US Holds Down The Fort, Marches On To The Final
Yesterday, I was absolutely stunned as the US Men's National Team put in, perhaps, their most impressive performance of all-time.
No, the US team did not play the sexy footballing style of Brazil. No, the US team did not play with the same extraordinary finesse as Spain. And no, the US team did not outplay Spain en route to their greatest victory of all-time in a FIFA sponsored tournament.
However, what the US did do was turn in one of the most well-executed game plans in the history of American soccer.
If you have read any of my previous articles on the US Men's National Team, you know that I am not exactly fond of Bob Bradley as a coach. While I am not going to backtrack on my previous articles, I must give Bob Bradley some well-deserved props after yesterday's performance.
I'll even go so far as to say—yesterday, Bob Bradley absolutely deserved the title of US Men's National Team Coach.
And, if anyone says that this victory is any less sweet or deserved, because the US team was outplayed (arguably even dominated), that person seriously misunderstands sport, particularly football.
To have expected the Americans to come out and match the Spaniards style of play is entirely unreasonable, quite frankly, even insane. No one who watches European football could ever mistake Landon Donovan for Cesc Fabregas, Jozy Altidore for Fernando Torres, Charlie Davies for David Villa, so to have asked the Americans to engage the Spaniards in direct combat would have been suicide.
Instead, Bob Bradley devised a game plan centered around using the appropriate American players to the best of their abilities. For the first time, Bradley selected the right group of American players; and, in doing so, pulled off the greatest win of all-time for American soccer.
If you didn't watch the match, the game-plan was concentrated on great defensive shape, great defensive pressure, and counterattacking to alleviate pressure.
Every player performed exactly what was asked of him, and even more in some cases.
I have never seen an American back-four perform as cohesively, strongly, and productively as they did yesterday. Bradley knew to win this game his defense would have to perform in a way it never had before, and it did.
This is the defense he must stick with, Bocanegra's leadership was uncanny, Onyewu and DeMerit were unbeatable, and Spector was brilliant on the right. Without any one of those players on the field against Spain, there is no way the US is headed to the final Sunday.
Additionally, there is no way I could, in good conscious, write this article without mentioning Oguchi Onyewu's performance. He was not only the Americans' best player, but the best player on the pitch yesterday.
There was not one head-ball he didn't win, he shutdown Torres, he shutdown Villa, he blocked shots, and he was quite simply unbelievable. During yesterday's performance, Onyewu showed he deserves a lucrative contract playing in a first class European league.
Now the Americans must put Wednesday behind them and focus on Sunday. In all likelihood, they will be facing Brazil and must replicate what they did against Spain to have a chance to hoist the Confederations Cup trophy in the air.
And, while I'm still not sold on Bradley, he won my respect yesterday by demonstrating he can coach this team to victory against a far superior opponent.
Thus, the next step for Bradley and the US Men's National team is to build upon the Spain match.
They must put in a strong performance Sunday in the final, showing that matches like Egypt and Spain were not flukes, rather the standard that the proud American soccer community can expect from their team every time they step on the pitch.
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