Monday, June 20, 2011

Bob Bradley’s Temporary Vindication

By Bagga Wilks

The United States soccer team has moved into the semi-final of the CONCACAF tournament by beating Jamaica 2-0 at the RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The U.S. will play Panama in a replay as Panama beat El Salvador on penalty kicks.

The RFK Stadium in D.C. has imbedded great memories of the U.S.-Jamaica soccer rivalry. In the elimination of the 1998 World Cup, the tiny island of Jamaica held the U.S. of A. to a 1-1 draw. In that match, Jamaica outplayed the U.S. for the first 40 minutes until Linval Dixon, Jamaica’s right-full back, got hurt and the game changed. The U.S. was given an unwarranted penalty by the referee and went ahead 1-0 but Jamaica rallied and procured a goal from a defensive error. The game ended in 1-1 tie.

Fast forward to 2011, Jamaica started the CONCACAF tournament easily beating third and second tier teams. The test for the newly comprised Jamaica team would be how they would look playing against a top tier team like the U.S. Unlike the preliminary matches, Jamaica lacked poise. The United States had played shaky in the preliminary rounds but against Jamaica, the team came together.

Unfortunately for Jamaica, they gave up an own goal and their central defender, Jermaine Taylor, was given a red card in the 66th minute. Once again, Jamaica showed that they are not yet in the class of a top tier team. There is the nucleus of capable players but Jamaica needs to play a number of international friendlies to move to another level if the team is going to seriously compete for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Panama vs. El Salvador game was more a guerilla war than a soccer match. The poor officiating allowed the game to deteriorate into brutal infractions on the part of both teams. Panama now gets another opportunity to face the U.S. and that will be another test to determine if they have left behind the second tier group and are now in the same league as Mexico and the United States.

The win against Jamaica saved Bob Bradley’s job for the time being. He must now beat Panama in grand style where he will face an in-form Mexico team. If the United States appears non-competitive in any of these two games, it would be necessary to contemplate a coaching change before the first round of the 2014 World Cup eliminations.

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