs that usually develop the kids these Academies steal don't even have a chance to compete. Too many times you will see small clubs with unknown players compete very tightly vs these Academy clubs full of well known top talent and later losing their players to these said.e teams

  20. Ron R, June 13, 2011 at 12:04 a.m.

    So many comments about coaching and whether it matters or not... If it doesn't matter, why do the Premier League clubs in danger of relegation change their coaches to stay up? They do it becuase they know that the proper STYLE with the proper MOTIVATION can change a team in a very short time. I like Bob Bradley and think he is a good person but I do not think he can get this team to perform. And I have to say that seeing the same player called up for 3 World Cups should only happen if they are superstars and we have about 3 superstars.. Landon, Tim and Clint. The rest should be moving on and taking their bows. This is a game for the young, and the hungry and Bradley's blind loyalty and stifling style of play is killing us!

  21. cony konstin, June 13, 2011 at 1:01 a.m.

    Everyone relax. The US national team is going to be fine. They will bounce back. I propose that Sunil create a task force to create a new soccer revolution in the USA. Soccer in US has hit a wall. Everything that has been done has taken us as far as we can go. We need something more to take us to the next level. It is time to create a sandlot soccer experience for kids starting at age 5. It must be free, 7 days a week, created in the inner cities, concrete lighted futsal courts, facilators, no coaching, free play, play till you lose, the MLS, USSF, PAL, city gov't and school districts must get involve in making this a reality. We need 1000's of concrete futsal courts all over the USA. This is the environment that is going to create magical players. Coaching is not going to create that. Trust me. I have been coaching for 36 years. Coaching is totally overrated. Once this enviroment is created and these 5 year olds have been playing everyday for 7 years then the MLS can go and recruit from these courts some of the nastiest players that the US has ever seen. Meanwhile we all need to let things continue because there isn't much more that can be done. US has max out. We need to start to pay real attention to the future and not put so much emphasis on the present. Very few people in the US care if the US wins or loses against third world countries in soccer. So please Sunil lets start a revolution in our inner cities. The kids in hood are starving for opportunity. The time is now!!!

  22. Bryan Kempf, June 13, 2011 at 7:51 a.m.

    Let's all calm down a little... We win on Tuesday and we are into the next round. If we don't, then we can have the "heads are gonna roll" discussion. Until then, here are some ideas for the future... The back line is weak. But Spector has more experience against quality players then most any USMNT player. So I'd like to see Spector and Bocanegra in central defense, with Bornstein and Cherundolo on the flanks. Regardless of some peoples hate for His dad, Michael Bradley is our most important field player. He does so much behind the scenes and his work rate is amazing. So around him, I'd like to see Donovan and Adu on the wings, (Yes Adu... He's been solid for the USMNT) and Fielhaber, Bradley, and Dempsey in the middle, with Dempsey in a free flowing attacking role. And I guess Agudelo up top. I'd bench Altidore perminently and try Gooch up top before throwing Jozy out there again. But I really believe we miss Fielhaber's creativity, and could use a small winger with pace like Adu could possibly become. Oh, and I miss Jay Demerit.

  23. Andres Yturralde, June 13, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.

    To Paul: I’m not so sure you’re right. When I said the players “messed up,” I meant that there was at least a couple of defensive and offensive lapses which cost the USA three points. Yes, Panama was very animated and the USA was very sluggish, but the chances were there for the USA to convert and either equalize or win the game. As a fan, I think you shouldn’t be “extremely disappointed.” This was not the final; it was the second game of the tournament. To be honest, I was more disappointed with the USA plan and performance during the friendly against Spain than during this game against Panama… But that’s just me. To Ric: Yes, I did watch the game—in Spanish and English—just to get different views. And I am not a Sr. Bradley supporter; I can’t really support a guy who almost never shows any emotion during the game… But again, that’s just me. I do think his son is bold enough and competent enough to be on the team, but Sr. Bradley himself should have resigned or been terminated a long time ago. Pero eso es otro cantar! (But that’s another story!) What we’re dealing with in this article is “Slow start, sloppy play doom USA.” So why are we getting ahead of ourselves—or behind ourselves—talking about a grassroots revolution all of a sudden? It’s the wrong place and the wrong time to do it. If we really want a revolution, we better get organized and start demonstrating as soon as the USA exits this tournament. Otherwise, we’re being as uncoordinated and as disingenuous as all the people we’re complaining about.

  24. Ron R, June 13, 2011 at 9:52 a.m.

    Bradley continues to use a strategy of "let's sit back and see what they have" when we should be putting other teams on THEIR heels. We have speed and power up front but we seem to like to be opportunistic on attack and play scared for the first half. Case in point was Bradley's refusal to play Buddle in SA when his only crime was an attacking mindset... He was our hottest player at the time and our best chance to stretch teams and make it difficult for them to push forward on us in numbers. I am tired of watching our team play scared, it isn't our nature.

  25. Bryan Kempf, June 13, 2011 at 10:35 a.m.

    Is there a soccer movement in the ghetto's that I'm not aware of? Here's what has held up the development in america... The lack of quality soccer on tv! It's getting better everyday and has come a long way in the last 5 years. I quit playing high school soccer 10 years ago and my game has improved 10 fold from watching the EPL on a regular basis. (thx FSC) Kids need to see the game at it's best, love the game like other kids in other countries, and then build on that with quality training. Great players aren't taught... They are inspired.

  26. David Huff, June 13, 2011 at 5:11 p.m.

    @Konstin, spot-on comments with regard to the use of futsal ball by youth players, the improved touch it provides is priceless. Also, don't rule out Suburbia entirely, they are still a potential source of great players. Kaka from Brasil is a good example, he comes from the wealthy class (not Suburbia) and he is world class.
    @James, I agree with you on the USSF/MLS conspiracy connection and also include SUM because they have a great influence as well on how our USMNT is set up. Team Bradley needs to go . . .

  27. Luis Arreola, June 14, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.

    Huff, Suburbia right now is the #1 source now but only because that is where the money is. Great players are sometimes given a chance to showcase their talent in Suburbia when the scholarships are offered. Most of the time they are brought in to help the club win and not to develop them individually. Why? Because that is not where the money is for coaches,clubs in the USA. In Chicago the players that make it pro are mostly Hispanic/Mexican descent that are looked at in Hispanic leagues, from Hispanic Clubs, to go directly to Mexican League. Few of them come from "Academy" clubs and if they do they usually were only their for 1-2 years max developing mostly with small/ Hispanic clubs. IS this coincidence?? I don't think so. American and now Mexican parents too get sucked in playing for the Top winning clubs for their own personal satisfaction and turn a blind eye on their child's developement.

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