KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The US national team has drowned out the chatter, the criticism and the doom and gloom after their hugely disappointing loss to Panama last weekend.
They have to. They’ve got a win-or-go-home game on Tuesday against Guadeloupe in the Group C finale here at Livestrong Sporting Park.
“We have to be very careful not to get caught up in one result, one way or the other,” US star Landon Donovan said Monday in a press conference. “So as much as we pick apart the game against Panama, the reality is we got punished for being a little lackadaisical.”
The US — and especially head coach Bob Bradley — have received more criticism for their poor start and eventually doomed finish in a 2-1 loss to Panama that many are calling one of the greatest upsets ever in CONCACAF play.
While the final result was alarming, it was perhaps even more frustrating that the Americans conceded the first goal yet again, a nasty habit that plagued them constantly in last summer’s World Cup and forced them to play from behind in all but one of their four games in South Africa.
Head coach Bob Bradley thinks the answer is simple: “concentration” and “the ability to control the game.” For the most part against Panama, Bradley believes the US were sticking to their game plan of trying to control the tempo, but ended up getting burned by a lapse in concentration on both goals conceded.
“We understand how important it is to start well, how important it is to have a good level of energy,” he added. “Our ability with the ball as a whole, just in terms of situations where we created little advantages, we weren’t sharp enough.”
But the focus is now squarely on Guadaloupe, whose two losses in group play are misleading: Despite playing the majority of both matches down a man, the Gwada Boys lost to both Panama and Canada by a single goal, and fought valiantly in both contests.
“We expect a hard game,” Bradley said of Guadaloupe, who have been scouted heavily by fitness coach Pierre Barrieu. “It’s a talented team — past Gold Cups show that as well. We understand what the game [will be] like and we prepare ourselves. Our team has always responded really well coming back from games we weren’t satisfied with and I know that will be the case.”
The need to produce a result makes Tuesday’s match unexpectedly crucial for the US, who face the mathematical possibility of being eliminated from the Gold Cup in the group stage for the first time in tournament history if they lose. That hasn’t even entered into the minds of the US players, Donovan says.
“What we can focus on is being better,” he said, “and I think we all can agree we weren’t good enough the other night [against Panama]. Being stuck on that game does us no good. As much as we could have thought how great we were against Canada, that didn’t help us for Panama and the same holds true for this game.”
Donovan said after the Panama loss that in many ways, an upset by an improving team in CONCACAF was inevitable in the Gold Cup — and it just so happened to be the US’ night to fall victim. But that will not stop them from the ultimate goal, he added Monday.
“We’ve got to get on with it,” he said. “The path may be a little different, but we fully expect to advance.”