US Defeat Raises Many Questions
The US loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final was a disappointing end to an eye-opening tournament for the Americans. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that surprising to see the US squander an early 2 – 0 lead. Fans of the USMNT are used to such ups and downs. I have a lot of affection for the current core group – there are some real fighters among them (Cherundolo & Dempsey were gutsy standouts during this tourney). But boy does the US have its work cut out for them to get ready for 2014!
Mexico was the better team Saturday. The frustrating thing is we had a real chance. Perhaps the US meltdown was due to the fact that we have virtually no experience taking such an early lead, much less maintaining it. No excuses though. The US should’ve done much better.
Mexico had surprisingly little possession or build-up, but they didn’t need it. All they had to do was stop the often snail-paced US advance or wait for the US to cough up the ball, then speedily counterattack. If I had to put my finger on one thing Mexico had that the US did not, it was the lethal counterattack. They were also better at being in the right place at the right time.
I’m not usually one to blame goalkeepers for losses, but Tim Howard’s performance Saturday was frustrating. Losing Cherundolo so early on undoubtedly made for a long afternoon for Howard (and don’t get me started on Bornstein as Cherundolo’s replacement – if he’s our best defensive bench option then we’re in more trouble than I thought!), but Howard should have stopped at least three of the four Mexican goals.
Howard’s play was particularly head scratching during the mad box scramble that led to the fourth Mexican goal. Much has been made of Dos Santos’ skillful chip-in, but what about Howard’s blunder? That goal clearly shouldn’t have happened. Based on his post-game outburst regarding the Spanish-language award ceremony, it seems Howard knew he had a bad day. Howard is a world-class keeper, but his best days don’t coincide often enough with the occasions when the US needs him most.
So where does the US go from here? I suggest the drawing board. The Gold Cup loss isn’t the end of the world, but the US is an established enough soccer nation that total domination of CONCACAF – including Mexico – should never be in question. The fact that it is in question, with World Cup qualifying just around the corner, is cause for concern.