June 3, 2011
By Charles Cuttone
MORE THAN A TUNE-UP
Bradley’s goal is Gold Cup championship
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.---It’s just a tune up. On most occasions hosting the World Cup champions would have more importance than that. But Saturday’s 4:30 ET game between the United States and Spain at Gillette Stadium is the make-ready for the big event, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which kicks off for the U.S. on Tuesday.
“We have said since the start of the new cycle that winning the Gold Cup this year is a top priority, and that was our focus as we built this roster,” said U.S. Men’s National team coach Bob Bradley of the group he has assembled and which has for the most part been training in Cary, NC the last few weeks. “We have a very experienced group, and we know that in a tournament like this all 23 players will need to contribute in order for us to be successful.”
Because this Gold Cup will determine which country represents CONCACAF in the next Confederations Cup, it has more meaning than the one two years ago, where the U.S. had a second half meltdown in the final and lost to Mexico 5-0.
“In addition to being the best team in CONCACAF, there is that extra part in representing CONCACAF in the Confederations cup and what that means in terms of experience in helping you prepare for the World Cup,” said Bradley.
“We certainly look at this Gold Cup as carrying that extra bit of importance.”
The loss two years ago still resonates for Bradley.
“If you go back to 2009, there’s no getting around the last 30 (minutes). We remember it well. Prior to that moment we felt very, very good about the way we had moved forward in the tournament and that was a final where there was a lot at stake, a great crowd at Giants Stadium and a tough way for us to finish and that sticks with us.
“If you take out that last 30 minutes, we feel like we got a lot out of that Gold Cup and it’s helped us move forward.”
Bradley’s roster contains some familiar faces, including Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Oguchi Onyewu, but also has a pretty good helping of young players who are getting their first real National Team experience, such as San Jose Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski, and the New York Red Bulls’ defender Tim Ream and forward Juan Agudelo. Then there is the surprise selection of Freddy Adu, who Bradley admitted had “fallen out of the scene a little bit.”
But there is a wider reason behind some of those choices than just winning the Gold Cup. Bradley is already looking forward to the next World Cup cycle.
“We certainly thought first and foremost about putting a team together that has a chance to win this Gold Cup,” he said, before going on to explain, “There are players here that we see for sure being key parts for 2014.
“It certainly helps young players to grow when they are in for a Gold Cup. It’s different than in and out for a single or even a double fixture situation. When you look at how things develop over a four-year cycle, there are times when you are together for four weeks or longer that are so important in the process, so we certainly think a lot about that.
We believe that in the past these tournaments lay a lot of groundwork for the future. We get to know guys and they get a good feel for how things work.”
The first feel will come in front of a large crowd (more than 61,000 pre-sale) for Saturday’s game with Spain. Then it’s on to Detroit where the U.S. will face Canada on Tuesday (8pm ET). The U.S. then faces Panama on Saturday June 11 (8pm ET) at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and Guadeloupe, Tuesday June 14 at Livestrong Park in Kansas City.