Bob Bradley is in a boatload of trouble. If the United States loses this home fixture in front of a near capacity crowd at Soldier Field, qualifying becomes extraordinarily dicey for the World’s 14th ranked side. With only two more home fixtures in qualifying, a loss tonight essentially means the U.S. will scoreboard watch until the end of 2009 and hope Honduras, Mexico, or Costa Rica drop three points at home. Granted, the Yanks will have two of those fixtures on to sort out for themselves, but hedging qualifying on a win against the Catrachos or against El Tri in the Azteca don’t seem likely– as the U.S. have never won in Mexico City and have proved to have very little road mettle thus far. As such, three points tonight is imperative.
Which makes you wonder— What exactly is going on with this lineup ??
Bradley apparently has a driving, restless at night fear of Wilson Palacios, the Tottenham Hotspur center mid who having a nightmare about is about as rational as thinking that Lamar Odom is the LA Laker that can hurt you the most. I don’t understand it. At all.
Bradley’s lineup reflects his “skeptics” be damned approach: We can’t lose if we don’t get scored on. Problem is– even a draw makes the future of South Africa 2010 dicey. The U.S. central midfield tonight– of Ricardo Clark of MLS acclaim and..you got it– Pablo Mastroeni of MLS acclaim and of late age— reflects Bradley’s concern with containing Palacios, controlling the ball, and more or less cowering in fear that his son can’t play in the game tonight. Maybe he’s concerned with Amado Guevara, his former pupil at the Metrostars, who Bradley concedes is always capable, even at 33, (UH HUH–33) of making “special plays.” His play is coupled with Palacios– the Tottenham man whose pace and physical style of play is seldom seen in MLS and will test even the physically tough Carlos Bocanegra and Gooch. With the technically sound Ramon Nunez in the mix for the Catrachos, Honduras have more than enough firepower to attempt to take the game to what can only be called a psychologically damaged American defense that was shred at the Saprissa three nights ago. Make no mistake– this is the best Honduras side in years– a side with great experience and a team buzzing with confidence after crushing Mexico in their last qualifier. They are also the last side to defeat the Yanks on American soil.
So Bradley has gone defensive– and while I love the back four (personally feeling it is the best back four we’ve fielded in the Bradley era) of Spector, Boca, Gooch and the speedy and at times menacing Jon Bornstein, who is in top form– I have no idea where the offense will come from off a bench that somehow excluded Freddy Adu (who was productive in Costa Rica) and Jose Francisco Torres (who was a steadying force in the midfield before questionably being yanked in Costa Rica). Conor Casey’s call up may excite MLS fans– but half his league leading MLS goals have come against questionable defending and the in-form Brian McBride would have been a more logical late call-up.
With Brian Ching out, the haters will be happy and the honest will be upset– and I understand that finding a partner for Altidore means perhaps the young Casey, who can be described really as “Ching Light”, was likely a tough call. That said, it is nearly inexcusable that Bradley has risked it all on him performing, leaving the only truly viable options offensively on the bench the midfield tandem of Klejstan and DeMarcus Beasley.
The absences of Edu, Ching and Hejduk– again– hurt badly. At least two of those will likely start if we qualify. I understand that makes finding a lineup tough, especially sans the ball-hawking Bradley. But we’ll soon see if Bradley’s risk it all on a 1-0 result, which is, upon the eyeball test, what this lineup looks like— is enough. Certainly, Jurgen Klinsmann is watching.
On to the anthems. Let’s hope Clint and Landon finish the job.