June 14, 2011
By Michael Lewis
If he was Guadeloupe coach, he would use Panama's game plan vs. U.S.
KANSAS CITY -- Here's a twist.
|Tim Howard: It's pretty simple, really. We know it's an elimination game. . . . We know that if we perform to our own standards, we will get the right result and move forward"
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
If he was the coach of the Guadeloupe National Team, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard would duplicate the strategy that Panama used in the 2-1 win over the Americans on Saturday.
It certainly makes sense.
Panama bunkered in early on and used counterattacks to break up the U.S. as the hosts had their 26-game unbeaten streak snapped in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
The Americans (1-1-0, three) play Guadeloupe in a must-win situation at Livestrong Sporting Park on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.
"Most teams are going to sit in against us, barring a few," Howard said after training at the stadium on Monday. "What you ended up seeing in the Panama game is that we wanted to win the game in the first five minutes. They sat back and they move it side to side and they kept it tight.
"We wanted to score the goals and win the game five-10 minutes in and it takes time to probe and break teams down. To their credit, they counterattacked very well. They counterattacked quickly and got themselves forward. In those type of situations we just have to be more patient. In the opening game we were a bit more patient."
And now it's Guadeloupe's turn. Even though the Caribbean side lost its first two matches (0-2), it still can qualify for the second round if it beats the U.S. by two or more goals and have Canada (1-1-0, three) lose to group-lead Panama (2-0-0, six) in the first game of the Group C doubleheader at 7 p.m. ET
"If I was their coach -- and I am not because I am terrible at coaching -- I would look at that blue print," Howard said, thinking like Guadeloupe. "They got frustrated. Panama stayed in and counterattacked and we're going to do it the same way."
Howard, a former MetroStars standout, then went back to his voice.
"It's tough to say what's going to happen but itís not hard to tell," he said. "The first minutes of the game, they're backed up to the center circle. So we'll see early on. It's up to us to use the width. Call them on their bluff and make them come out."
The Americans are following a familiar script. This is the third consecutive major tournament they find themselves in a do-or-die situation in the third and final opening-round match.
In 2009, the U.S. faced Egypt in the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa and produced a 3-0 win.
In 2010, the U.S. took on Algeria in the World Cup in South Africa and came away with a dramatic, 1-0 triumph on Landon Donovan's stoppage-time goal.
And now the latest challenge in the Gold Cup.
"It's pretty simple, really," Howard said. "We know it's an elimination game. We know what we have to do to perform. We know that if we perform to our own standards, we will get the right result and move forward. We'd like to be able to cruise through the first two games and put our feet up and have a laugh [Tuesday] tomorrow. That's not always the case and you can't always predict that. We're ready for it. We're looking to hopefully get out of the group and advance."
If the U.S. finishes third, they will play archrival Mexico, the most impressive team in the tournament, in the quarterfinals at the New Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday, instead of at the final in the Rose Bowl on June 25. That would disappoint many soccer observers, having the confederation's powers meeting that early.
"The last result was difficult," Howard said. "We still think we're the top team in the region. In order for us to prove that, we've got to win the cup. There are still a few miles to go before we get there, but we're not afraid of anyone. In order to win a championship you've got to beat the best. You've got to play the best, whether that's today, tomorrow, quarterfinals, semifinals. All this means nothing if we don't get the right result [Tuesday] night."