2015 Gold Cup
Dempsey, Wondo, Bedoya Know U.S. Has to Step It Up
July 18, 2015
BALTIMORE—Expectations are a bitch, and then you play another CONCACAF minnow.
It should be considered a sign of progress that the U.S. emerged undefeated from the toughest group in this year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup and yet the players, media critics, and fans all know the team hasn't played anything resembling good soccer.
One reason why expectations are so high for this team is because of what it did in the lead-up to this tournament. First the U.S. dominated Mexico 2-0 in April, then it went to Europe and secured shocking upsets over the Dutch and world champion Germans. Just ahead of the tournament the Americans beat Guatemala 4-1.
And then the Gold Cup started and suddenly an offense that had scored 12 goals in four games started sputtering and grinding and only managed four tallies in three group stage games.
More alarming is that the U.S. didn’t create many chances against Honduras, Haiti, and Panama—all teams that while plucky and athletic, shouldn’t be causing the Americans the struggles they did. Often the Yanks seemed to be their own worst enemy, getting stretched out of position and causing the defense to lose its shape, missing too many simply passes, and being too static on offense.
So what do the players think they need to do to against Cuba (5pm ET; Fox, Univision) tonight?
“Just be a little sharper in possession,” forward Clint Dempsey said after the Panama draw. “We need to create more chances, more good scoring opportunities. We’re not doing that enough. We’ve shown through the chances that we’ve finished that when we get chances we’re pretty good in front of goal.
"We just need to create more of them.”
That, of course, is easier said than done. How does a team suddenly start creating more chances?
“I think just movement off the ball is something we need to improve on, making better runs into space so we can connect on more passes,” Chris Wondolowski said. “I think if we move more we can play simple more—play more 1-2 passes. I think those are things if we improve on will it help us along the way and get us playing better.”
Veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman thinks it’s mental.
“We need to relax and not force things,” he said. “Make a smarter pass instead of forcing one that becomes a turnover and then we’re chasing and we’ve lost our shape.”
Dempsey, who has three of the four U.S. goals so far in the tournament, added the U.S. needs to go into the games more prepared for the grueling physical nature of play.
“Teams play hard against us," he said. "They’re kicking us, fouling us, always trying to disrupt our movement, our timing. We just all need to get on the same page and know how to handle it. It’s a bit of a process in a tournament like this, getting everyone together, especially when we’ve been using so many players. We want to be playing our best toward the end of the tournament so hopefully we can do that.”
In all three group phase contests U.S. opponents burst out of the gates and put the Americans on their heels. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, who assisted on the U.S. goal against Panama, said that needs to change.
“We have to dictate the game more, be more physical, be more aggressive because everyone is going to come out flying against us,” he said. “Because it hasn’t been good enough. We all know that. We all need to look ourselves in the mirror because we all need to give more.
“We know it has to be better.”
Brooke Tunstall is an American Soccer Now contributing editor and ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter.