The United States Men’s Soccer team needs a win against tiny Guadeloupe tonight in order to ensure that they advance to the quarterfinals of the 2011 Gold Cup. Coverage starts at 8pm eastern on Fox Soccer Channel. The US is fresh off a shocking 2-1 defeat at the hands of Panama, which was the first time the US has ever lost in group play at the tournament.
The loss put the US in a somewhat precarious position in the group as they sit tied for second with Canada on 3 points. Panama leads the group with 6. Panama and Canada play prior to the US game and should Canada win, the US would need a victory to ensure that they advance. That said, a win against Guadeloupe is not exactly a big ask.
Guadeloupe is just 629 square miles and its population is right around 400,000. They are 0-2 in the tournament so far and have had a player sent off in each of their first two contests. The US will be big favorites, but then again, they were big favorites against Panama. The US will certainly need a better effort tonight to not only ensure they qualify, but also to restore some of the good feelings around the team.
Goalie Tim Howard says the squad sees this as an elimination game.
"We know it’s an elimination game and we know what we have to do to perform," said Howard. "If we perform to our own standards we will get the right result and move forward. We would have liked to have cruised through the first two games and put our feet up and have a laugh (vs. Guadeloupe) but that’s not always the case. We just want to get through."
It will be interesting to see if Bob Bradley learns any lessons from his teams’ loss over the weekend. Specifically, here’s three moves that he has to make to win this game and progress in the tournament.
Get rid of Tim Ream and put Carlos Bocanegra in defense.
The young Red Bull defender might have a future with the national team, but it is clearly not now. Ream was awful against Panama, with his worst moment coming when he conceded a needless penalty to give Panama their second goal. He was also terrible against Spain a few weeks ago and generally just isn’t ready. Bocanegra will bring a much smarter and more veteran presence to the middle. Eric Lichaj or Jonathon Bornstein can take his place on the left.
Start Sacha Kljestan and send Jermaine Jones to the bench
Jones is very energetic and can be a tenacious midfield defender, but all that was largely useless against Panama. His distribution was poor and he seemed to drift out of the game. What the US needed against Panama was a creative passer to help break down their bunker defense. Jones wasn’t that and threw a bit of a tantrum when he subbed off in the 60th minute. Kljestan, I thought really turned things around when he came on. His passing was much crisper and he showed more desire to get forward in attack.
Play Clint Dempsey at forward
There is no one on the US roster better in front of goal than Dempsey. While Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore barely got any service, both were largely invisible against Panama. I’m still not convinced Agudelo was even in the game and Altidore’s only real contribution was the cross that Chris Wondolowski hilariously missed from point blank range. Speaking of, the young MLS based forwards (Wondolowski & Agudelo) have been a huge disappointment so far.
Starting Dempsey up top with a more offensive minded player like Kljestan in the midfield gives the US a much more dangerous attacking lineup. They won’t be quite as stout on defense, but we’re taking about Guadeloupe here.