USA 0 Mexico 5: 45 Minutes of Hell

26 July 2009

Delusional fans of the United States need not read this, the brunt honesty will hurt too much. If you can take a dose of reality, I encourage you to continue reading past this point.

In truth, I didn't even want to write on this Gold Cup. It just seemed a meaningless exercise between the smaller nation's 'A' sides and the bigger nations 'B' or 'C' sides. I pretty much figured the US or Mexico would be helped along the way to the final and from there the best side would win. When it was all said and done, Mexico was clearly that side. In a 45 minute footballing masterclass, the US scrubs were taken behind the wood shed and beaten 5-0 in what will no doubt be the moment Mexico turns things around.

The first surprise was the ultra pro Mexico crowd that was at Giants Stadium. I expected a few more US fans, but it truly was Azteca north. The second thing that surprised me was the pitch. The grass looked like it was quickly and poorly laid, but the size was as close to 70 yards as I can remember it in a long time, if ever. The final thing that surprised me was how the first half ended up playing out.

The first half was pretty tame, not much to write home about. Mexico controlled the opening exchanges while the United States got their grounding in the match. After that, the United States took firm control of the match. However with that control, their final ball severely failed them. Stuart Holden did well with deliveries in, but no one could direct them goal bound. Kyle Beckerman's attempts at being a goal scorer on the day were just comical at best. Mexico did about as well as could be expected with the pressure, looking for the moment that they could turn the screw. That moment came in the forty-fourth minute. While Medina was unable to do anything with the excellent service, it gave Mexico the proof the United States could be broken on the counter. It was confirmed when Dos Santos countered off a US free kick in stoppage time that Medina put just wide. Javier Aguirre had his half time team talk written by the final 4 minutes of the first half.

The measure of a good manager, regardless of level, is how well you make adjustments at halftime. At halftime, Bob Bradley must have thought controlling the majority of the play would be good enough as he made no changes. Aguirre saw that the US could be broken down with ease and brought in his most dangerous weapon into the match; Carlos Vela. While the second half started much like the first; once Vela got grounded in the game, it was over as a competitive contest for the United States.

While it seems everyone is pointing to the fifty-sixth minute as the moment the game changed, I severely disagree with that statement. The fact the US could not put a goal in while on the front foot, plus the two counter attacking chances at the end of the first half was where this game changed. I am pretty confident had Medina not had those two chances on goal, Carlos Vela does not come on to start the second half. Looking at the penalty decision, it was a perfect ball in by Vela to Dos Santos and Jay Heaps was just stupid. Any amount of shirt pulling is grounds for a foul and Dos Santos took full advantage of it. As for this 'elbow' I don't see it as a deliberate elbow. Dos Santos was simply trying to keep his balance. Letter of the law Campbell was correct in calling for the penalty and Torrado had no doubt on the finish. Before everyone cries that I am not calling Campbell out for the decision not to penalize Mexico for the same offense in the first half off a corner, Mexico should have been called for a penalty on the shirt pull on Clarence Goodson inside fifteen minutes. It was more obvious than the Heaps tug.

From there, the US ran out of gas and the goals that came were just more and more difficult to watch. The US tried to run a high line defensively as they tried in vain to get back in the match. Jay Heaps sending off was just a matter of time. As Mexico was running out the clock they added a fifth, showing Brian Ching's message after the fourth goal didn't get across. I was just happy to see full time as surely it couldn't get any worse.

So what has the US learned and what should the fans be looking at? Let's take a look below.
1) All the talk about the gap between MLS and the FMF being close needs to stop and stop pronto. A side mostly made up from Mexico's top flight (yes Vela and Dos Santos play in Europe) took a bunch of MLS players to school today. Yes it is wise to blood let US players, but it needs to be in friendlies against top notch opposition.

2) The depth Bob Bradley has at his disposal for this squad is pretty thin. Maybe it is time for us to apologize over the 'same old same' policy Bob Bradley has had in calling squads in. He found out what a special talent Charlie Davies is during the Confederations Cup. Only two players out of this competition should get looks with the full national team; those players are Stuart Holden and Kyle Beckerman. Yes Beckerman had a bad game today, but based on the whole competition, he has to get a look. Santino Quaranta should also get a look, but I don't see him in any other role than as a super sub.

3) Bob Bradley has got to learn how to make halftime tactical adjustments and quit being afraid to pull the trigger when it's needed the most. Then again, we should be use to that already. Until he can, it will continue to hold us back. Then again, we should be use to that already.

While this is a bit tough to take, it will be tougher to take next month. I do not think the US has any shot at all in winning down at Azteca and think we will lose 3-0. Is this the game that could turn around Mexico's fortunes? I believe it is; however, they still have some work to do in order to guarantee qualification for the 2010 World Cup. The US needs to quickly forget this loss and look toward the 'A' squad to get them back on track. Sadly, I think it will be after a second consecutive loss to Mexico next month.


Anonymous July 27, 2009 at 5:10 PM  

Bradley needs to seriously look in the mirror and make some changes. This performance was disgusting- actually if you take out the two games againsy Honduras the last 3 games for the USA were poor.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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