What If the USMNT Fails?

"The evidence of leadership that needs to be seen against Mexico cannot be distilled into as simple a formula as a win. If the U.S. squad appears directionless and tentative (as it did against Denmark at times), but scores due to a lucky penalty call (arguably, this also happened with the Danes) and hangs on desperately for the win against a dominant Mexican team that just can't quite find the equalizer, that might not aid Bradley's cause much."
-Andrea Canales, ESPN (LINK), 02.05.07

I don't know how U.S. fans can help but kick around the thought of what tonight's result will mean. I don't know if I'm where Canales is - to state my quibble clearly, I think, with our squad early in a flag-flying transition, any kind of win against this Mexican squad should impress anyone. But I also take her point well enough to accept she could very well be right.

But the bigger question is what happens if we get shellacked. What if the U.S. squad looks "directionless and tentative" and we get our heads handed to us with an ass chaser? I certainly view a 3-0, even a 4-0 U.S. loss, as well within the realm of possibilities, especially with the Mexican squad and coach amped as they appear to be. Then there's that wonder-quote from Cuauhtemoc Blanco making the rounds (here, for example):

"I don't have friendly matches. Much less against them."

I guess there's nothing to do but offer this as a question and see who bites: would an aimless, 3-0 loss be enough, from your perspective, to turn Bradley's "interim" title to "caretaker"?

Just to play fair, here's my answer: No. This will be only his second game in charge and, with so many familiar faces giving way to new ones, it's asking a lot of Bradley and the team that they go out and beat a very good Mexican team. Returning to Canales' earlier point, though, about helping Bradley's cause: a loss, particularly a bad one, absolutely should go in his permanent file and weigh heavily in discussions about his future with the team; in simple terms, it would take great performances in the Gold Cup and the Copa America to erase a bad loss - and that assumes Bradely even gets the chance. A respectable loss, not so much; good performances in the March friendlies should buy Bradley a shot at hosting the summer tournaments at the very least; whatever he gets for results, I'd argue Bradley is doing well enough getting rebuilding underway.

If we do manage a win tonight, two things should happen: 1) I strongly suspect I'll stay up way too late and drink far too much; 2) Bradley should be awarded stewardship over the summer tournaments, no questions asked. A win here tells me we should see what the man can really do.



Gareth Sleger said...

Any result would be hard to measure without the U.S. fielding its first-choice players like Mexico is.
It's great to see Howard, Dempsey and Bocanegra. But Convey has been out of Reading's first-team play too long for me to get excited about his presence.
Onyewu, Cherundolo, Beasley, Wolff and even Spector all need to be on the U.S. roster for there to be a fair measure. But I know regardless not having those players is no excuse for any sort of poor performance.
Side note: Think Bradley should consider Jay DeMerit, who is having solid season in the EPL despite Watford being currently in last place, for a call up?

The Manly Ferry said...

I agree with your opening comment, but only in terms of guaging where the U.S. men stack up against the Mexican team in a "big picture" sense. For Bradley's tenure, it's enough for me to see how he gets the team he has playing. If they look like morons on the way to getting blown out, that will be a statement on Bradley. Comparatively weaker teams can still look sharp and organized against stronger ones; think of Paraguay's recent World Cup teams, which, till the last edition, were unbearable to watch, but, damn were they organized.

As for DeMerit, I've got to take something of a pass; I've seen him play all of twice. Sadly, the two times I've seen him, he looked out of his depth. But, with everyone else seeming to like him, I"ll assume my sample set was unrepresentative.