Friday, June 08, 2007

U.S. Men Begin Road to 2010 World Cup

Sports Illustrated currently has a couple of good articles about a crucial summer for the U.S. Men’s National Team. First, Greg Lalas writes that the Bradley Era has officially begun, which goes some way to assuaging my concerns about his permanent appointment.

While I was initially against the naming of Bradley as the interim coach, his performance has merited the removal of that tag from his job. This is now his team, and how they perform this summer will go a long way toward showing what kind of soccer the team will be playing, and even who will be playing it. I’ve admired how he’s begun bringing in new faces to replace Brian McBride and Claudio Reyna, who retired, as well as to challenge other veterans who may have been complacent in their roles.

The second by Johan Freedman argues that this summer is crucial in the beginning the road to the World Cup. I agree with a lot in this article. Particularly his point about the level of opposition.

It’s about time the U.S. began playing stiff opposition on the road. Traveling to Venezuela for the Copa America is an excellent start. They’ll find much stiffer competition than the team faced in the World Cup warm ups. With all due respect, Argentina, Paraguay, and Columbia are much better than Morocco, Venezuela and Latvia. And that’s not all, the team is traveling to Europe this fall to play matches against a number of countries, including 2006 World Cup participants Sweden and Switzerland.

Finally, Freedman states that this summer sees the U-20 world championships. This tournament, later this summer, will showcase the future, and players should be looking at this as the best way to showcase their talents and begin the arguments for inclusion in the senior squad when qualification gets underway next year. I’m looking at you Freddy Adu, but I’m also expecting big things from Red Bull New York phenom Jozy Altidore.

How’s it working out so far? The U.S. opened the Gold Cup with a 1-0 win over Guatemala, a team that traditionally plays them very tough. Clint Dempsey scored the winner, and I expect that will begin to happen more and more often. More surprisingly here was who wore the captain’s armband—it wasn’t Landon Donovan. I’m not sure why either, especially since he had just begun recovering his form this winter. I guessing it’s getting other players experience with it before leaving for South America since Donovan likely will be staying in the U.S. for that tournament.

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