June 18, 2011
By Michael Lewis
No middle ground in U.S. wedding case
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Regardless what transpires in the U.S.-Jamaica CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday, the game will be forever known as the wedding break.
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were given permission by coach Bob Bradley to miss training, Thursday through Saturday to attend the weddings of their sisters in California and Texas on Saturday, respectively. They are expected to return to the team later Saturday.
Bradley's decision was not an easy one. While many of us have had to place our personal life over work, such as to attend a wedding of a close relative or another personal issue, the U.S. National Team's situation is different. Most of us, whether you like it or not, can be replaced.
Dempsey and Donovan cannot. They are too valuable to a team that has experienced more struggles than anticipated in this competition.
And remember, there’s more than a confederation championship on the line here. The Gold Cup winner will represent CONCACAF at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.
While Bradley defended his decision and teammates claimed their absences weren't going to make an impact on the team's preparation for the Reggae Boyz for the 3 p.m. ET encounter at RFK Stadium, the situation has stirred opinion many an opinion, pro and con.
Imagine if this happened at the European Championship or at Copa America, I mentioned to one tournament official.
"It would never happen," he said bluntly.
The 11th edition of the Gold Cup certainly has been one different and surprising tournament.
The Mexican Football Federation suspended five players who tested positive for banned drugs found in the foot they ate prior to the tournament in Mexico last month.
Another Cuban player defected to the United States.
And now the weddings.
There are two extremes to this situation and very little, if any, middle ground.
Either the U.S. wins and goes through to the semifinals and goes home. And to put proper perspective on it, the U.S. has been bounced as early as the Gold Cup quarterfinals only once -- by guest side Colombia via a shootout in 2000.
If the U.S. prevails over the Jamaicans and the two midfielders play well, especially if the team reaches the final, what Donovan and Dempsey accomplished could become the stuff of legends.
If the Americans fall, it could be considered one of the biggest blunders in U.S. National Team history and Bradley and the said players might never hear the end of it, let alone a having coach's job on the line.
By late Sunday afternoon, we'll know what type of history has been made.