Thursday, February 12, 2009

On the value of being led by Bob Bradley as well as thoughts on Mexico's future

Earlier today, I put the following comment up on Dynamo Planet:

You know, so many people have been saying that clearly two of the three automatic CONCACAF slots in South Africa will be the US and Mexico. But last night I think we all saw that Mexico is in real danger of not being included in that equation. If I were Honduras or El Salvador or even T&T (there you go V. I included them for you) I would be salivating at the tape of that game last night.

Mexico has become a very, very beatable squad and I would not be at all surprised if, barring something drastic like a coach firing, El Tri is sitting at home next year.

And that prompted the following exchange with my fellow DynaPlaneteer Bandido, he of the corazon verde. His response:

As much as it may pain me to say it; Congratulations to the American National Team and their fans on your well deserved victory last night. Converting two of the five shots on goal was enough to gain you the first three points for a trip to South Africa. The practical style of play by the Americans has worked against Mexico time and time again. If you wish to label the USNT as dominate because of their five corners to Mexico’s one, then so be it.

I thought the game was pretty even with both sides playing their game. both made mistakes and both were affected by the strong winds. It is odd that with the slick grass neither side tried the long shot more.

But to those that salivate the apparent demise of Mexican Soccer, I hold some things against thee; Mexico did not look like Guatemala nor the U.S. look like the German National team. If people would like to believe that the Americans were so clinical why did they only score two goals?? Because they’re nice guys??

Mexico will be in South Africa and you better hope the Americans play with the same focus as when they play the Mexicans. Don’t under estimate the rest of the teams now that you beat the “Giant” in your own territory.
You need only sixteen points, it is easier to make it to the World Cup than to miss out because Concacaf has 3.5 spots.

Dot worry about Eriksson’s future or if Marquez will remain as Captain. The Coach stays and our Captain will be the same. The team will get up from the ground and will have more time together for our next match. The road is still long until we get to the end.

Bandido, I think you may be right, but if I were a Mexican team fan (and in a certain way, I am because the US and Mexico are clearly partners as the two beasts of the CONCACAF. If your club is only two, then when you're not competing, you kinda root for the other. Strange how that works sometimes.) I would be highly concerned.

I think the Mexicans are possibly in very deep trouble, and I'm not at all certain Sven-Goran Erikkson is the guy to get them out. I think they need a Mexican coach at this stage to restore the pride and cohesiveness. But I could be wrong. What do you think?

My friend Martek;

The comparison a would make with this situation is to compare the Galaxy and what is and was the Dynamo. Where one organization wants the quick fix and the other has a system that regardless of who leads it they will stay true to it.

Back since the San Jose days as I understand from the people that followed the MLS back then, they had Yallop as the coach and Kinnear as the assistant. Here we have the Dom and hopefully Spencer will continue the same system with the same core players. While the Galaxy go with the flavor of the month as the coach and in players. Of the players that won the last MLS Cup for the Galaxy, who is still with L.A.???

Mexico has good players but has no elite system according to what one Tomas Boy said about the Mexican National Team in a recent interview. Meaning that anyone can play for Mexico no matter if you’re a foreigner or not. If you have a Mexican passport and play soccer , you are an elite player. In the American system a player hopes Bradley will call him up, he waits by the phone eagerly. And he knows the Donovans and Howards and Beasleys are the elite players. Guzan knows his place and doesn’t rock the boat.

So while the American system can plug in players at will. The Mexican change systems every time they change coaches and then the same players rebel against that coach and get him fired. The next coach comes in and calls players that he thinks he can work with, and that batch rebels against him………….and so it goes. Add to that all the owners of the Teams like Vergara who feels he has a say on all matters and you get too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

For a long time there would be players from Mexico City and maybe one from Chivas and that was it. America would have six at a time, Cruz Azul six at a time and Pumas six at a time. It was elitist but a form of having a core group playing together. They were not the best players but played where the power was.

The solution for Mexico is to leave a coach to coach. Give him what he wants and give him goals and a time frame.

Bandido, I think your solution would be right on. And that brings up my amazement at the phenomenon that is Bob Bradley.

No one, or at least no one I know, wanted that guy to replace Bruce Arena, not even, and this is important, Sunil Gulati. They wanted Klinsman, Peckerman and on and on. I think at one time there was even a move to try to get Fabio Cappello!

But after they all said no, Bob Bradley was pretty much last man standing, and that only on a provisional basis! Then he wins some, wins some more and wins still more. Still there are rumors of flirtations with other coaches and then FINALLY, Bradley gets the job.

And what has he done with it? He has instituted the exact system you describe. Everyone on that team knows there role and is of the same tactical mindset. This is what we have. This is what we are going to do. Now that we do that well. THIS is what we are going to do. When you saw the link ups, the parallel runs, the basic teamwork the US displayed last night, was that the sort of play you would have expected to see the US play for an entire game, in all reality, under previous coaches/regimes?

Bradley has done what all coaches want and few ever achieve. He has gotten his players to buy into a single tactical system in which they all know and operate with a series of roles that, collectively, produce a greater good.

Which then brings up how Bradley has integrated younger players with veterans, and I think this is key to the overall approach. The more established stars know what it means to play under pressure, but even they learn new things about pressure on the world football stage. However, with younger players, how are they ever going to learn? Well, Bradley seems to think, and I agree, that the only way to learn that is to experience it. By prioritizing tournaments and putting the focus on the development of a coherent tactical mindset instead of the lure of "winning every game," Bradley has provided large stages for younger players to mature and find their way into (or out of, as the case may be) the larger framework. Thus, in 2007, the top players played in the Gold Cup. The next tier played in the Copa America. The Gold Cup was the most important tournament, the championship of our region. Copa America was a venue to let our less experienced players take their lumps on a fairly largish stage. And it was all looking to get that younger group, or at least the ones who survive, in shape to deal with pressure and progressively tougher competition on the road to South Africa. Does the strategy hurt our FIFA ranking? It sure does. But, really, who cares a rat's behind about FIFA rankings. Bruce Arena did, and look where that got us. Bradley does not, and look at where we are now as opposed to where we were in 2005.

When I said Mexico needs at this stage to be coached by a Mexican. That's what I meant. They desperately need a Mexican Bob Bradley, whether it's Paco Ramirez or someone else, to install a system like that, an overarching tactical framework on and off the field with ultimate success coming in the longer view, or we will see more and more games like we saw last night. And one of these days, that will happen at Azteca. If it's this year, the Mexicans will have only themselves to blame.

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