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USMNT Training Notes: Absences not causing problems as USA looks ahead


 Photo by Bill Barrett/ 


WASHINGTON – Emerging from a tumultuous group stage bruised and beaten but in the Gold Cup quarterfinals all the same, the U.S. national team has made one thing clear: The knockout stage is a fresh start.

After just nine players participated in a light training session Thursday, the U.S. held its first full practice in the nation's capital Friday ahead of Sunday's critical clash with Jamaica at RFK Stadium.

Despite dropping a 2-1 contest to Panama and only defeating Guadeloupe by a 1-0 margin while facing elimination, the U.S. players and coaches are convinced those less-than-stellar group stage results are behind them.

"The first round is always about just coming through," midfielder Michael Bradley said. "You don't get style points for winning three games 5-0. It's all about just taking it one at a time and after three games, putting yourself in a position to be in a quarterfinal. We've done that. We've learned from some things along the way, and we feel like we're stronger."

Here are some more notes from U.S. training:


A popular topic for discussion Thursday and Friday was the two key attacking midfielders who were not in attendance: Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. With each player attending his sister's wedding Saturday, the duo will likely not arrive in Washington until later that night. U.S. Soccer has arranged for private flights to Washington to take Donovan from California and Dempsey from Texas.

As the U.S. continued preparations to play its fifth game in 16 days, the absence of Donovan and Dempsey was universally downplayed.

"We're not concerned," coach Bob Bradley said. "When you are into a tournament like this, the days after hard games are also regeneration days. I think much of our preparation work has been done."

Added right back Steve Cherundolo: "We are people who get around frequently and we fly back and forth from Europe all the time, so they'll be ready for the game."


Sunday's match against an in-form Jamaica side that went 3-0 in the group stage presents unique challenges to the U.S. squad. Numerous American players mentioned the speed, physicality and athleticism prevalent throughout the Reggae Boyz roster as a main focal point.

"They're going to be full of confidence, and we have to come out and have the same confidence," captain Carlos Bocanegra said. "They're going to have some pace, so we're going to have to deal with that. Hopefully we can spread them out, keep the ball, finish our chances, put the game away and move on to the next round."

When asked if speedy left back Eric Lichaj, who made his first competitive appearance for the Yanks on Tuesday against Guadeloupe, would be a logical option to help negate Jamaica players such as dynamic winger Dane Richards, Bob Bradley said, "That's a strong possibility."

"Eric has shown that he can play left and right back with good energy in terms of getting himself forward," Bradley said. "We certainly knew there was going to be pace on that side of the field against Guadeloupe, and I think Eric matched their pace and dealt with those situations really well."


While most of the U.S. lineup seems set, one position that could still be up for grabs is the striker slot alongside Jozy Altidore.

Juan Agudelo started the first two matches while Chris Wondolowski stepped in for the win over Guadeloupe, but neither player has shown notable chemistry with Altidore as of yet.

"It's difficult when you have such little time to get to know players," Altidore said. "But at the same time, whoever is playing up front doesn't really matter at this point. We all know what we need to do."


Time and time again throughout Bradley's tenure, the United States has displayed some of its best soccer with its back against the wall. Widely showered with criticism for their lackluster group stage, the Americans know they can't dwell on those outings and are confident in their ability to step up when it matters most.

"Well, we're here, and I think that's important," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "I think with this team, this particular group, we've always been resilient, we've always battled — in the best of times, and when times haven't been tremendous."

Noted defender Clarence Goodson: "You're supposed to be building as a tournament goes on. What's most important is doing well toward the end and playing your best matches in the knockout rounds."

Although Bocanegra acknowledged being aware of the various negative opinions about the team circulating in the media, he said such outside distractions pale in comparison to what the team simply expects of itself.

"We hold ourselves to a higher standard now, and we know we didn't perform," Bocanegra said. "We were a little disappointed with how we played and how we didn't finish games off, and we ended up having a loss as well. That kind of pissed us off a little bit internally. So the outside stuff I don't think is going to be a big factor — we need to prove it to ourselves."


  1. The Spain victory was most likely an aberration, I agree. By the same token, so was the Panama loss. Finishing aside, we played really well in our other two matches in this event, generating a ton of chances relative to our opponents.

  2. How important is the coach? There was an article not long ago asking that question. It ranked the EPL teams by points and then by player payroll. There was only one team whose results placed them higher in points than their payroll order. The rest of the table matched.
    I think the USA has a bigger underlying problem than the National Coach. A lack of creativity and adaptability in the players resulting from the over coached, over organized youth system. Time and time again we have seen a poor first half where whatever the plan was, failed. The players on the field have been unable to adapt and kept going with it until the coach makes changes at half time. Until USA starts producing smarter and more creative players, fitness and stamina will only get them so far.

  3. Start laughing at the Panama game while you are at it b. The US was beaten by a 67th ranked team so its only logical, under BB expert tutelage that Jamaica ranked 55th has a fair shot too.

    “Comments like yours that assume we will struggle and perhaps lose”….b, hope you’ll find it funny after the game because I’ll be laughing at you…..because either way we’re going to struggle because bradley never disappoints…..

  4. Wayne, this is not a wishful thinking but there’s a lot of soccer to be played before the tournament is over. I don’t disagree with you that Mexico looked better than the US in this Gold Cup so far, but it is a long tournament and a lot can happen. The first WC that I watched and can remember was in 1982 and Brazil looked unstoppable, playing breath-taking soccer and toying with its opponents, while Italy looked terrible and barely made it from its group on a goal difference. The format was slightly different at that time with a second group stage, where only one of three teams would advance. Because it underachieved at the first group stage, Italy ended up in the same group with the magnificent Brazil (Zico, Falcao, Socrates, etc) and Argentina (with young Maradona). Italy’s coach was heavily criticized for his team’s performance especially for playing Paolo Rossi, who looked out of shape. And then Italy beat both Brazil and Argentina and eventually won the whole tournament. Rossi won the golden boot and golden ball. I am not saying that the same will necessarily happen to the US, but the history teaches us that a team that looks the best at early stages does not always win the tournament.

  5. I’m not sure why you think this is a “ridiculous and petulant” statement. He’s telling the truth. You don’t need to win big, you just need to win. Spain got absolutely zero style points on their way to the World Cup; all they did was win when it counted. The US, (at the moment), isn’t built to slaughter teams, we play best when we can defend and counter, where we don’t have to maintain possession to break down 10 man defenses. It’s this kind of mentality that got the US to a 2-0 lead on Brazil in the Confed. Cup final. Of course its not perfect, seeing as how they ended up losing, but the point is, its just their best way of playing.

  6. “You don’t get style points” is reality, the US pounded Cuba 6-1 at home in WC qualifying, but slipped by 1-0 in Cuba. Both wins counted for 3 points.
    Everyone who reports on it was disappointed in the US first half performance against Panama and bemoan the fact that the US has scored so few goals in so many chances.
    I like the fact that the US has created many scoring opportunities (49 shots vs 55 for Mexico according to the official Gold Cup statistics). In that regard the US has not done so badly, especially since we played no one nearly as weak as Cuba. Mexico did have a better SOG statistics and that is worrisome, but accuracy can be thrown off by aggressive defending so …
    The thing I think this team is really missing is a player who can dribble in the box in traffic and make the defense uncertain whether to tackle and risk a penalty or not. Agudelo and Adu can each do that to some degree, but neither has shown the guile of a Carlos Ruiz to upset defenders and get physical or to have mastered the art of getting free from defenders in the box. Adu seems to have had a long time to learn that but is still learning, Agudelo is still so young.

  7. Ok. Lets see how we do when Landon Donovan and Dempsey get off the plane and walk on to the pitch.
    Why is everyone so quick to say “oh, well this worked out ok” and ” well, we didnt have our best team on the field.” Its all just excuses for poor performance.
    How many times have we been chasing games because we are down a goal?
    And again, why are we putting all the blame on the players now. What you are saying is the coach is irrelevant. So we should put Wilford Brimley in as coach because its up to the players and not the coach.

    I know. Cheer on the team and when we lose we will blame it on poor officiating. Makes me sick.

  8. I’m not calling for a coach change due to performance so much as a reaction to that performance. The coach should set the culture which is currently: Lackluster, tepid, disinterested, unconcerned. Did anyone note Dempsey’s (he’s my favorite player btw) ho-hum stroll away from the Guadeloupe goal after being pickpocketed? He didn’t grab his head, curse, or fall to the ground, no he strolled. Did he shrug? And this at time that Guadeloupe could have still scored and tied and changed our opponent at least. But more importantly when faced with failure to convert an open goal from 5′ during an important tournament Dempsey simply couldn’t have looked more blase. I think he should have been benched at that moment. I play with more passion on my third tier club team in Cary, NC.

  9. Good comments.

    For all the dump Bradley, hire Klinnsman folks, here is food for thought. Klinnsman was hired by Toronto F.C. to help organize the team’s structure. He brought in Winter to coach. Arguably the best player at Toronto (Rosario) was unhappy, and vocal about it. He left. Toronto has had about 1 win under Winter and a whole lot of ties. Sure the experiment is not over yet, and the MLS play-off rules keep Toronto only a few points away from qualification, but if I were a Toronto fan, I would be really unhappy with the results so far. I suspect that if Klinnsman were to have anything to do with US Soccer, at minimum a year of disruption would make the WC qualifying games dicey at best.

    Of course, those who really hate Bradley will claim struggling through WC qualifying is better than the future they foretell with Bradley. They have no crystal ball that tells them anything (if they did, they would probably own a soccer team somewhere or at least be rich from their gambling winnings).

  10. Because Kreis is currently showing what an expert he is at finding goal scorers! Whereas Bradley keeps starting Altidore and he’s useless aside from the two game winning goals.

  11. If you’re such a numbers guy you must realize that not only doesn’t take into account the quality of the opposition, but even more importantly all three are such small sample sizes that such analysis is useless.

  12. MB’s comment — “You don’t get style points for winning three games 5-0” — is scary to hear. I hope he’s the only one on the team who thinks Mexico impressive scoring and trouncing of the opposition recently is a matter of something as silly as style or an effort to be stylish, and that consequently, they’ll go down easily once they hit better competition (presumably without such style).

    What a ridiculous and petulant thing to say. As if failing to beat Panama and mustering a single goal against mighty Guadaloupe are achievements to shout about, while consistently pulverizing your opponents, game in and game out, is inconsequential.

  13. I wonder what would happen if Bradley had our team??

    We would be heavily favored and beat Jamaica.

    Comments like yours that assume we will struggle and perhaps lose are ridiculous now, but they will be absolutely hilarious on Sunday. Bookmarking this so I can come back and laugh at it.

  14. Luckily for us this is the Gold Cup against Jamaica, Panama, and Mexico andnot the World Cup against Germany and Netherlands!

  15. As an Aston Villa supporter, I’m not sure I think hiring Martin O’Neill would make a bit of difference in our trajectory over the next few years. People are quick to hop on Bradley because he is who we have and we’re not happy with our current form. (It doesn’t help that he’s not a sexy foreign name.)

    It’s human nature to assume a change would necessarily be a positive change. But that’s not always how it works. Dempsey, for instance, had a poor game the other day. That doesn’t mean starting Freddy Adu in his place would have been the better option. It just means we know Dempsey played poorly and we don’t like it. And that’s fine. But it doesn’t translate to perfect hindsight.

  16. I have thought about is it the players or the coach for a good year or so.

    I’m not convinced that USMNT would be much better off at this point no matter whom the coach would be.

    We have a significant drop off from our A team to our B team (and more so from there). Beyond that, on our A team, you have uneven skill levels.

    I have maybe missed five total NATS games over the past 25 years. In my opinion, this is the deepest and broadest talent pool we have ever had … but it is not the best team.

    We are always missing something. Right now our Fs are raw and our MF is crowded. Our GK is world class, but our defense is in transition.

    Bill Parcells (paraphrasing)states, “You are your record”. I think that is about right with USMNT these days. No coach is going to change that. The team will get better as the players get better.

  17. A new coach might help. And it might not. In the end, players are most important. Bradley may be responsible for some of the faults of this team, but he’s not alone. The team needs to perform; they aren’t kids, they’re professional athletes. They should know what to do out there without much coaching. To lay all the blame on one person, even the coach, would be short-sighted.

  18. And to you I say Mexico missed 4 more clear goals vs Cuba, so they would’ve scored like 9.

    And still even though your rant is wishful thinking, the Mexican National team right now seems in every way superior to the US, no matter what you or any other wishful thinkers say!

    And even though your WC story is true, unfortunately the US is not Spain!

  19. Jamaica is not THAT good. They play possession but their passes are too long so they can be intercepted. They take too many chances in the back with their defenders over-passing at times, again, they can turn the ball over if the US forwards pay attention. Lastly, they are NOT good finishers, they create many chances but miss just about any shot beyond 10 yards out. The US needs to chase them around only when the Jamaicans are passing in their own backfield, and lay back when in defense and the Jamaicans will give up the ball a lot because they are not disciplined. So patience is the name of the game here. Shoot low on Ricketts, he makes great saves high but takes too long to get to the ground.

  20. I am not suggesting that we can get a name out of the phone book and that person will necessarily be better than Bob Bradley I also accept, somewhat, the criticism that if we don’t have a better solution that maybe we should keep our mouths shut. I don’t know enough to know who would be a good replacement. Just as our progression is not linear, the analysis of our play can never be completely objective and systematic. Sometimes you have to trust your gut. I just don’t have a good feeling about the way we have played for a long time. As I have said before, the Spain victory was most likely an aberration. You cannot say the game was part of any pattern that started before and continued after the game. 19 out of 20 times we play Spain ,we don’t win and we wouldn’t even tie many of those games. The concept of coaching for two world cup cycles is inherently flawed because of the familiarity and loyalty that necessarily develops between the player and coach. Was Bradley a good coach for the first cycle and has he had a positive influence on the growth of soccer in the US ? The answer to both questions is yes. That was then and now we need to move on in a new direction. To keep going with Coach Bradley is not in the best interest of the development our national soccer team and preparing us to qualify for 2014

  21. +1. Perspective is what some people on this blog lack. Remember when we faced Algeria and some people on here were appalled that we needed a last minute goal to just beat algeria 1-0. Algeria has just as many players playing at decent clubs as us yet some us expected the US to demolish them. Algeria is typically in the running at winning the African Cup of Nations ppl yet ppl were ready to call for Bradley’s head cuz we need that to go on to the next round. Arrogance is what we have, perspective is what we lack.

  22. North Korea?!?! what a poor poor poor analogy. What you see as us “blindly” supporting our national team like a “herd” is what I see as USMNT loyalty. Loyalty cannot be forced, its a choice. pshhhh north korea haha

    Our boys need our support and i for one will give them my full support regardless of who is playing and who is coaching. What happens after a game is a whole separate matter. I read some of the posts on SBI lately and sometimes i wonder: are some of you guys Klinsmann fan’s first and USMNT fan’s second. THis not only applies to coaching. I find it irritating when there so called “US fans” on here who want Altidore/M.Bradley/Wondo/Kljestan to have a horrible games at a cost of a US win. Unbelievable.

  23. And yes, we have mediocre players. And that is our player pool. This isn’t college football where you fire the coach because he isn’t recruiting well enough. If you think there are better players out there for Bradley to select, I’d love to hear the names.

    We don’t have a single player on a regular last 16 Champions League club. And we won our group at the WC over England and topped our qualifying region over that Mexican team everyone is orgasmic over. What is it that people expect from their NT manager that Bob isn’t delivering? Other than that his name is Bob and not Roberto and he doesn’t wear Italian suits?

  24. Um, the gold cup is our confederation’s championship.

    Read a book.

    I know you’re not the best that the ‘Fire Bradley’ has to offer, but you do seem indicative.

  25. If you are talking about JK then you are right, money isn’t the answer.

    Power is.

    Sunil wanted JK but he couldn’t get a large enough majority of the 15 USSF votes to bring him in. Imagine his surprise!

    My guess is those 14 other USSF voters saw the kind of power JK wanted, that BB does not have, and decided it would endanger their little empires. And every other big deal saviour class manager of note is going to want the same thing if not more.

    So whether BB goes or stays the manager will still have the same constricted parameters BB has and what you will get in that case is Ben Olsen or, as I say elsewhere, Bradley 2.0.

    Life can always get worse.

  26. I’m following the herd? Odd. I think ‘fire bob bradley’ is the herd position these days.

    I would like someone, anyone, to show me who the alternative is that we can get/afford, interested in taking the job, and has a proven record of success with teams of our talent level.

  27. What proof do you have that Kreis would be an upgrade?

    Or is this another grass is always greener thing, an anyone but Bradley movement? There are worse managers out there.

    More to the point the USSF has proven it is not willing to hire a big time expensive Hiddink type manager, most likely because he would probably threaten the closed club that is the USSF.

    So what you will get should BB get the axe , is BB 2.0. A Nowak, an Olsen, a Kreis. Kreis has done a nice job with RSL but at this point has no credentials that tell you he is the proven difference maker all you US fans believe the world owes you.

    He may prove to be a great manager but anyone who is certain he will be the next Mourinho or Hiddink is nuts.

  28. This is a Democracy we live in. This is not North Korea where we blindly follow our “Exalted Leader.” When our president isn’t living up to his job, we scream and yell.
    I know we didn’t vote Bob in. But we certainly have the rite to speak up when the job isn’t getting done. Once again Pedro, you’re just accepting the status quo and following the herd.

  29. The thing about fans who want to fire Bradley is that I think they have something fundamentally wrong about U.S. Soccer development. I think people assumed for a long time that our rise to the top of world football would be linear. But that is impossible. Nothing in life works that way. There are plateaus along the way, and that’s normal. The results people want will be the result of improvements that are generational. You don’t change courses during a small plateau because….

    There is nothing ordained about us being even a top 30 team. If you think it can’t get worse than the status quo… You’re wrong. It can absolutely get worse. Bringing in a new manager may lead to some experimentation, but there are growing pains that come with that in the form of bad results sometimes. How patient will you be then? And how will you know it’s working? And how many qualifying points will be dropped in the meantime? The one thing that US soccer needs in this country is a consistent performance from the national team. We need to be a little risk-averse here. Because you’re just wrong that it can’t get worse than winning your group at a WC. Hiddink did NOT get Russia to South Africa. Capello did NOT get England to the quarterfinals. The savior is NOT just lurking around the corner. With Bradley, we know what we’re getting, and it’s pretty good given the quality of our player pool, The first half against Panama not withstanding.

    We all need to take a deep breath and have some perspective, and let the tournament play out. Many were calling for Bradley to be fired last summer and then he beat Spain, nearly beat Brazil, and won his group at the world cup coming within an added time of the quarters.

  30. Money is not the issue, the money was there for Klinsman. There are big money backers out there (if I’m not mistaken including Blazer) but the Federation needs to step up and be creative.

    I fear the powers that be are not much less corrupt than many of the other Federations around the world – content with the status quo, keeping thier perks and cushy jobs – as long as nobody rocks the boat!

    Thier recent actions don’t instill any confidence in me.

  31. I will be the first to officially nominate Martin O’Neil this guy would be the best coach the US has ever had and last I checked, he is available.

    The thing is that this team has had the same problems for the past 5 years and Bradley has shown no signs of figuring out how to fix them. It’s time for a change regardless of outcomes!

  32. Real fans do not hope their team loses. Ever. Hoping one’s team loses so that it’s manager gets fired doesn’t make one a fan, it makes one a brat.


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