I decided to break off this from another thread where i was going to post this, but i thought it made for a good topic...It deals with preparation, the increasing deal of pressure and our hopes for teh USMNT in a given 4 year cycle.....Warning: long post..... i'd like to break this down even further -the 2 games vs. Grenada did not help us improve, or learn anything whatsoever... -of the first 5 games in the group we we just went through, we played twice vs. el Salvador, twice vs. Panama...hardly a way to test our strength..... So we are down to 13 games we took seriously and HELP show what kind of team we are /could be .... Now we'll be playing Panama, T& T and Guatemala twice each.... If we go from the premise that win/lose or tie to these teams do not make us necessarily a better team or teach us much about our potential, we are down to very few games every four years that we BOTH take extremely seriously and actually MEAN something to our improvement Friendlies after all can be poor indicators, when a lot of the opponents, and the US itself: -Won't bring their best players.... -Many players won't risk their legs due to the closeness of a given competition - Coaches will make a thousand subs throughout the games -Often teams visiting teams show up with very little rest in order to play in optimal conditions...they come at times only to make cash, hours, or a day or two before the game..... I'll posit a theory that perhaps should be made into a new thread (edit: just did ): -many people truly feel a performance such as that in WC02 can be easily repeated replicating the same way we had the preparations done last time... -People forget that despite our great performance, other factors that played small parts in our success include (and must be given a modicum of credit as well): +Korea: thanks for scoring vs. Portugal in the last group game when not really in need of +Surprise factor: people abroad thought the US would play a bit like, or at best a slightly improved version of, the dismal 98 Cup side + euros nor SA team having great home field advantage, made for more comfortable atmosphere than usual, especially in favor of the case of most "nonelite" elite team, which at one time or another, tend to feel pressure and their play suffers as a result +Getting a team like Mexico in the quarters, a rival we knew quite well + Tired legs in the case of many of the "star" Euro league players (most of whom quite honestly stunk) which sort of contrasted quite nicely with Arena and a hungry, youthful, malleable US side.. What i'm trying to get at is, it won't get any easier now: The friendlies we had before Japorea were greatly benefitial, but might not be nearly as helpful come 06...With higher expectations, improvement might not be as easily achievable through the old means (playing friendlies in Rome, Germany, or here at home vs. Holland)... A different sort of preparation is needed, IMO, as the standard, expectations, and objectives get higher.... I think we need something else, whether Copa America, Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, something/anything OTHER than qualifiers to TAKE SERIOUSLY.... The type of pressure/learning expereriece IMO would be higher than those friendlies we usually play to improve/gel better as a team before WC... As our team gets better and wants to show that it can take on an increasing number/more complex challenges in WCs, the way the team prepares/gets "battle-ready" also ought to change to become more challenging and push us higher, no? I hope i am truly wrong, because i sure as hell would not like to be right and find out about it in Germany 06....Judging by the dismissal given by our coach to Copa Oro, i guess Arena feels the exact same preparation will be as useful/effective.... i don't know about that... Opinions? Thoughts?