TAMPA, Fla. — The US national team has a simple strategy outlined for this 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage: securing a maximum six points in the opening two matches.
The logic behind it is easily understood.
“From the beginning, our goal was to make sure we win these first two games and give ourselves a chance to finish first in the group and potentially rest [for the third group match] depending on how other results go,” LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan revealed after Thursday’s practice. “It’d be nice if there’s a chance to rest guys and get other guys some minutes that we’re going to use later in the tournament.”
As the US wrapped up practice near high noon, the sun was intense and the temperatures hovered in the mid-90s. Donovan, who attended US Under-17 Residency in nearby Bradenton, and central defender Clarence Goodson were enjoying the weather, but reserve midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who grew up in South Florida, feels the heat could impact some of the US players.
“Both teams have to play in this climate, but we have more players who play in Europe and are not used to so much heat,” Bedoya said.
LANDON ON THE SIDELINES: Media were granted access to the tail end of practice and Donovan sat out the short-sided scrimmages and the finishing drills.
“Generally two days after a game, I don’t do a whole lot,” he explained. “I wanted to make sure I got a sweat in but my body doesn’t respond well to doing a lot two days after the game.”
COACH SPEAK: Donovan still got to listen to the instructions issued by manager Bob Bradley during those scrimmages, in which he wanted to see his players get a passing game going by being more aware of their off-the-ball movements.
“Remember what we said at halftime [of the first game vs. Canada],” Bradley shouted to his players. “Many of you were standing next to players from the other team.”
Bradley wanted his field players to work at getting themselves open to receive a pass by creating separation from opposing players, allowing his team to “find the rhythm in the game,” another phrase he shouted on more than one occasion.
HOW HOT’S THE HOT SEAT?: Captain Carlos Bocanegra was asked to comment on the second-guessing that Bradley has endured at the helm of the national team. The former Chicago Fire stalwart says it comes with the position.
“They’re going to criticizes the coach whoever it is — it doesn’t matter” Bocanegra said after practice on Thursday. “Everybody has different opinions. Soccer is a game of opinions.”
Added goalkeeper Tim Howard, “I think that’s good. In England, everything is scrutinized and every little minor detail is unturned and dissected. I think it’s important and it shows that people care and that’s what makes the game so great is that a lot of people care and it’s starting to get that way [in the USA].”
TICKET UPDATE: According to a spokesman for the tournament organizer, ticket sales were fast approaching 20,000 with more than 48 hours to go until Saturday’s Group C doubleheader at Raymond James Stadium. He indicated that a large day-of-game walk-up crowd is expected.
LIVESTRONG SPORTING PARK TICKETS IN DEMAND: US defender Tim Ream, who hails from St. Louis, said he had a large contingent of family and friends making the trek to Kansas City, Kan., to watch Thursday night’s first-ever match at the new Sporting KC stadium.
“Trying to get tickets for all my family and friends,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “There are like 50 of them going.”
AND IT’S GOOD: German-born USA midfielder Jermaine Jones missed a sitter during one of the short-sided scrimmages at the practice facility of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The ball Jones shot from five yards out soared over the soccer crossbar, but made it through the football uprights positioned behind the goal. He noticed it and raised both of his arms — mimicking the motion of an NFL official signaling a converted field goal.
GUEST GOALKEEPER: Netminder Jeff Attinella, who plays for local side FC Tampa Bay of the NASL and attended nearby University of South Florida, joined the US goalkeeping corps to handle duties during practice on Thursday. Attinella participated in the 2011 MLS Player Combine and was selected by Real Salt Lake in the Supplemental Draft but was not signed by the club.
“I thought I did pretty well,” Attinella said of his practice session. “I thought I held my own a little bit. If it doesn’t happen in my career [to join the US national team], I can always say I got a day or two with them. It’s something I’ll never forget.”
Added Howard, “He came out and did pretty well. He asked me for advice and I just told him, ‘Save the ball.’ That’s what Kasey Keller told me when I moved to England. It‘s an easy piece of advice but it rings true.”