Photo by ISIphotos.com
It is the day after one of the U.S. national team's most dramatic victories of the past decade and although a stiff test awaits on Wednesday in World No. 1 Spain, the Americans have earned the right to celebrate their great escape into the semifinals.
After all, two straight losses to Italy and Brazil had led to a mountain of criticism, some of it valid and some of it overboard, that made you wonder whether the Americans could realistically get up off the mat and play with the heart and fight and ability we have seen past U.S. teams show. The U.S. team did just that, winning a game it had to have, silencing critics and bolstering supporter's at the same time.
So when Michael Bradley dropped this gem after Sunday's 3-0 victory against Egypt, you could certainly understand where he was coming from:
"All the f—— experts in America, everybody who thinks they know about soccer, they can all look at the score tonight and let's see what they have to say now. Nobody has any respect for what we do, for what goes on on the inside, so let them all talk now."
In case you missed it, here is my ESPN story recapping the Egypt win, including player ratings.
Are there still some critics who continue to find things to complain about, even after Sunday's dramatic victory and qualification for the semifinal? Of course, but most of the dissenting voices still questioning Bob Bradley as head coach are critics who were never fans of Bradley in the first place. While there have been moments in the past month that have left Bradley open for criticism, it is tough to argue against the notion that Bradley has helped a young and short-handed U.S. team come of age.
Yes, it is just one result, one win, but you could tell by the reaction of the U.S. players that it was much more than just a win. It was an affirmation of the work the team has done under Bradley, proof that the team's efforts are being rewarded.
Rather than looking for every excuse to not give the U.S. team credit for advancing to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, shouldn't we be giving the team some credit for surviving a group tougher than any group the United States could possibly be drawn in for next summer's World Cup? Shouldn't we be singing Bob Bradley's praises for overcoming the absence of a handful of key veterans, such as Carlos Bocanegra, Brian Ching, Steve Cherundolo and Frankie Hejduk?
Consider how young the team was that defeated Egypt. Brad Guzan, Jonathan Spector, Michael Bradley, Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore and Benny Feilhaber are all players who were age-eligible for the Olympics last summer and all six have gained priceless experience in this Confederations Cup, experience that now includes the thrill of delivering in a must-win game.
If Sunday's victory did anything, it helped restore some of the swagger the United States had lost after three losses in four matches. If you read Michael Bradley's statements you know that there is some attitude, some fire, some swagger, all things this team needs to keep playing like it did on Sunday. And if the Americans keep playing with that intensity, even the most die-hard critics will be forced to reconsider their views.
What did you think of Sunday's performance? Have you regained some lost faith in the U.S. national team? Are you still skeptical about the direction the team is heading? Where did Sunday's win rank on your favorite national team moments?
Share your thoughts below.