Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What Have We Learned From the USA's Run?

What did we learn from the wonderful '09 Confed Cup from the US Men's National Team? Other then I have the fact that I should quit with the predictions? In my pre-Confed Cup posting, I said not to expect much from the USA's squad. I figured it would be a rerun of the World Cup 2006. I didn't expect the USMNT to get out of the group and it looked like I was correct, right up to the kickoff of the final group match.

USMNT who won the 2009 Confederations Cup silver medal

That was when we learned about the effort and heart that this group of players can show. Their belief in themselves was a joy to see. They played like they had nothing to lose, which is commendable. They made everyone who has been following this team for years and years proud. The audacity to believe that they had a chance to advance after 2 losses and a -5 goal differential was amazing. That never-say-die mentality is typical to the American culture and is something that continues to amaze the international soccer community.

Unfortunately, in the Final against Brazil, we also learned that the USA has depth issues. The USMNT player pool has 12-13 players who are of what I will call international pedigree. You saw it clearly in the second half of the Final, when the frantic pace and altitude finally started to wear on the starting eleven. There was no one on the bench who could come in and keep the level of play where it needs to be. In fact, there were seven players on the bench who didn't see a minute of play in the Confed Cup.

Now, injuries have certainly hurt the USA in the past few months. I definitely think the likes of Steve Cherundolo, Maurice Edu, and Brian Ching would have provided a Bob Bradley better options than he had on the Confed bench. It will be interesting to see if Bradley can identify more players during the upcoming Gold Cup and World Cup Qualifying campaign.

And it obviously will not hurt to add a player or two like Jermaine Jones and Edgar Castillo to the USMNT player pool now that FIFA rules have changed for switching National teams. Will these USA "defectors" be the answer? No, but they will add to the current depth of the player pool, which is vital to international success.

Of course, these are not the only thing we learned, but they were the most obvious. If the USA wants to maintain this level of international play, they will need to keep the never-say-die attitude and they will have to dig the player pool deeper.

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