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U.S. struggles with step up in class

It has been a tough week for the U.S. national team. Two games against Brazil and Italy have produced more red cards (2) than goals (1). So what is going on with the national team? Are we really that bad?

Lets keep one thing in mind when analyzing the U.S. performance in the Confederations Cup. The U.S. has played two of the best four teams in the world. It is not as if the U.S. has lost to Cuba and Bermuda. None of the U.S. players would get into the starting line-up for either Italy or Brazil. I don’t think anyone seriously thought the U.S. would win either of these two games.

That being said, the games this week have identified several weaknesses in the U.S. approach.

Bob Bradley:

Bradley’s game plans in South Africa have not work. The U.S. approach has been too defensive and allowed Italy and Brazil much too much time to set the tempo of the game. More worrying for U.S. fans, as a commentator on Yahoo mentioned, is that the US team has been horrible in 4 of its last 5 games. We barely escaped with a tie in El Salvador and it took two set plays against Honduras for the U.S. to score.

The U.S. players seems to lack the fire and passion of previous U.S. teams and that is down to the coaching. The U.S. will qualify for the World Cup next year, but can US Soccer afford to go and lose three straight games? The former German coach Jurgen Klinsmann is sitting in LA and the pressure has to be building on US Soccer to make a change ahead of next summer’s World Cup.

Lack of creative players:

It is a rare occasion now when the U.S. scores a goal from open play. Outside of Landon Donovan (one of the bright spots in South Africa), the U.S. has nobody capable of that piece of magic to open up an opponent. You cannot be successful against good teams when your whole attacking game plan is to score from a free-kick or corner.

Lack of playing time for key players:

A problem that Bob Bradley is that a several members of his squad are not playing on a regular basis in Europe. Beasley, Altidore and Adu are all unfit and not up to the standard of international football. Bradley should take the approach of Fabio Capello of England and play players who are playing, and playing well, for their club sides. That means that players like Kenny Cooper, Stuart Holden and Jose Francisco Torres should be in the squad and playing.

Sometimes it is easy to paper over holes in a team when the competition is not that tough. When you take a step up in the quality of your opponents then your weaknesses become exposed for everyone to see. Fortunately for the U.S. team, the Confederations Cup is a warm-up for the World Cup and not the actually tournament. So we still have 12 months to get things right.

But things could be worse. We could be Italy, who need to beat Brazil this weekend and hope that the U.S. beats Egypt or they are out of the tournament also.