In his four years as head coach of the United States Men's National Team, now going on five years as we near 2011, Bob Bradley has had plenty of criticism lobbed his way, but one thing that has been a constant under Bradley is quality scheduling. The most recent example of the United States' excellent scheduling under Bradley is the announcement that the U.S. will play Egypt in Cairo on February 9 in Cairo.
Egypt are the reigning Africa Cup of Nations champions and are ranked 10th in the world despite having not qualified for the 2010 World Cup after being upset by Algeria in qualification. Even so, the Egyptians have quality players like Mido and Mohamed Zidan and playing in Egypt will provide the Yanks will a stern test in a different environment from one they are used to.
Some hoped that the U.S. would play Mexico in February, as they did in 2007 and 2008, especially since the new method of World Cup qualifying will make U.S. versus Mexico matches rarer than before. Doing so would be foolish though and the USSF did well to schedule the match against Egypt on a date that makes scheduling a good match difficult. The FIFA calendar only allows for a single midweek date on February 9 with club matches on the weekend before and weekend after. That means that a match between the U.S. and Mexico in February would force the United States' European contingent, which makes up most of the top team, to fly across the Atlantic on Monday, get a single day of training on Tuesday, play the match on Wednesday and then fly back across the Atlantic on Thursday so they can play in their club matches over the weekend. Needless to say, that's a taxing trip and playing in Cairo on that date cuts out a lot of the travel that will make both the players happier and the match more useful.
The match against Egypt will come a few days after a January friendly against the team ranked 16th in the world, Chile. Even though Chile will not be managed by Marcelo Bielsa for that January match, the team will still bring with it the attacking verve that sent them through to the World Cup knockout stages. Matches in August and October against Colombia, Poland and Brazil continued the Yanks' run of quality matches against teams from around the world. Prior to the World Cup, friendlies against the Netherlands, Australia, Czech Republic and Turkey helped prepare the team for South Africa.
In 2009, the U.S. played matches away to Denmark and Slovakia and in 2008 a summer trio of friendlies against England, Spain and Argentina were preceded by matches against Poland and Mexico. You would be hard pressed to find a single team in the world that has lined up match after match against as many quality teams as the United States. Not only are the teams that the U.S. has scheduled of high quality, they also present the U.S. the chance to play a variety of different styles from teams around the world.
A quick look at the teams that the U.S. has played makes it clear that the Yanks are getting to play against teams who play a very different brand than the others. The Brazilians have their distinct style of play with their flair, while the Argentinians have a similar style, but even though they're another South American team that likes to attack, Chile does not do so in the same manner as the Brazilians or Argentinians. Spain's emphasis on possession became known the even those who aren't soccer fans at the World Cup and the English have their own style of play. Add in the styles that the Eastern European countries like Slovakia have presented and the skillful Turks and the U.S. has just about covered it all.
Now, the U.S. will add Egypt to their list of friendly opponents to give their team a look at Africa's best. All the U.S. has done over the past several years is challenge and prepare their teams with their scheduling and February's trip to Cairo is further proof of it. With rumors still circulating about a match in March against Argentina, it looks like nothing is going to change going forward either as the U.S. continues to top the world in quality scheduling.