Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Panama Stuns USA 2 -1

On Saturday the US national soccer team lost in first round play of the CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time ever, losing 2 - 1 to Panama.  It was the first time the United States has ever lost a Gold Cup first round match, in 26 previously unbeaten matches.

After the humiliating 4 - 0 loss to Spain earlier this month, US goalkeeper Tim Howard promised the team would do better in the Gold Cup.  Well, the Gold Cup tournament is here, and its not any better.  Despite an early win against Canada, the US loss to Panama is potentially disastrous not only for our Gold Cup chances, but for Coach Bradley's career as well.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times,

"First-half goals by Luis Tejada and Gabriel Gomez sparked the Central Americans to their first victory against the U.S., which lost in group play in the Gold Cup for the first time.

The win assures Panama of a berth in the quarterfinals for the fourth consecutive tournament. The U.S.... plays winless Guadeloupe in its final Group C game Tuesday at Kansas City, Kan., and is almost certain to advance as well."

The part about the US advancing may be a bit optimistic.  True, Guadalupe is winless in this tournament; but their side is actually comprised of French league veterans (Guadalupe is French territory), so it would be deulsional to think Guadalupe is a soft target.  They have professionals on their team.

Panama scored both of their goals (one on a Penalty Kick) before the US, in typical fashion, finally woke up and played football.  As we have now seen so many times before, once the team is in a hole, the Americans play with a furious intensity that sometimes brings them from behind.  On Saturday Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey all missed scoring chances, leaving it to relative US newcomer Clarence Goodson to score the American's only goal.  It was not enough, and the Panamanians chalked up a historic win for their program.

Is this the end of Bob Bradley's run with the US National Team?  Not yet--there is still the chance of a win against Guadalupe tonight.  If they win, they advance and this debacle will be forgotten, at least until the next time we are forced to play from behind.  But if they draw aginst Guadalupe, they will need Canada to defeat Panama to advance.  And if they lose, they are out of the tournament.

And if that happens, the calls for Coach Bradley's head will be loud enough to hear in my living room.  Although under Coach Bradley the US national team has exceeded all of the objectives specified in his contract, the way that the team has done so, has been downright unhealthy.  The defense is spotty, and the team never seems to realize they are on the pitch, until the other guys score first.  The subsequent furious heroics are fun to watch but no way to win a tournament.  We can't go on this way. 

We need a better defense, and we need to start scoring first.  Bradley needs to make this happen starting tonight, and then make it stick.  Or get out of the way for another Coach who will fix our obvious scoring problems.