The US finished group play in the Gold Cup with a 4-0 drubbing of El Salvador in a game that was a tale of two halves. El Salvador was completely bunkered, playing 10 men behind the ball, for the first half. It was painful to watch. Thank God we scored two goals in the half to coax the Salvadorans out of their collective shell. Beasley placed a seeing-eye sidefooter into the side-netting off a partially cleared corner kick and then Donovan buried a pk after the Salvadoran left back handled a cross.
The 2nd half was much more entertaining. The Salvadorans carried play for about 25 minutes, but never managed to get a shot on goal. Once the US realized bunker ball was over, they took over and turned on a bit of style in closing out the match with two excellent goals. The anlayst on the Fox Soccer Channel’s broadcast, Christopher Sullivan, made some excellent points about the detriments of suppressing natural instincts of creativity, flair and rhythm in order to play for a result. The team that “plays for a result” plays with no confidence. It tires quickly and its joy is gone. Guatemala is terribly guilty of the negative style of play as well. At least on this night, El Salvador got a chance to play. The last two goals were lovely displays of team play, the 4th capped off by Beasley tapping Dempsey’s no-look pass into the net which you can see here.
Most encouraging about the match was the flexibility Bob Bradley and the team displayed in starting in a Christmas tree formation, the 4-3-2-1. With the emergence of the strong two-way midfielders, Feilhaber, Bradley, Clark and the presence of Mastroeni, we may see more of this type of lineup to come. Bob Bradley is doing an excellent job putting his players in positions where they will succeed, and in a positive way. Attacking against the lesser teams of CONCACAF is great, but I’ll truly really be encouraged when we play positively against stronger competition.Next up for the US is likely Guadeloupe in the 1/4 finals on Saturday. I’ll be watching.