The United States wrapped up group play with a 2-2 draw against Haiti last weekend, snapping the team’s perfect run in the Gold Cup and illustrating how far the Americans still have to go in finding useful depth.
Some are already in a tizzy about this draw. After all, this is against a team that on any other night, a full American side probably would have walloped (funny thing — historically, the USA has a losing record against the islanders at 5-6-5). In truth, fans should see this game as it was — meaningless.
Fans should also be happy that, for once, coach Bob Bradley and his staff did the smart thing and gave a different group of guys a shot to play themselves on or off the team.
Would it have been better if Freddy Adu was still in camp? Of course — that decision still defies logic. But it’s hard to argue with giving Luis Robles, Michael Parkhurst, Kenny Cooper, Davy Arnaud and Jimmy Conrad the game.
The fact that few of them took the chance isn’t Bradley’s fault, and we learned a good bit about a few guys as a result.
We also saw two pretty good goals from the Americans. Stuart Holden is the biggest thing to come out of the Gold Cup so far, and of all the non-regulars on the team, you have to think he is the guy who deserves a few more looks. Give credit also to Arnaud for finishing well to give the USA an early lead.
Holden’s goal also showed that even the C-listers are able to rebound from adversity.
Yep, it’s troubling that — once again — the Americans went to sleep at the start of the second half and got punished for it. I’ve noted before that this is an unaddressed issue of coaching, and sooner or later, someone has to be made responsible for not having the guys ready from the moment the whistle blows.
But also give credit to Haiti for exposing the Americans’ weaknesses. They passed the ball around, dragged the defenders out of the middle and then teed up on Robles. They also showed how much slower most of the MLS-based guys are.
We also learned some guys can’t hack it at the international level. Jay Heaps, at blame on both Haiti goals, isn’t a national team player, simply a serviceable club player. That shouldn’t be a shock to anyone — the guy got his debut at 32 after logging 301 MLS games.
If he wasn’t a gamer at age 25, he probably isn’t going to be one now. But Heaps probably doesn’t have actual designs on a national team slot. Say what you want to about Heaps’ sometimes rustic style, but he’s a great leader and a smart enough guy to know this game was a ‘thank you’ akin to Santino Quaranta’s bow in D.C.
It’s the other Boston-tied guy that has to be worried. If I’m Michael Parkhurst, I’m thinking today that I just flushed my national team jersey down the drain. He has played two lousy games in a row, following on a wretched showing at the Olympic games. Like Heaps, he was partly responsible for both Haiti goals. Unlike Heaps, he probably thought he had a shot.
I had hoped Robles would put in a better performance than he did. On the balance of this one game, it’s very hard to see what Kaiserslautern sees in him. This, of course, is grotesquely unfair to a guy who actually is a good ‘keeper, but you have to take the chances you get, and Robles never looked comfortable with his back line. He made a series of bad decisions, almost put the ball into his own net in the first half, and was cleanly beaten on the tying goal.
Of course the guys that have shown in the Cup to date are folks we’re all well-acquainted with. Charlie Davies, Jimmy Conrad (who saved the game for the Nats), Heath Pearce, Benny Feilhaber and Steve Cherundolo.
What is troubling is the fall-off after these guys. Brad Evans? Sam Cronin? Kyle Beckerman? C’mon. We would have been better off seeing a few more games out of Freddy Adu and maybe a couple of cameos from Marcus Hahnemann and Frankie Simek.
Instead, Adu is in Portugal (and not playing) and we’re left wondering what might have been.
The Americans now have the week off. They next face Panama on Saturday, a match they are widely expected to win. The Yanks have owned Panama, going 5-0-2 lifetime.
Panama lost to Guadeloupe in the opener, but then held Mexico to a 1-1 draw in a controversial match and followed up with a 4-0 thumping of winless Nicaragua to sneak into the quarterfinals. The Americans finished tied for the best record with Canada and Mexico, but with the best goal difference at +6.
The Americans will face the winner of the Canada-Honduras match earlier in the day in Philadelphia, while Mexico will take on Haiti in hopes of a shot at the winner of the Guadeloupe-Costa Rica game both in Texas. The semifinals will take place in Chicago the following Thursday while the final is scheduled in Giants Stadium for Sunday July 26.
Jamie Trecker’s newest book, “Love and Blood: At the World Cup with the Footballers, Fans and Freaks” is out now from Harcourt. Jamie is assisted by Jerry and Janice Trecker. Contact Jamie at email@example.com visit his blog and website at www.jamietrecker.com.
The views and opinions expressed by Jamie Trecker do not necessarily reflect those of the Fox Soccer Channel or FoxSoccer.com.