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Football Ground >> USA Football, Gold Cup or Copa?


2/20/07 4:22 PM
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Takedown
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Edited: 20-Feb-07
Member Since: 03/12/2002
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Interesting article on US Football today from Fox Sports: Team USA prioritizing the wrong tournament Jamie Trecker / Fox Soccer Channel It's easy to see why interim U.S. coach Bob Bradley is saying he'll put the CONCACAF Gold Cup first: The fact is, after this past week's draw, the USA doesn't have a chance to progress in the Copa America. Is this fatalistic? No -- it's realistic. The USA has been drawn into a group from which it's almost impossible to escape. Against Argentina, Colombia and Paraguay, the Americans might even depart Venezuela without a point this summer. The only team in the group the Americans have ever consistently beaten are the Paraguayans, who last won the title in 1979. And coming off a 2006 World Cup that exposed deep flaws, the Americans look to have little chance against three teams which have better talent, better skills and better depth at nearly every position. That this can be said about Colombia should show how far the Americans have fallen in both confidence and depth. Fact is, Colombia has not historically been strong in the tournament, winning just once, in 2001 (when they also hosted the competition). Despite the fact that this team failed to make the World Cup, they have always played the U.S. tough and can be expected to have huge fan support. But the other two are miles ahead. Paraguay, of course, beat Trinidad and Tobago this past summer and was edged in two games by England and Sweden, but overall impressed more observers than did the Americans. They have been somewhat inconsistent at the international level, but will look at the Copa as a proving ground for the start of South America's World Cup qualifying in September. The Argentines were taken by surprise in 1995 by the Yanks at this tournament, but this team was considered a World Cup title favorite in 2006. And, let's face it, the Argentines have won the title 15 times since its start in 1910 as the South American Championship. (The tournament changed its name in 1916 and remains the longest-running competition in soccer today). Okay, the USA might get a break if Argentina, which has a veteran, solid World Cup side that needs little tinkering with, decides to rest their best players for Copa America. But even a second-string Argentina looks better than most other countries' top sides. Keep in mind that these games will also be played in a country whose relations with the American government are chilly at best. The Americans may very well be unwanted visitors given the words exchanged between the governments over the past year. Their stay could become downright unpleasant if tensions are fanned by further oil crises or American military adventures, neither of which goes unnoticed in Latin America. This all said: Why would the USA put more emphasis on a tournament few know about and even fewer truly care about? The CONCACAF Gold Cup is the regional championship. And, winning the Gold Cup gets you a berth into another minor tournament, the Confederations Cup, which will be the dry run for South Africa 2010. But years of obscurity and inattention have put the Gold Cup into the same category as the U.S. Open Cup. Fact is, even though the Copa America has been fading, it still captures more international attention and cachet. So, since winning the Gold Cup has done so little for the Americans' appeal in the past, it's difficult to figure out why the Americans wouldn't seize the opportunity to go into the Copa America with all guns blazing. In the past, this decision would be easier -- win the Gold Cup, take your chances across the Caribbean. Why? Well, in the past, this team was so off the radar that a columnist in a major newspaper could actually write that U.S. Soccer should give up on the men to focus on the 'far-more marketable' women. Today, the team IS on the radar, and confidence in it is at an all-time low, at a time when acceptance of the sport, perversely, has never been higher. Fans crave excitement, and are demanding performance. This makes for a wrenching decision. Because of the timing, the USA will need to assemble between 40-50 players, allowing for injuries, and field almost two separate teams. The European-based players -- some of whom the USA still shows little to no inclination to look at -- will be coming off a full season and will need some rest. The logical thing, therefore, would be to field a domestic-based team, with players in mid-season form, for the Gold Cup. At the same time, U.S. Soccer would also have to send a group of European-based players down to Venezuela to prep under what will be stifling conditions. The hardest part will be for the Americans to build a core of players able to play in both tournaments. At present, there are only four or five guys you can pencil in (for my money, they are: Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Matt Reis, Tim Howard and Bobby Convey), meaning that there should be a healthy competition for all the other slots. But the fact remains that in Venezuela, the USA is going to have to lean heavily on guys who have experience playing in front of hostile crowds day in and day out. That means, like it or not, a look at guys like Jay DeMerit, Heath Pearce, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen and Jonathan Spector, who of course do this every week. It also means cutting the apron strings for guys like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, and letting them sink or swim on their own. If the coaches are smart, it also should mean some frank conversations with Brad Freidel and Brian McBride about putting that uniform on at least one more time. If U.S. Soccer has the courage and the vision, the Americans could play respectably in two tournaments this summer. If they don't, they'll be throwing away a chance to get back some much-needed international respect. The thing is -- and I'm not sure U.S. Soccer realizes it -- that they and the sport are on the clock now. Fans have to make sure players and coaches alike realize this.
2/20/07 8:32 PM
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Yougottawanna
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Edited: 20-Feb-07
Member Since: 09/21/2001
Posts: 20740
DeMerit and Spector are already being "looked at," from what I hear the decision has basically already been made to put them on the team. But writers like that guy expect too much IMO. Seems like he's saying "you HAVE to beat Paraguay, despite the fact that they have better players at almost every position."
2/21/07 3:47 AM
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Shotgun Mick
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Edited: 21-Feb-07
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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As long as you have Gooch in defence you'll be fine!
2/21/07 8:58 AM
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Govnor
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Edited: 21-Feb-07
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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...and Spector!!
2/21/07 9:53 AM
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Shotgun Mick
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Edited: 21-Feb-07
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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*Looks at West Ham's league position* Hmmmmm
2/21/07 3:10 PM
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invalid
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Edited: 21-Feb-07
Member Since: 04/18/2001
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Wait a minute... now I understand that Argentina is a world powerhouse, and they've got a program doing great things that we all saw at the last World Cup, but Colombia? Paraguay? Give me a griggin break. Colombia hasn't been the same feared South American player that it was 15 years ago for quite some time. Sure, they're competitive, but it's no death sentence. And Paraguay? LOL
2/21/07 3:32 PM
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Edited: 21-Feb-07
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Well there's no doubt that we're in a goal drought but giving our showing against Mexico in a pro-Mexico crowd, in a game where Mexico controlled posession, we started back on the right foot. I'd like to see a competitive team against Argentina and then have Bradley throw in some youngsters to test them and see where they stand in the other games.

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