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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. Thank you. I am not saying we need to be a world power. But we had come a long way and we are now slipping back. When things get stagnant you put in a fresh face with new ideas. If it doesn’t work you move on. But you dont keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.

  2. I agree we are not in the top tier and don’t have the players to consistently compete with the top tier teams much less win the world cup. Would we be stronger today if Gooch, Charlie Davis and Stewart Holden had not been injured? Yes. Have we consistenly underperformed and generally not been prepared to play(i,e. early goals conceded) in the last 12 to 18 months? Most certainly yes. No coach can turn us into a world power capable of winning a world cup. but our recent performances over a long time period have been predictably weak and this is at the feet of Bob Bradley. A change is needed no matter the outcome of the Gold cup and I think that we will get to the finals and get beat by Mexico in a close game.

  3. OK Einstein. First off, its the Gold Cup. Not the Confederations Cup. (Wipe drool off yer face now.)

    If you are naive enough to think that we will be celebrating the win, then I will eat crow.

    And to your other post about mediocre players, who the hell do you think is picking these players? The god damn coach!!!

  4. And by the way, we will have a better than mediocre team the day we have better than mediocre players. This idea that we can be a top ten team competing with Brazil and Germany in world cup semifinals when our stars play for Fulham, Galaxy, Bursaspor, Everton and St. Etienne is freaking insane.

    And don’t say… “we don’t need to beat Brazil, but we should beat Panama” ask yourself if Spain thought they should lose to us or the Swiss with a roster full of Champions League semifinalists. And they won the world cup. Bradley got us to win our world cup group with very mediocre global talent. I’m not about to throw him under the bus just because you’re antsy that we aren’t a global soccer powerhouse yet after 16 years.

  5. 6/25… You’re going to have a protest in Chicago asking to fire the coach the day that the US will likely be playing in a final for it’s confederation’s championship?

    Maybe bring a book with you. Have you read all the Harry Potters yet?

  6. But we haven’t played Jamaica yet — it’s like people are assuming we will struggle mightily with them. And maybe we will. But that history is yet to be written.

    Look, we played well against Canada. We played well against Guadaloupe (should have finished better, but c’est la football), we played great in the second half against a bunkered in Panama team and should have scored more. I think we have a worse taste in out mouths right now because 1) scorelines haven’t been going our way or haven’t been emphatic, and (mostly) 2) because Mexico posted some very impressive scorelines.

    But I don’t think that’s enough to just assume we’re somehow bound to struggle against Jamaica. In fact, I like our chances 4-1. At some point, with all those chances we are creating, some of them have to go in. When we do, I can only imagine those hyping Jamaica as looking really threatening right now will only downplay it as “only beating Jamaica”.

  7. He was merely trying to control the ball, set it up on his instep, so he could pop it up, start a little keepie-up juggling, set the ball up about a foot and half over his head and then, and then, and then……slam the ball into the net with a proper, two-footed whirling, over-head scorpion kick blast! He had it all worked out in his head, down to the number one hit tune, hip-hop/RB/rap single “el escorpion de oro” which would commemorate the epic event. Unfortunately his reverie was interrupted by an alert Guad fullback……..OH FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD GENTLEMEN – puh-leeeeezzzz, pleeeeezzzzz – the little pass to the net! Your rock solid, steady attack partner, who never moves, who is always in the same place, who doesn’t care if you pass the ball to him in the air, or on the ground, rolling or on the bounce, slow and soft, or fast and hard – you know that stiff tall thin narrow guy, who dresses in white with that broad sexy see-through fishnet outfit – “el gol!” Don’t be bashful – just pass the ball to him – he really likes it when you do!

  8. Protest at the door of US Soccer HQ in Chicago 6/25/11.
    Demand a new coach for the USMNT!

    U.S. Soccer Federation
    1801 S. Prairie Ave.
    Chicago, IL 60616

    The status quo sucks.
    Put an end to mediocrity.

  9. I can agree with you on that. It’s that killer instinct that just isn’t there sometimes. Deuce admittedly screwed up by taking two touches the other night instead of one timing it. Great players like a Messi or Ronaldo would have put that in one touch without thought (not saying anyone on the USA is even on the same level as either of the two) but the point is that a deadly goal comes like lightning..before the defense knows it, the ball is in the net. I hope the Nats make me eat my words on Sunday!

  10. You mean the same Aston Villa in which their revered manager quit right before the season for unknown reasons (later shown to be lack of funds for signings) and they ended up hiring the ex-coach of their bitter rival, who just caused said bitter rival to get relegated? That Aston Villa?

  11. Bielsa has rejected an offer from Inter maybe he is waiting for a nice job in America. America the continent not the U.S.A.

  12. Say what you will about Wondo, (and I’ve personally said plenty), he can at least hold the ball up and trap the ball with skill. Other than Dempsey, (who if he plays that role, puts his back to goal) there is no one else on this roster who do it better.
    Unless Dempsey moves up top, Wondo is starting Sunday.

  13. But he is still a better coach than Bradley, Bradley couldnt even get a job inteview with Aston Villa.

    Bradley is an ok coach and will be coaching the US in 2014.

  14. I’m a numbers guy. In the last three games the USMNT has had 4 goals out of 24 shots on goal. Jamaica has had 7 out of 17. Mexico has had 14 out of 35! I hate to say it, but unless we start learning how to take advantage of opportunities, we don’t stand much of a chance.

  15. Eric, Portugal stomped pretty hard on North Korea by scoring 7 goals, but that did not translated into a “habit” of scoring. They scored 0 goals for the rest of the tournament when they had to play stronger teams. Spain on the other hand started the WC with a loss to Switzerland, did not have a single blow out win, and won the tournament. All I am saying is that the ability to score a bunch of goals in a game, while may breed confidence, does not guarantee a success in the next game.

  16. i’m normally not the cynical type but you’re right and this is what’s really upsetting about this gold cup. we should be doing much better than this. every usmnt fan has the right to be upset.. just not troll level upset haha.

  17. Or given his last coaching job, the Klinnsman ship sailed out a little ways and started to sink before the rest of the crew threw him out on his a**.

  18. This is pathetic…the thought of losing to Jamaica. One coach(Whitmore)has these as his weapons:

    K. Daley – Tivoli Gardens (JAM)

    Williams – Nybergsund (NOR)

    O. Daley – Bradford city (ENG)

    Watson – Houston Dynamo (US)

    Phillips – Aalesund (NOR)

    Richards – NYRB (US)

    Morrison – Aalessund(NOR)

    Austin – Brann (NOR)

    we have:

    Altidore – Villereal(ESP, La Liga)

    Johnson – San Jose Earthquakes (US)

    Dempsey – Fulham(ENG, EPL)

    M.Bradley – Aston Villa(ENG, EPL)

    Jones – Blackburn Rovers(ENG,EPL)

    Edu – Rangers(SCO)

    Spector – West Ham (ENG,EPL)

    Kljestan – Anderlecht (Bel)

    Donovan – LA, Everton(US, ENG)

    I wonder what would happen if whitmore had our team?? The difference in quality is staggering….

  19. I think he would get sacked, especially since Klinnsman is on the verge of being off the market, US Soccer would probably want to grab him before he’s hired by Algeria.

  20. “You don’t get style points for winning three games 5-0…”

    The thing is, the same can be said, and, in fact, applies even more, when it comes to the knockout games. I’m so thrilled that our players only care about winning 1-0.

    The thing is, stomping another team turns goal-scoring into a habit, and expectation. It’s a mental habit of putting the ball in the net. And if you don’t care to get into that habit with weaker opponents, it’s going to be that much harder to dredge it up against the tougher ones.

  21. I’ve seen many hoping for a loss to Jamaica so that Bob Bradley gets shown the door.

    Whether or not you support BB’s exit, does anyone think it’s remotely likely that US Soccer fires Bradley if they don’t make it past the quarters?

    Considering how conservative and restrained US Soccer tends to be in its decision making and when it comes to firing coaches especially, I don’t see Bradley being fired for a quarterfinals Gold Cup exit.

  22. “You don’t get style points for winning three games 5-0…” MB, you are correct, howevr, what it does show is that as a team you finish your chances. and your next opponent is put on notice, a message if you will.


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