By J Hutcherson - WASHINGTON, DC (June 27, 2011) US Soccer Players -- Let’s be honest. Though it’s easy to load up years of complaints and unload on the 4-2 USA loss to Mexico in Saturday’s Gold Cup final, this was a game with a very clear story line. Against a Mexico team with the best attacking player in the region and a host of other options pushing forward, the United States lost their best choice at a troubled position 11 minutes in.
The outside backs haven’t been easy for the US in recent years. Even with players who spend entire European club seasons at right or left, the options at National Team level always seem to be limited. That’s what makes Steve Cherundolo so valuable. He plays right back, there’s very little depth there in the setups the US normally opts for, and without him the entire defense has to be adjusted.
An easy point in retrospect, but if the USA offense was good for two goals, they needed a defense capable of turning those two goals into a win. Instead, Mexico doubled down and took the trophy. Unfortunately for those wanting a massive overhaul of the US eleven, that really was the extent of the problem. A position player missing through an in-game injury and a back line unable to adjust.
Sure, we can talk about Jonathan Spector on the bench as a capable outside back, we can talk about switching Carlos Bocanegra from center to left and transitioning the US defense in game, but let’s be honest. What the US needed is what every team needs: bench solutions rather than problems. That’s a depth issue, and it’s nothing new.
There’s this idea that’s been kicking around American soccer or a few years. The long-term answer for the National Team is putting players into positions as early as youth level and making sure college and professional coaches don’t muck it up by insisting on playing outside backs as center backs, skilled defenders as midfielders, and attacking midfielders as forwards. It would help things considerably if all involved did this project a favor and played the same formation. As the thinking goes, the end result would be a depth chart of right backs for the US to choose from.
In theory, why not. In practice?
Meanwhile, the actual National Team setup only has control over where they play the available players. Landon Donovan is a forward at club level, but makes more sense as a midfielder in the current setup. Wide players at club level are shifted to center at National Team level. Players that show well for their clubs in a setup the US doesn’t play are slotted in and expected to perform out of position.
Though there should be limits to these expectations, it’s not something unfamiliar with other players with other National Teams. You might remember the discussions over where David Beckham should be positioned for club and country.
Where this leaves the USA after a disappointing Gold Cup final is exactly where they were before the start of the opening Gold Cup game. When everyone is healthy, there’s a starting eleven the US can field that’s as good as any to be found in this region. Yet just like we saw over the last World Cup cycle, this remains a team that doesn’t have answers for injuries at certain positions. All Saturday did in big picture terms was stress that weakness without a quick or even obvious answer.
This is an announcement from FIFA concerning the Australia – Denmark Under-17 World Cup game originally scheduled for Sunday. Assume there was rain and lightning , because that’s what happened. To wit:
Following 1.5 hour delay in which the conditions did not improve the Organising Committee for the FIFA U-17 World Cup decided to abandon the match and replay it in its entirety tomorrow, 27 June 2011, at 10h00 at the Estadio Corregidora in Querétaro.
And that’s the extent of our concern with the particulars. It’s the ability to go ahead and make a decision, set a time limit, and move the game that’s important. Meanwhile, Major League Soccer prefers the wait it out scenario. It could be ten minutes, it could be two hours, it could be whenever we can pick back up since it’s more about simply getting the game in the same day than quality.
Comments, questions, solutions to problems that have yet to present themselves. Please, tell me all about it.