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Gold Cup: USA Sluggish in Draw To Panama

The USMNT was underwhelming in a Gold Cup group stage match once again as they required a second half Michael Bradley equalizer to escape with a 1-1 draw against Panama. The draw gives the US seven points in the group stage, enough to win the group, and the team will now sit back and wait to find out who their opponent will be for Saturday’s quarterfinal match in Baltimore.

The US has also made three changes to the squad for the knockout rounds, dropping Jozy Altidore, Alfredo Morales, and Greg Garza and calling up Alan Gordon, DeMarcus Beasley, and Joe Carona. Here are four thoughts on the US trip through the group stage and upcoming knockout rounds.

Alejandro Bedoya was Alejandro Bedoya

And what I mean by that is once again he was just “meh.” Bedoya was seeing his first action in a while as he had just recovered from a knee injury and don’t get me wrong he was far from bad. But the thing about Ale Bedoya is, there’s just nothing exciting there. I remember Bedoya when he was breaking into the team and he was full of promise and it just seems like that promise never came about.

That doesn’t mean Bedoya didn’t play well. Quite the contrary actually. He set up the US’s only goal and put in exactly the kind of game you would expect from him. But that’s the point. Bedoya seems to be the ultimate player who doesn’t move the needle one bit for the United States. Other players on the wing like DeAndre Yedlin and Gyasi Zardes have shown flashes of brilliance and promise. Seeing Bedoya on the team sheet is like when Manchester United fans saw Ji Sung Park’s name on the team sheet back in 2008-09. You knew you were going to get a great professional effort, but you were still kind of annoyed you weren’t getting the pizzaz of Ronaldo, Giggs, or Nani. But maybe right now that’s exactly what the US needs because…

The midfield needs to improve

For all the positive performances that players were showing in the early parts of 2015 this Gold Cup has been a rude awakening for the US midfield. Through three games so far in the group stage the US hasn’t been able to create any sort of attack from their midfield: both down the middle and on the wings. There are a few factors that contribute to this, with poor field conditions hurting their passing and players possibly playing out of position.

I’m the biggest Jurgen Klinsmann defender in this country, and I’ve learned my lesson to stop questioning his in-game tactics after his substitutions have consistently made him look like a genius. Obviously there’s a BUT coming here and here it is: I just have absolutely no idea what he’s doing with Michael Bradley and Mix Diskerud in the middle of the field. For over a year Klinsmann has insisted on playing Bradley as an attacking midfielder and dropping Diskerud back into a number 8 role even though over the past year it hasn’t worked time and time again.

Bradley is a central midfielder, not an attacking mid or a holding mid, a center mid. Let him play there. When he does is when the US and Bradley are at their best. Mix Diskerud may one day develop into a two way midfielder but he’s not there yet. So for now let the guy do what he does best and create offense. Put him in a role where he can be creative and let the good things come. The US is going to need their midfield to play a lot better as they move into the knockout rounds of this tournament.

Stop making a big deal about squad rotation

I don’t get this one. FOX spent practically the entire pregame show complaining about how Jurgen Klinsmann wasn’t showing any consistency with his teams this tournament and how that’s problem. Even the guys over at @32Flags wrote a post saying how the Group Stage of a regional tournament isn’t the time to be messing around with lineups.

Am I missing something, guys? It’s the freaking Gold Cup. This is EXACTLY the time to mess around with your lineup, try people out and give players competitive experience. Why? Because these games are literally the least important competitive games the US plays in. Eight out of 12 teams advance out of the group stage, which means in order to get eliminated the US would have to not win three home matches in a row to inferior CONCACAF opponents–something they don’t do in the Gold Cup or World Cup qualifying.

Furthermore this tournament is being played in the dead of the summer in the middle of the United States of America. It’s hot and you’re playing every three days; unless you want the players dropping in the middle of matche,s it’s probably in their best interest to keep rotating the squad. This is exactly the time to tinker with the squad and find out who your best players are. In the perfect world we would know the answer to that already, but this obviously isn’t a perfect world because…

Who will be on the field for the knockout rounds?

Great question! When it comes to automatic starters for the US you have Brad Guzan, Fabian Johnson, Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, and that’s it. Who else will line up with those guys is as good a guess as anyone’s because other than maybe Gyasi Zardes, no one has really done anything to demand a place in the team.

DeMarcus Beasley has been added to the team so it would be logical to think he’ll get the nod at left back moving Fabian Johnson over to right back, but again who knows what Klinsmann is planning on doing.

One thing is clear–the US needs to figure this out fast as the tournament really begins now.

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