U.S. 1, Guadeloupe 0 a.k.a. Sunil Gulati's worst nightmare avoided.
Not sure what to really say about this one without beating the same drum I've nearly wore a hole through since the beginning of June?
Let's start positive, right? Jozy Altidore(*) scored a peach of a goal. Off the top of my head, the most aesthetically pleasing tally by an American since Benny Feilhaber at the 2007 Gold Cup. There's something about a golazo from distance that make them the ultimate sports highlight.
(*) Jozy, to use the parlance of today's youth: That goal was swag.
On top of that, the U.S. rarely scores from outside the box, which Altidore's ambitious attempt all the more satisfying. Glad he took the initiative. Let's hope if anything the Gold Cup wakes up Altidore going ahead toward 2014.
In one fell swoop his golazo alleviated the immediate pressure on the U.S. -- failing to advance out of Group C in the Gold Cup, as well as making sure the Americans didn't concede first ... again. (Thank you Senor Crossbar.)
Eric Lichaj inserted at left back made some eye-opening runs up the sideline, creating -- gasp -- actual wide play from the U.S. in a competitive match. The kid seems to have a bright future, too bad he's the only young/new player Bradley brought into the fold to establish himself a little bit.
The rest of the game? Hate to write it, but sadly, it is what it is.
The U.S. got the result it needed to avoid major egg on its face, but still finishes second in the group of Panama.
There were misses and flubs by the bushel for the crowd in Kansas City to enjoy. Not sure what got into Clint Dempsey today, but he missed more chances tonight than he probably did all season with Fulham. That open-goal from two-yards out? Stunning.
Chris Wondolowski was right behind him.
You could argue this match could've finished 5-0 with a couple of inches here or there for the U.S. Then, cosmetically, it looks a lot better than a 1-0 game against a Caribbean island that isn't even recognized by FIFA. But it didn't. As it is, the U.S. needed every bit of craft to grind out a 1-0 result against a bunch of journeyman pros in front of an appreciative home crowd.
There's just something amiss with the U.S. at the moment. Again, maybe we as fans are expecting too much. Maybe the long European season has sapped guys like Dempsey, draining them physically. Perhaps, the U.S. simply is in a down cycle and not all that strong at the moment.
As it stands the only word I can think to use around the team is malaise.
There doesn't seem to be a lot of hunger, inspiration, passion or urgency. This might be expected from a team of veterans who "know their roles," true. By the same token, wouldn't there be some baseline of accountability or leadership on this U.S. team, which frankly seems to be spinning its wheels and going through the motions. Who's telling players to step up there games? Tim Howard? Michael Bradley? Is this group simply even-keeled by nature, drilled to not get too high after the wins or too low after the defeats?
Is this type of negativity by fans like myself self-perpetuating?
Should people like me stop worrying about how Bradley's boys get results, so long as they get them and put on a red-colored costume and cheer no matter how blah the play is?
My Internet Amigo Erik put forth the hypothetical before the match, whether it would be worth losing to Guadeloupe if it meant Bradley the Elder would be dismissed? For the record, no, because Gulati probably doesn't have the wherewithal to hire a coach who'll usher in true change.
It's pretty sad the state of U.S. soccer at the current moment for so many has come to that, though.
Bring on the Reggae Boyz and with it, all the bad Rastafarian jokes and "Cool Runnings" references you can cook up before Sunday at RFK. Probably shouldn't even joke about an improved Jamaica team, either, let alone mentioning a date in the finals vs. Mexico. (Granted if the U.S. wins it gets either Panama or El Salvador in the semifinals since the draw was made to keep the two supposed CONCACAF powers apart until the final in front of 90,000+ in Pasadena.)
On that note, in closing, watching the game on the Univision.com feed the broadcasters -- my highlight of the match -- mentioned the name Kyle Beckerman. That about says it all right there, doesn't it?
One Other Thought:
Does Altidore's goal even count since it wasn't televised by ESPN? (Eating my words as I type since it was, in fact, Sportcenter's Top Play for the night.)
The Worldwide Leader does so much for the sport, but almost completely ignores the Gold Cup on the network since it doesn't have the rights. ESPN employs a bunch of analysts -- John Harkes, Alexi Lalas, etc. -- it couldn't carve out five minutes across one of its entities to have them discuss what's eating at this current team?
By ignoring what's been going on, ESPN helps Gulati's status quo remain in place.