I'm never one to call for a coach's firing or proclaim when his job is suddenly at stake. But, I do know an important game for a coach when I see one.
Bob Bradley has built an impressive resume as head coach of the United States men's national team since he came on board in January of 2007. In his only World Cup, the U.S. won its group for the first time in 80 years. He's won a Gold Cup (2007) and finished runner-up in the prestigious Confederations Cup (2009), defeating No. 1 Spain in the process. In four-plus years, he's 41-24-12, and has not been afraid to set up friendlies against the world's best.
Still, many supporters of the team haven't exactly embraced him. Regardless, he's all-in as the U.S. coach for the next World Cup cycle and -- without some absolute disaster in qualifying -- will be guiding the team in Brazil with that icy stare and uncomfortable grimace. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Sitting on Bradley's plate this weekend is a game against Jamaica, which cruised through its group stage games with three straight shutouts. The U.S. has never lost to "The Reggae Boyz" (9-0-8) in 17 games, but as it proved against Panama last weekend, there's a first time for everything.
The truth of the matter is, Bradley needs this win. Aside from a solid performance against Canada, the U.S. has been slumping since the World Cup. If the Americans faltered in the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup -- a tournament they've co-owned with Mexico for 20 years -- that would be considered a failure. It wouldn't affect the team's chances of qualifying for the next World Cup -- perhaps it would even motivate them more? -- but it would be an unnecessary setback for a team that should be well beyond these struggles against CONCACAF foes.
The U.S. is expected to make it to the following weekend, the Gold Cup final. It's quite likely the team waiting there will be from Mexico. A loss to their rivals, who are playing on another level right now, wouldn't be shocking at all. Any loss before that would.
The U.S. doesn't exactly have to "win one for coach" here. But, a loss would certainly look ugly on that otherwise impressive resume.