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Monday, September 16, 2013

Bob Bradley versus Ghana

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated

If you are a US Men's National Soccer Team fan, then you remember the second round of World Cup 2010, an ill-fated, 7th minute yellow card for Ricardo Clark and the eventual defeat of Team USA versus Ghana. Bob Bradley was blamed due to his starting of Clark over a much steadier (and fan-favored) Maurice Edu.

It was America's second time to be booted from the tournament by the Ghanaians. The first one occurred in 2006 with Bruce Arena's 4th-ranked US team and although Clint Dempsey almost made things interesting, the Americans bowed out of the tournament with only 1 point and one goal scored.

Most people will undoubtedly remember Boateng's goal in the 5th minute and Donovan's penalty in the second half. However, it was Gyan's game-winner in extra time that will forever haunt Bradley and still gives him nightmares to this day. His ubiquitous choice of Johnny Bornstein at left back also opened up the most dangerous side of the field for most opposing teams, as we also learned with the 2011 Gold Cup final versus Mexico.

So what can Bob Bradley come up with this time around with his Pharaohs? He has an entire country dreaming of the World Cup and players hungry for the tournament and a chance for redemption after the 2010's cycle's games versus Algeria. There was some drama with those matches (3-1 Algeria win in Algiers; 2-0 Egypt win in Cairo; 1-0 Algeria playoff win in Sudan) and it included frozen diplomatic (not soccer) relations between the two nations.

But Bob Bradley has been almost spectacular for the Egyptians during this qualifying round. With an unmatched 100% record in the qualifiers, signs would point to certain victory for his team. But Bradley must be cautious in picking his squad and avoid the Clarks and Bornsteins. His side is heavily domestic-based and reliant on Al-Ahly players, especially at defense. At forward he has some quality in players like Koka (Rio Ave) and Salah (Basel). 

Should Bradley defeat Ghana it will be twice the victory. One for America versus their African nemesis and two for Egypt and making it to the World Cup after 24 years of absence. And, oh yes, an American coach qualifying for a World Cup with another nation's squad. Hard to beat. We are all cheering for you.

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