The Confederations Cup – A Week Later

Are we taking the easy way out by letting this team off the hook?

In the week following the crushing loss to Brazil, the national media has continued to comment on the game and the tournament as a whole, with the predominant feeling being “Moral Victory”.

Moral victories, in case you didn’t know, occur when a team loses a game, but gains something valuable from the result.

In a game the American side led at half, what was the value of losing?

The common response is “We learned that this team can compete with the best” – fair enough. But, didn’t we think that before? We just beat Spain earlier in the week. The US talent pool is deeper than it’s ever been, with players plying their trade in the top flights across the globe.

Sure, there isn’t a true American superstar at a top-level club, but guys like Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Jonathan Spector, Michael Bradley, and Carlos Bocanegra are all players that start for their teams in Europe. Landon Donovan is obviously a quality player, despite only playing in MLS, just the same as Charlie Davies is an obvious talent despite only playing in Sweden.

The point is – we have talent, even if it’s not riddled with superstars like Kaka or Fernando Torres. There has never been any reason to doubt our players’ talent and their ability to compete with the best.

No moral victory there.

After the turnaround from losing 3-0 to Brazil to dominating Egypt in a 3-0 win, the consensus became “Bob Bradley proved he can motivate this team and is the right guy for our World Cup run in 2010” – really? We’re taking a moral victory from finishing 1-2 in Group play, a win over Spain, and a collapse against Brazil as “Bob is our guy”?

Considering how poor we looked against Brazil and Italy – and how every single fan was calling for Bradley’s head – we’re ready to that quickly give Bradley the credit for this?

Yes, Bradley gets credit for a few things, namely the introduction of Charlie Davies to the starting lineup. However, with the media playing up the “US still has a chance, but has to score at least 3 goals” angle to drive ratings, could Bradley really afford to not start his fastest player? That move was more about his hand being forced than him making a tactical decision. With Beasley consistently playing as the opponent’s 12th man, what other option did Bradley have?

What’s being glossed over in the wake of our loss is the fact that Bradley proved, time and time again, that his decisions as a coach are poor. He hasn’t shown the ability to impact the game from the bench at all in his stint as head coach, often making poor choices as to who to bring in and take off. What’s even worse is that his timing for decisions is a detriment, as he often waits until too late in games to make his changes.

The decisions throughout the tournament were poor ones at best, highlighted by the decisions to start Kljestan and Beasley against Brazil in group play. Beasley started and made an assist on a Brazil goal, leading to his number being called at halftime (even though it probably should have been called at around the 25th minute). Kljestan played 53 turnover-laden minutes, constantly giving the ball to Brazil’s midfielders before committing a reckless challenge and getting sent off.

Kljestan then made substitution appearances against Spain and Brazil, and while he didn’t commit any reckless challenges, he continued to be a turnover machine in the midfield.

Obviously Bradley made some decent decisions and the US team didn’t win in spite of him, but I find it a bit ridiculous to be singing his praises.

It certainly doesn’t appear to be any great moral victory. There didn’t seem to be any sense of "moral victory” among the US players after the loss in the final. They were just as upset and disappointed as we should be.

As fans, we can be proud of our guys for a good match, but we also have a right to be upset at a poor performance. Wins against Spain and Egypt, along with one good half against Brazil shouldn’t be a satisfactory result – it’s merely proof that we should and could have done better.

We didn’t win any astounding moral victories.

We just fell short.


9 Responses

  1. No.

    The U.S. won in spite of Bradley. Don’t make that mistake. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They stepped up as a team and realized that their coach is incompetent, and they knocked off Spain and should have beaten Brazil. All without any positive contributions from Bradley. This man shouldn’t even be an MLS coach; that’s how bad he is at his job.

    • I hear you on that one, however I was trying to maintain some semblance of political correctness in that write-up. Thanks for all the comments Kevin, keep’em comin’!

      • Will do! This blog is great, and I really like your thoroughness and complete coverage of the team. It’s also nice because it has ONE focus and one only, unlike other sites I go to like SBI or Soccer Insider by Steve Goff. There are sometimes too many varying subjects, so it’s nice to come here and read all USMNT content.

        Keep up the great work!

  2. I, too, have noticed so many people/outlets referring to the “great” Confed Cup performance over the past week and it leaves me confused.

    Unfortunately, I think it’s a sobering reminder that Americans do not understand their team, the sport, and expectations remain at a low level – allowing Bob to remain at the helm. Many people don’t appreciate that, while we certainly don’t have a team full of all-stars, the pool we are working with warrants higher expectations – even against the world’s best.

    Pro-Bob folk – including Michael Bradley – were so upset about the negative responses the the Italy and Brazil games produced; however, I thought it was a great sign. When people pay attention and complain, coaches and team management are forced to listen. We see it in every other sport in this country – and it’s certainly present in soccer elsewhere. Vocal fans also confirm that people are watching and they care. This “we won one game of four against legitimate opponents so you can’t criticize anything” mentality is ludicrous.

    What boggles my mind is that there are soccer “savvy” people out there who don’t acknowledge the problems uncovered in this tournament: we play a poor formation, we can put together one solid half but certainly not a 90-minute game, long-ball soccer is acceptable, and Bob’s overall approach is poor.

    I feel like US Soccer is in the Twilight Zone: people are still celebrating that we’re “competitive” and I think to myself: Wasn’t that what we were saying in 2002? I’d hope in 7+ years, with a better talent pool, people would expect – demand – more.

    Ultimately, there isn’t much to take away from giving up a 2-goal lead in a single half.

  3. Bradley is not fit to coach at the international level, but we have known this for some time.

    The Confed Cup has shown us that we have the talent to be a good side. Are we Brazil, England, or Germany? Hell no, but we should be in the company of nations like Croatia, Russia and Paraguay. Nations that on any given day can knock-off the elite nations, and can make deep runs at the high level competitions.

    It also showed us that if we want to be one of those nations, to be taken seriously by the footballing world, we are going to need a foreign coach. One who is immune to the MLS politics, who will call in USA’s best consistently without regard to local pressures.

  4. I left the Confed Cup feeling proud and disappointed at the same time. Proud of the fight our players put up (in spite of their coach practically working against them) qualifying against a decent opponent in Egypt then taking it to Spain. We showed a heart and desire that I’ve rarely seen from U.S. teams. I figured my disappointment in the final would wither as a day or so passed but it just made me realize that if we had a better coach we could have easily held on to that lead. The subs he made and when he made them sealed our fate. Obviously there are some great things we can take out of this tournament (confidence, experience, and talented players showing they deserve to be playing more) but there just continues to be one glaring deficiency that outshines them all and threatens to put a roadblock in the way of any U.S. successes, and that of course would be Bob Bradley.

  5. As usual, I’m in agreement with the general opinion. But while I wouldn’t award Kljestan any awards, he wasn’t that bad. Only one lost ball credited to him and a pass-completion rate (70%) that was 15% higher than Feilhaber (55%). (To be fair, Feilhaber didn’t lose any balls.)

    The problem was that when Sacha did botch a pass, it killed an attack. And part of that could be that Sacha comes on when we’re bunkering and attacks are so infrequent that you notice when one starts and when it dies. Benny’s been part of so many attacks, that I’m sure he ended a couple too, but it always felt like the next one was right behind it.

    I think what ultimately upset me about the tournament was that it seemed like our guys proved they could play attacking soccer and keep up with Italy, Spain, Egypt, and Brazil. And yet, 45 minutes in, the coach puts on the brakes and tells the guys essentially “I don’t know how you did that . . . but let’s bunker down and play it safe now.” (Of course not even subbing in the right personnel for that strategy.)

    Fixed fortifications and 1-9-1 formations are monuments to man’s stupidity.

  6. i agree, bradley must go, but that win against spain bought him a ticket to south africa, so i’m afraid we’re stuck.

    v. Brazil, a goal at 46min and no subs until they were down 3-2 is reason enough to kick Bradley off the field. He was frozen and too scared to act.

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