I've never kept it a secret that I'm a fan of three of the soccer teams I often write about here. The Philadelphia Union, the United States men's national team and West Ham United of England always will hold serious places in my heart. All told, I've seen the three of those teams play, in person, more than 30 times in the last 12 years.
The blogosphere, so to speak, is a different animal to print and other traditional media in that regard. But, just because I express an allegiance to certain teams, it doesn't mean my analysis is all rose petals and violins. Hey, if a team claims your soul, then they had better produce performances that wreak of passion.
That was far from the case in the U.S. men's 1-0 win over Guadeloupe on Tuesday night in the last Group C game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. American striker Jozy Altidore scored a belter of a goal from 30 yards out in the first half, but the rest was a case of "nearly" from a U.S. side that flattered to deceive.
No matter, as the U.S. will play Jamaica in the quarterfinals at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., on Sunday at 3 p.m. (Fox Soccer). The pedestrian play shown by the Americans has to be wiped completely off the "white board" by coach Bob Bradley. There has to be a vibrancy to the U.S. gameplan that we really haven't seen since the last few minutes vs. Algeria last year in South Africa.
I've also said on here before that I've actually taken days off work to watch the U.S. men play in FIFA tournaments such as the Confederations Cup and, of course, the World Cup. I'll always "root for the shirt," as we say in this sport. But, I must say, that undying enthusiasm is getting much harder to muster. I at least want to be entertained by the product.
I hate to say it, but soccer's growth in the U.S. seems to have got to this team. When you make the covers of Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine and are hailed as the greatest thing since sliced bread, the effort levels are bound to dip. The Landon Donovans and Carlos Bocanegras of the world look to be coasting and resting on their laurels.
Then, there's Mexico. They have been the revelation of this tournament, with a 3-0-0 record in group play. "El Tri," as they are known, have scored 14 goals and conceded just 1. They're scoring goals for fun now, and I hear regulalrly from local friends such as Jessica Figueroa of Linwood and Antonio Cortes of Pleasantville about their advanced level of play over the last week.
Many other pundits have written about this in recent days, but I agree that the Bradley coaching experiment has gone stale. How can a team with Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard be struggling like a junior-college side? You have to think that a foreign coach might have to be the way to go here, although there is another type of option ... semantically, at least.
Don't look now, but Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak just could become the next U.S. coach. He's been at the helm for younger age groups within the American setup, but his work with the Union has been stellar this year. If Bradley is fired and Nowak gets the call, don't be surprised if Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz lets his manager go and hands the team over to assistant John Hackworth.
Nowak is from Poland, but he's been involved in the U.S. hierarchy for years. He'd almost be the perfect candidate for the national team ... he has the foreign pedigree but he knows what makes American players tick, so to speak. But, we digress. The U.S. team has Jamaica in front of them Sunday. For now, that's all that matters.