Article Commentary: Jamie Trecker’s summer review

It’s been a while since I’ve done an article commentary, so I thought I’d take on Jamie Trecker’s latest article about the USA’s summer results.  I’m not Trecker’s biggest fan, but this commentary isn’t as much about bashing his article as it is about spurring a little debate.  Trecker questions how successful this summer was for the Yanks, and it’s an good conversation to be had.  I’d be interested to hear what you all think in the comments section below.  Here are some select bits for discussion:

But a look at the results of the thirteen games played by the Americans played over the past two months reveals that unfortunately the bad times outnumber the good.

I’ll spare you the grammatical commentary…  You could argue that the bad outnumber the good.  I’m not sure if the bad outweigh the good, though.  I would say the highs–perhaps limited to victories over Egypt and Spain–are far more significant than the bad–losses to Brazil, Italy, and away to Costa Rica–which were, you must admit, expected.

And, in both those finals, they’ve conceded eight goals in the second half.

That number is a little disturbing.   But to be fair, 5 of those goals came with our C-team on the field.

The coaching staff has not prepared the team to compete at the highest level. If the Americans hope to perform well at the World Cup next year, U.S. Soccer needs to make a change.

Despite our anti-Bradley posts in the past, the Spain victory, if nothing else, proved that a coaching change isn’t necessary for success.  One could argue it would help.  But there is absolutely no way it will happen.

The USA has also had an unusually high number of players ejected.

This was probably the most disturbing part of the Confederations Cup.

The USA’s biggest wins came against Grenada (4-0 on July 4th to open the Gold Cup), Egypt (3-0 to reach the semifinals of the Confederation Cup, with help from Brazil) and Spain (2-0 in the Confed Cup). Their other wins all came against Honduras (3), a team that has not won against the USA in eight years, and Panama, and that one required a penalty kick in extra time. And, they were held to a draw against Haiti.

I’m a little confused as to why the Gold Cup is so prominently featured in the analysis of this summer’s action.  I don’t see what our C-team’s results against Panama, Haiti, Honduras, Grenada, and Mexico say about US Soccer as a whole–good or bad.

But even [the US’ solid back line] is a mirage of sorts. The improved back four of Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Oneywu and Bocanegra did blank Spain, too, but was shredded by Brazil in the second half of the final.

Am I the only one who doesn’t think the back line looked that bad against Brazil?  I think the problem stemmed more from our midfield’s inability to hold possession.  If you let Brazil attack for an entire half, they will probably put some goals in.

The way Mexico destroyed the makeshift back four Sunday added further to the argument that the Americans might consider playing five at the back with Steve Cherundolo wide right, Spector, DeMerit and Oneywu forming a trident, and Bocanegra playing wide left.

Just so we’re clear…you are saying, because Heath Pearce, Clarence Goodson, Chad Marshall, and Jay Heaps contributed to letting 5 goals in against Mexico, we should play five in the back, with Steve Cherundolo, Jonathan Spector, Jay DeMerit, Oguchi Onyewu, and Carlos Bocanegra (note: there are precisely 0 repeat players between the two groups). 

[On Mexico’s Gold Cup victory] This wasn’t a “learning experience.” You don’t learn anything from having your head handed to you by your biggest regional rival — save for the fact that you made some very poor selections on your side.

I would argue the exact opposite.  The Gold Cup loss was nothing but a learning experience–in fact, it was very clear that this whole tournament was nothing but a learning experience from the moment the roster was announced.  We got to see which players could put in decent performances against bad teams, mediocre teams, and in the case of Mexico, pretty good teams.  We learned which players could help us out in qualifying, and which didn’t belong in a US shirt ever again.

I agree to some extent that roster selection was bad, but it’s not because we lost.  It’s because too many players were selected that will never factor into the US’ plans.  I have a hard time believing that Jay Heaps would ever be called upon for an important match.  Why not test out a younger, up-and-comer who might be able to contribute down the line? 

I thought long and hard about whether Bradley should have called in the Confederations Cup players he had at his disposal for the final.  To me, it would have been a wrong move.  The group of players that got you to the final have the right to play for it.  It would be disrespectful to all-of-a-sudden bring in the “real” players to snatch the glory.  You could argue that a 5-0 loss means Bradley’s faith was misplaced.  I’d argue that bringing in the ringers was lose-lose.

Demerit likely wouldn’t have gotten that chance had Bocanegra not been injured. This long time unwillingness on the part of Bradley to make roster changes, even when they would clearly benefit his team, has been a subject of much debate among fans.

I actually think this is a very good point.  Some writers want to give Bradley credit for finding an ideal back four (Spector, Onyewu, DeMerit, Bocanegra).  But this foursome was available to us for a long time.  How did Bradley “find” it?  Cherundolo got hurt, forcing him to use Hejduk; Hejduk got hurt, forcing him to use Spector; Bocanegra got hurt, forcing him to use DeMerit; Bocanegra returned from injured and was slotted in at left back.  I won’t say he had no options here (he could have gone with Marvell Wynne, Danny Califf, and left Bornstein at left back), but it took three injuries for him to arrive at the best defensive quartet we’ve seen…well, maybe ever.  You’d like to think the coach would have a better feel for his players. 

The Americans gave away the huge psychological edges they held over both Mexico and Costa Rica.

In the case of Mexico, maybe.  But deep down, they know they beat up on a group of second- and third-choice Americans.  In the case of Costa Rica, no way.  The Americans have never won in Saprissa.  In fact, the last time they played there, they lost 3-0 (2006 qualifying cycle).  The US has traditionally traded results with Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying.

Italy, Mexico and Brazil all pummeled the USA in the second halves of their matches, signaling that as the Americans tire and the adrenalin is replaced by tired legs, the good teams can take full advantage.

Against Italy, we were down a man, which didn’t help.  The Brazil final was at the end of a tightly-packed tournament.  And for the last time, I think the Mexico result is completely irrelevant to this discussion.  Yes, I’m making excuses–none of those results were desirable–but to claim that they demonstrate a fundamental flaw in the American soccer program is an overstatement.

That directly calls into question…the ability of MLS to prepare players for the world game.

I do agree that MLS-ers have some trouble adjusting to the pace of the international game.  There are some obvious exceptions to the “rule” (I guess that doesn’t make it a rule…), but this tournament demonstrated the need of young American players to move to Europe if they hope to compete effectively on the world stage.  Call me a “eurosnob”, if you will.  I’m a big MLS fan.  But I’m also a realist.

After playing six Gold Cup matches, there is only one field player to emerge as a “possible” for the Americans down the road and that is Stuart Holden. To play an entire tournament to ID only a single man is a ridiculous waste of energy and resources.

I disagree.

Where were, for example, Jose Francisco Torres…

Tired, requested a rest.

…and Danny Califf?

Useless.

Why was Freddy Adu allowed to return to Portugal — where, once again, he is not playing?

He requested before the tournament began to leave after the second match.

Why did Kenny Cooper, who finished on the Gold Cup all-tournament list, see so few minutes in comparison to Brian Ching (who may have played himself off the side)?

Ching played himself off the side?  Ching did exactly what he always does: everything but score.  I don’t know why these games would do anything to change Bradley’s opinion of him.  Cooper did start one game, and didn’t look that good.  How he ended up on the all-tournament team is a mystery to me.  He’s got talent, but he needs some refining before he’s ready.  That said, yes, I wish he would have gotten a few more minutes in the Gold Cup.  Maybe one more chance to start.

Why was Jay Heaps given more than a single game when it is clear that at his age he couldn’t possibly be a factor in South Africa?

Agreed.

Why was Michael Parkhurst called in to replace the injured Jimmy Conrad — and then not play?

Because he looked pretty bad in the Gold Cup and Goodson looked pretty good.  I would argue that his call-up only due to Conrad’s injury makes him third-choice by default.

Why was Altidore, who didn’t exactly rack up the minutes in Europe, allowed to take the time off after being named to the roster? Why were Conor Casey, Ricardo Clark and Johnathan Bornstein added to the roster, only to not be used?

Perhaps because Bradley had already gotten extensive looks at all of these players in a tournament we actually cared about.

Sadly, coaches have rarely been held accountable by U.S. Soccer for their performances. This time, they should be.

I totally agree with your point.  In the past, I’ve talked about how all coaches are given a free pass since they only have one real expectation: to qualify for the World Cup, which really isn’t that hard.  Perhaps they are expected to make it out of group, too.  But in this case, I think you’re off.  Coaches should be held accountable for coming runner-up in a tournament they regarded as a throw-away from day one?  I just don’t see it.

There’s an August 12 game in Mexico City coming up that must be won if the momentum gained in the Confederations Cup isn’t to be totally surrendered.

Really?  Momentum will be surrendered if we don’t accomplish a task that we have never accomplished–a task that only one team has ever accomplished?!  A win would be nice.  It seems more possible than ever.  But we should be realistic–walking out of Mexico City with a point would be a great accomplishment, and it shouldn’t be expected.

But what do think would have happened Sunday had the final score been, USA 5, Mexico 0?

I think Javier Aguirre would have said goodbye to his players before his last press conference as coach.

Aguirre would have been fired because his B-team failed to accomplish something that no Mexican team had accomplished for over a decade?  I find that very hard to believe.  Jamie–I’m all for accountability, but you’re making far too big a deal of a pretty meaningless game.

Alright.  I’ve had my go, now it’s your turn.  Feel free to comment below!

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4 Responses

  1. I am getting a little tired of everybody treating the upcoming Mexico qualifier as if it is the most important match in US history. Like you said, a draw would be nice, but shouldn’t be expected. Yes, it is a must win for Mexico, and it would be nice to beat them at home for the first time and cripple their 2010 chances, but walking out of that game with zero points doesn’t really change anything for us. This game is the difference between us probably finishing atop the qualifying group or getting second. Not that big a deal.

  2. Trecker is an out and out provocateur, plain and simple. If he believes everything he wrote, he needs to have his head checked.

    That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad writer or that he doesn’t make valid points; but he consistently takes the facts at hand and extrapolates them to the most negative possible opinion.

  3. @Josh, I couldn’t agree more. Things got a little out of hand after the Confederations Cup. I’m not saying we didn’t make strides or shouldn’t be proud, but we didn’t become a world power overnight.

    The expect-a-win-in-Mexico thing is annoying, but even more annoying to me is everyone talking about the loss in Costa Rica as if it were something unique. We’ve never won there! I don’t see how this is a “momentum shift” or a “low point” for US Soccer–it’s the norm. Like it or not, we aren’t yet the kind of team that can go into Saprissa and win. What we are is a team that can consistently beat/draw with the minnows of CONCACAF. We don’t do well in qualifying because we beat up on Mexico or Costa Rica. We do well because they drop points against the mediocre opponents.

    @Jason, I agree with what you’re saying. I used to think that I just hated Trecker–that he was wrong 100% of the time. More recently, I’ve found that that’s not really the case. I think he’s wrong much of the time, but he also makes some good points (I noted that point about Bob Bradley arriving at the current back line). My biggest problem with him is that he’s alarmist, and oftentimes without good reason. This time, he’s freaking out about a pretty shitty (no offense) group of Americans losing to a pretty good Mexico team. After the last World Cup, he was freaking out about how the US were going to slip into obscurity since they had no good youth in the pipeline (I took the time to write him a letter with a long list of all the American prospects who figured to factor into our future (that list included Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu, Michael Bradley, Jonathan Spector, Charlie Davies, among others (ok, ok…I did put David Arvizu on that list))). He also seems like one of those American fans who desperately wants us to copy England in every way possible–let’s start calling the game “football”, lose the draft, playoffs, etc., not taking into account the practicality of any of his proposed changes. He’s a frustrating guy, for me.

  4. Pretty cool post. I just came by your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your posts.

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