Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Not-So-Gold Cup

By Bagga Wilks

The price of gold on the world market continues to soar but the Gold Cup is becoming less precious. The disparity among the teams at times does not produce quality football. Grenada, Guadeloupe and Guatemala have played poorly. Standards should be tightened and having fewer teams and more rounds would make the Gold Cup a worthwhile competition. Nonetheless, it should be pointed that the teams act as a catharsis for national pride for immigrant communities sojourned in the United States.

This 2011 Gold Cup, thus far ,the Reggae Boyz seemed to have returned to the 1998 form that enabled them to qualify for the World Cup in France. They readily spanked Grenada , easily outplayed Guatemala, and edged Honduras before a throng of vociferous immigrants, colorfully clad in their nation’s colors.

Many members of the Jamaican squad now play in the MLS in the United States. Jamaica has put together a new generation of footballers who seem to be coming of age under the guidance of Coach Theodore Whitmore. Against Guatemala, the passing was exquisite. As the competition unfolds, it will be revealed whether the Jamaican squad has improved or the competition is just awful.

U.S.A. vs. Panama
Panama defeated the United States for the first time in the history of the Gold Cup. Panama has emerged as a team that is competitive against most teams in the CONCACAF region but the big question is not Panama’s soccer competence but is the United States sliding backwards?

The U.S. performed abysmally in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. On the team’s return, the coach, Bruce Arena, was fired. He was replaced by Bob Bradley. In the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the U.S. performed admirably. Landon Donovan performed some heroics late in games and the fight in the team won the hearts of the American people.

In the post 2010 World Cup, the question is whether the current coach has served his usefulness and in order for the U.S. team to reach another level, Bradley must go. In the first half against Panama, the team was lackluster. They picked up the pace in the second half, dominated possession but failed to obtain the equalizer or the go-ahead goal.

What is plaguing U.S. soccer is the same malady that has kept the English team wallowing in mediocrity. Football requires a great deal of creativity and the U.S. has not created a new generation of creative mid-field players. Bradley is not the coach who can foster that creativity.

Mexico vs. Costa Rica
Mexico scored four goals in the first half against Costa Rica as the disparity in quality was evident. Mexico has been on a goal scoring tier and the presence of “Chicharito” Hernandez has been a big factor. Mexico is at their best when they play at home in the high altitude of Mexico City. But there is a new generation of Mexican players who play within the confines of the system but are also allowed some level of creativity.

The second round of the Gold Cup should be more competitive. How the United States fares in the competition may very well determine whether the team is provided with new stewardship in preparation for 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

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