The USA meets Canada @ 8 p.m. ET, Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan (FSC/ TeleFutura)
The Gold Cup is already underway. Mexico got off to a flying start hammering El Salvador, 5-0 and Costa Rica manhandled Cuba by the same scoreline. An improving Jamaica beat Grenada, 4-0 while the powerful Hondurans were held to a goalless draw against Guatemala.
Today, it is the USA's turn and they meet Canada in their Gold Cup opener. Hopefully enough time to recover from the hangover of Saturday's loss against World champions Spain. The USA's defensive woes were highlighted in that friendly with Oguchi Onyewu inept in the middle and Jonathan Spector getting caught repeatedly by the smooth jiving David Silva out on the flanks.
This US defense is not built for speed. It is slow, worn out, and reactive. At the other end, the attack looked toothless with Jozy Altidore's years of accumulated rust showing and Juan Aguadelo looking lightweight despite the build up.
One of the characteristics of this US squad is the presence of a number of players desperately short of match practice. Bradley is essentially calling on past experience and performances to fill that gap.
The Gold Cup should be looked on as an investment into the future and in Eric Lichaj and Timothy Chandler, the US manager possesses two players who need all the exposure they can get. Both use powerful movement up and down the flanks which countries like Brazil have utilized so effectively through their attack minded wing backs. Chandler is not in the present squad but Lichaj is and the Aston Villa man should get his start at left back. The change would see Carlos Bocanegra return to centre paired with Clarence Goodson. At right back Steve Cherundolo gets the nod over Jonathan Spector. It's the best defensive line up given the circumstances.
The midfield is once again the place to look to success with pace and creativity aplenty in Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Freddy Adu, Alejandro Bedoya, and the holding capabilities of Jermaine Jones/ Maurice Edu. We see the shape of a diamond if Bradley can resist the urge of a two holding midfielder set. Rapid 0 to 60 counterattacking. It's what the US do best.
Bradley Jr at the apex, Donovan and Bedoya painting the corners and Maurice Edu at the bottom. With Dempsey doing so well in the slot at Fulham one could see him start behind Altidore. He is a profligate player but if given enough looks always manages to deliver.
US soccer is in a curious quandary. There is huge amounts of talent coming up the youth ranks and an increasing flow of players heading into and out of the overseas leagues. There is much cause for optimism and yet when it comes to the national team there is a statism. Part of the problem is Bradley's cautious fail safe strategy. Partly it is down to the few opportunities for the national team to contend with quality opposition. There is little room for error and so Bradley's best foot forward could be the answer to the Gold Cup but it may not necessarily hold a future solution. To be fair, this is not confined to Bradley, as Fabio Capello is increasingly fighting the same perception. For all his lip service to the youth movement he still trots out the same "tired" England team.