I didn’t get to watch the entire match. I saw the majority of the 2nd half and highlights (if you can call them that) from the first half. The US continues to lethargically march through the final round of World Cup qualifying, and unless there is a dramatic turnaround in both philosophy and energy over the next month, the US could find itself in significant trouble in their next two qualifying matches versus Honduras and Costa Rica. In fact, the only saving grace for the US is that Costa Rica is actually playing worse than the US right now. After leading the group heading into September, Costa Rica now finds itself in the precarious fourth position, staring down a home and home match with the 5th place team from South America, which right now is Argentina!

The play of the US last night is simply inexplicable. They had to have three points from this match, and while they achieved their goal, they were lucky to leave the islands with three points. They lacked energy and organization. The US continues to play down to the level of their opponents and are developing bad habits in the process. While Jonathan Bornstein actually rewarded Coach Bob Bradley’s faith in him with a respectable game against T&T after a woeful performance against El Salvador, the very fact that he was even on the pitch is mind-boggling. Michael Bradley continues to play poorly (even though his first half showing was better, he faded down the stretch), and yet he continues to get 90 minutes every match. Clint Dempsey was a ghost last night, and he has been for some time, his key goals in the Confederations Cup notwithstanding. The only time that Dempsey shows himself to be effective is when Bradley moves him up top late the match. The problem is that his lack of defense throughout the match leading up to his position switch is putting far too much pressure on the US’ outside backers, which are positions of weakness for the US side. Only Ricardo Clark’s brilliant goal will make us forget an otherwise forgettable performance. When will Bob Bradley figure out that a central midfield of Clark and Bradley isn’t going to cut it when we play better competition?

The US is sitting at the top of the group with two matches remaining thanks to El Salvador’s shocking upset of Costa Rica (1-0) and Mexico’s defeat of Honduras (1-0). Next the US has to play at Honduras. Honduras is playing perhaps the best soccer in the region even with their recent loss to Mexico. The US will not earn any points in Honduras if they duplicate their recent showings versus El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago. Fortunately for the US they have a month to reorganize and will welcome Edgar Castillo, a healthy Maurice Edu, and hopefully, Jermaine Jones (if he gets cleared by FIFA), to camp prior to the contests with Honduras and Costa Rica. The US will have to earn at least 1 point in one of those matches to advance to South Africa. The only way the US can advance following their Honduras match without a win at Honduras is for T&T to defeat Costa Rica, which isn’t likely to happen given that the match will take place in Costa Rica. This means apart from a win at Honduras, the US hopes of advancing to South Africa will rise and fall at RFK stadium in Washington D.C. against Costa Rica in October.

Going forward I would like to see Coach Bob Bradley do the following to shake up a sleep-walking US team:

  • Give Jermaine Jones a long and legitimate opportunity to win the CDM position, even if it means moving or benching Michael Bradley (his son). If Jones doesn’t win the job, make sure that M Bradley assumes the role of CDM, not CAM.
  • Give Maurice Edu and Edgar Castillo a look at LB. Jonathan Bornstein isn’t the answer. In fact, if Edu and Castillo aren’t the answer, consider shifting Spector to LB (where he plays at West Ham in the Premier League) and start Cherundolo at RB. Actually, Frankie Hejduk is a better option at LB than Bornstein.
  • Recognize that Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley are both defensive midfielders. They are not viable attacking options. Both lack creativity and touch, and are prone to turnovers.
  • Insert Benny Feilhaber, Clint Dempsey or Jose Francisco Torres into the CAM position. These two players possess the most ability to possess and distribute the ball. Yes, they may be defensive liabilities at times, but neither are the defensive liability that Clint Dempsey is.
  • If you aren’t going to play Dempsey as a CAM where he actually has some help defensively, put him up top as a striker. In fact, bench his lazy butt and bring him in around the 70th min as a substitute for Altidore or Davies. In short, send a message that work-rate matters.

No rankings on last nights match. Tim Howard once again proves his worth. Onyewu showed some rust but the team was overall fairly solid defensively, which is surprising after the El Salvador game.

Coach Bradley is holding this team back. Yes, he has the highest winning percentage in US Soccer history, but think about it: what does that really mean? The US doesn’t have much of a soccer history. Bradley continues to show that he isn’t interested in putting the best players on the pitch. Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber, Jose Francisco Torres…They all need to play more, and they aren’t because Bradley continues to stick with players like Bradley and Dempsey, even when they aren’t performing. Coach Bradley showed the same loyalty to Sacha Klejstan and Damarcus Beasley. Enough is enough. If players aren’t performing, bench them. Coach Bradley’s blind loyalty to certain players will eventually cost the US dearly.  Let’s just hope it doesn’t keep the US from booking a ticket to South Africa.