Sunday, June 26, 2011

U.S. Blows Lead, Game in Gold Cup Final

I don't care how good or how bad of a team you are, you just can't blow two goal leads in soccer. To me, there's really no excuse, especially when you are on a stage as big as the Gold Cup final that was played between the United States and Mexico on Sunday. The U.S. took a 2-0 lead early, getting quick goals from Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan. At that point, in a game this big, you might want to start thinking more defensive. I wouldn't say to pack it in completely, but you should definitely turn your mindset into one more of protection rather than aggressiveness. A two goal lead is one where you can still afford to make one mistake, but ultimately should be able to lock things down. The United States took the other route though, by taking that two goal lead and instead collapsing with tough breaks out of their goalkeeping and an overall terrible showing on defense. In front of a Rose Bowl crowd of more than 93,000, most of them fans for Mexico, the United States collapsed and capped off an overall topsy-turvy Gold Cup performance, losing to our rivals to the south by a 4-2 final.

There's really a lot to be upset about if you are a fan of this American soccer squad, as blowing a two goal lead can't be acceptable for a team that was supposed to be the best in at least their region. The game felt awfully similar to the Confederations Cup Final of 2009, when the Americans took an early lead against Brazil only to blow that one and lose 3-2. This American team needs to learn how to close teams out better, it's their biggest downfall besides the fact that they usually can't finish in the first place. Second place in a tournament is always an accomplishment, but the American's placement in this tournament could cost coach Bob Bradley his job. Sure, they took second, but this stretch of games was one of the weaker performances by the U.S. in quite some time.

Coming into the tournament, the United States had yet to win in 2011, drawing in friendlies with both Chile and Argentina, losing to Paraguay in another friendly, and then getting embarrassed by Spain in a Gold Cup tuneup. Then, against competition that should be regarded as inferior, the United States did have a nice showing against Canada before getting shocked by Panama, then barely beat the lowly Guadelope when the Americans were threatened with elimination, handily beat Jamaica, struggled to get revenge against Panama, and then collapsed against Mexico. Not a very impressive 2011 campaign for Bradley and the boys, as a .500 year should not be acceptable for a team ranked 22nd in the world (and higher than Mexico as of May 2011).

Ultimately, I'm not sure that the powers that be will decide it is time to go a different direction with this team and replace Bob Bradley, as he did just get an extension after the 2010 World Cup. But something is not right with this unit, and I do feel a change needs to be made. Jurgen Klinsmann, the former German star, as long been rumored as a potential candidate to head the squad, and I would love to see him finally take the reigns. I like Bob Bradley as much as the next guy, but there are way too many questions as to the future of this team and I'm not sure Bradley is the answer to any of them.

Now, here are some highlights of the game, which are in Spanish just as the celebration ceremony was:


Tony Brown said...

Still fuming at this one. That picture makes me angry. The worst part of it is we now have to wait until 2014 for a truly meaningful US game.

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