Posts tagged steve cherundolo
I’ve said before that qualifying out of our CONCACAF region is full of tense moments. This upcoming set of games, back to back vs. Jamaica (at their place on 9/7, and at home in Columbus on 9/11), is an early example of how a few breaks can lead to sticky situations in what should have been a straightforward path out of our semifinal group.
Klinsmann has had to test his depth with this roster, and there are a few things worth pondering as the team prepares for the most crucial two games of his tenure.
Muscle Strains Depth
Two of our best three players are missing due to leg strains. Landon Donovan tweaked his hammy in the win down in Mexico and hasn’t played since in MLS, while Bradley’s been sidelined with a bum thigh for AS Roma since a so-so first start in their season opener. Donovan’s leadership, decision-making, workrate and ability to make that one perfect play that wins the game will obviously be missed. But Bradley’s absence is arguably more painful. The team counts on his two-way ability and he provides punch on both sides of the ball as well as a knack for coming up with big goals. With his backup options, you either lose passing and possession, or defensive bite. It is difficult to overstate the void left by the absence of these two and the experience they would have brought.
In addition, Josh Gatt, the Norway-based speed merchant looking for his first cap, had to turn down Klinsmann’s call due to….a strained hamstring.
Well – it’s here. World Cup Qualifying. Read Grant Wahl’s excellent primer here to get you in the mood.
We are coming off a game against Brazil which showcased some excellent attacking play from the US, which had me optimistic despite a poor result (1-4 loss); and against Canada (0-0 tie) which simultaneously put me to sleep and woke me out of my complacency in thinking this team had figured things out on the offensive side of the ball. That performance was so static and lifeless that I can only hope they were tired and testing out their “how you grind out a 0-0 result” strategy. We were lucky to leave with that result.
Now the team is in Tampa, waiting to face tiny Antigua and Barbuda in a game that will only be remembered if it goes horribly wrong. And then it’s on to Guatemala City to play a game that is much more difficult than it looks on paper. That’s the thing about qualifying. People only notice it when it goes awry. But if you ask me, this is my favorite sporting ‘event’. I’ve talked about why in prior posts, but qualifying is where you earn your stripes as a fan. It’s about paying $30 to watch a grainy feed from Guatemala in the first round. It’s about hugging a stranger at Cuatros (our local American Outlaws bar) when our boys clinch their ticket to the finals in some Central American hell hole stadium with hardly anyone back home noticing how hard it really was. The World Cup finals in Brazil (fingers crossed, no jinxies) are the fun part, and the casual fans will start paying attention then. But the two years ahead of that are where you earn the right to call this team yours.