Bradley safe for now after win over Jamaica
On Father’s Day last year, Bob Bradley’s World Cup campaign was saved, quite appropriately, by a goal from his son Michael to secure a group stage draw against Slovenia.
This time it was Michael Bradley’s midfield partner Jermaine Jones who would provide salvation, on a stage less grand than that of soccer’s greatest event but on an afternoon which could have been the coach’s last in charge if things had gone badly.
Jones, who grew up in Germany but switched to play for the United States last year, was the driving force behind the team’s comfortable 2-0 victory over Jamaica in the quarterfinal of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday. There was little drama or suspense, but after three straight disappointing performances in group play had put Bradley’s position in serious jeopardy, a brighter display was desperately needed against an opponent that came into the game in fine form.
And so it transpired, although it should be pointed out that the surprising hesitance of the Jamaicans made things significantly easier for the hosts at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. The Caribbean side played an ultra-cautious defensive formation that included five men at the back, and allowed the Americans to dominate possession.
It would take a victory in the championship game of this tournament before Bradley feels he is not permanently 90 minutes away from getting sacked, so while this result got him off the hook for a while, further obstacles await.
Next up is a semifinal against Panama in Houston’s Reliant Stadium on Wednesday, and if that can be negotiated safely a likely final against Mexico in Los Angeles, which would be the latest installment of a regional rivalry of increasing spice.
That could be the real acid test, if indeed the Americans continue this mini-revival and make it to the Rose Bowl. Panama beat the USA, 2-1, in group play and has looked outstanding. If it gets revenge, then the Mexicans would be the sternest of challenges, with a settled and physical squad and, in Javier Hernandez, a genuine emerging superstar.
Bradley is a fighter and his scrappy demeanor rubs off on his team. He has been in trouble before, seemingly dead and buried at the 2009 Confederations Cup before a spectacular revival that included victory over Spain and a 2-0 lead on Brazil in the title game before falling 3-2.
Sunday was a step in the right direction. If anything, Bradley may have wished for a bit more of a test instead of an opponent that rolled over and asked for a kicking.
Landon Donovan wasn’t even needed to break the deadlock, having only returned from his sister’s wedding in California at 7 a.m., albeit on a private jet. Donovan was eventually introduced in the second half, by which time Jones’ fierce long-range strike had been deflected into the net by defender Jermaine Taylor.
“That goal really got us going,” midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “After that we kept them moving and got them tired, we really opened them up.”
When Donovan did come on he looked reasonably sharp, although in all fairness Jamaica posed nowhere near as much of a test as expected.
Now Bradley has some difficult decisions. Jozy Altidore’s status is unclear after he injured his hamstring, although Juan Agudelo proved himself a more than capable deputy.
Agudelo is still a little raw, but he is quick and enterprising and did well to set up Clint Dempsey for the second goal, which put the contest to bed. He may be called upon to start in the semifinal, even though he is still largely unproven at this level.
In his fifth year as head coach, Bradley is still facing a fight to prove himself too. Another bright Father’s Day bought him some more time, but there is still work to be done.
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