Team USA Needs To Wake Up and Rebound Quickly
If you listen really closely, you can hear the rest of the world chanting, "I told you so!"
These chants are directed at the US Men's National Team, who was sent crashing back down to earth after an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at the hands of Costa Rica.
In recent months, the US program had been soaring high thanks to a lofty ranking and the recent struggles of Mexico. Without a doubt, the US had earned the label of "best team in CONCACAF" and had to be a player in conversations about the best team in the Western Hemisphere.
Until their trip to the Saprissa, that is.
The US came in ranked 14th in the world, their highest since somehow climbing up to number five just before the 2006 World Cup. Costa Rica was ranked 41st, and even though the US has historically struggled in Costa Rica, most fans still expected a win or a draw for Sam's Army.
What we got was far from the desire result. Make no mistake, the 3-1 scoreline is actually flattering to the US. Costa Rica scored twice in the first 15 minutes and was never in any danger of losing control of the game. It took a Landon Donovan penalty in second half stoppage time for the US to grab even a consolation goal.
It was one of those performances where you're better off just burning the tape and moving on.
So how does the US rebound?
First of all, they've got to look at the positives. A win over Honduras on Saturday night puts them right back atop the CONCACAF standings.
They can also look at the struggles of their neighbors to the south and realize that things aren't all bad. If qualifying were to end today, Mexico wouldn't even be guaranteed a spot in South Africa, they'd have to win a playoff against the fifth-placed team from CONMEBOL to qualify.
Next, Bob Bradley needs to take a good, hard look at his lineup from Wednesday night and make some major changes. It won't be easy, but it's clear that this side could use a shock to their system.
End the DaMarcus Beasley experiment
As much as I hate to say it, Beasley's mistakes in the back line were a huge factor in the loss to Costa Rica. He's not a defender now, he's never been a defender in the past, and it's clear that he can't be counted on to defend in the future. Plus, he seems to have lost a step from the deadly pace that made him such a valuable weapon in the past.
Beasley no longer warrants automatic inclusion in the side. If he can string together some club appearances without getting injured, and regain the form that we know he is capable of, then he'll be welcomed back with open arms. Until then...the US can't afford to have such a huge liability in their back line.
End the questionable substitutions
Every column I've read in the aftermath of the loss has pointed out a major mistake on Bradley's part: the substitution of Jose Francisco Torres in favor of Sacha Kljestan.
Torres was one of the few US players who was actually able to retain possession and make decent passes during the first half. His reward was a seat on the bench.
I'm not upset that Kljestan was brought on, but why not have him replace Pablo Mastroeni, who looked completely overwhelmed?
Bradley was clearly thinking offense, but bringing on an offensive player at the expense of your only competent midfielder is a lateral move at best. Good thought, poor execution.
Much Adu about Davies
If nothing else, Charlie Davies' performance in the last 10 minutes of the match merits a role in the starting lineup against Honduras. He displayed good pace and a quality first touch, and actually created a couple of good opportunities. Reward his work with a starting position and see what he is capable of doing when he's got a full 90 minutes to work.
Freddy Adu is also worth a spot in the starting lineup. He kept possession of the ball pretty well, and I've got a sneaking suspicion that he would combine quite well with Landon Donovan and Davies. He's dynamic, he's got pace, and he's got better vision than anybody else available to Bradley at the moment.
Hejduk needs an heir
Frankie Hejduk was the lone reason that the US was able to come back and earn a draw with El Salvador earlier in the qualifying cycle. He's a crafty veteran who keeps himself in great shape and knows how to lead a defense.
His presence was sorely missed against Costa Rica. Marvel Wynne is a great athlete, but he's not ready to assume Hejduk's role, not yet.
Frankie Simek or Jonathan Spector should be given a run out if Hejduk can't go against Honduras. Spector wasn't even in the 18-man squad to face Costa Rica for some strange reason despite the fact that he's the most versatile defender Bradley has at his disposal.
Don't be scared against Honduras
Bradley can't be afraid to put some under-performing vets on the bench this weekend. Mastroeni and Beasley need to sit and make way for some new players. The last time the US lost at home during World Cup qualifying was in 2001, so Bradley should feel comfortable changing things up a little bit.
This game is a very important one. A victory will give the US some momentum heading into the Confederations Cup. A loss, and they might as well not even bother to show up.
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