I’ll admit it, I’m in a funk. I didn’t expect the US to win, mind you, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t hope for it. Especially when the US led 2-0. But the times have changed, and after a period of US dominance, Mexico is again the superior team in the region. It wasn’t so much that the US lost (although it also is), as how they lost.
First a few observations:
1. Freddy Adu was good. I am still not an Adu-fanatic, but I will eat my earlier words about one good pass not meriting the love he gets from US fans. He played a good match, and one (i.e. me) could argue he was the only bright spot of the US debacle. Now if only he can get himself out of the Turkish Second Division. Come home, Freddy. I know we’re not a football country, but MLS really is several steps above Nowherezspoor (and maybe even the Benfica bench.) Mexico in the Copa America could be fascinating. I think they are sending a B Team though, so maybe it won’t be.
2. El Tri were the better team. Absolutely 100% better. They may have finally put forward a team that doesn’t lose their collective head when they go down a goal (or two), and if that is the case then perhaps they can be competitive on the world stage.
3. No US at the 2013 Confederations Cup. Not a big deal for me, but it was a goal to go back there.
4. One cannot completely blame Bob Bradley for this. Not completely. It is not his fault that Mexico has superior players, and it is not his fault that the marquis players he does have simply didn’t up.
That does not mean he is blameless. I still cannot understand why the football media in this country generally gives him a free pass, (unlike us fans; someone needs to pick up the slack.) It’s the same with Sunil Gulati. The systemic failure of this country to produce good football players, especially when American children play football more than any other sport. It underlies that the football administration, while perhaps good at marketing the product, has no idea how to develop players. It also speaks to the failure of coaching at the youth level.
Failure, of course, is the operative word for tonight. Specifically the failure of the US to keep a 2-0 lead. Again. At home. To be fair, the 2-0 was highly deceptive; Mexico totally outclassed the US from the beginning, and the US got lucky by scoring early. And then the US got unlucky when Steve Cherundolo was injured and needed to come off.
But then Bob Bradley made the tactical blunder of the tournament. He put in Jonathan Bornstein, who is just not good enough, and that was the end. How badly did Bornstein get outplayed? Well (to engage in shameful racial stereotyping), Bornstein was Sylvester the Cat to the Mexicans’ collective Speedy Gonzalez. While the US does not exactly have a wealth of good defenders, Bornstein may well have been the absolute worst choice, someone who shouldn’t have even been there to begin with. But he’s one of Bradley’s pets because Bradley liked him while they were both at Chivas USA (a club that along with Real Salt Lake and DC United have earned my ire for the absolute worst team names. Get your own identities, people and stop stealing from Europe!) Typical Bob Bradley. One cannot completely blame Bradley for the loss, but he deserves a fairly severe drubbing for his personnel decisions.
What astounds me though is that this match was a completely different kind of bumbling than the bumbling we normally expect from the US. Usually the US go down a goal or two to weaker squads and then fight back to a draw or (less likely) a win. In finals, the US go up 2-0 against superior teams and then snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Perhaps that is why misguided US commentators believe that a 2-0 is the most dangerous lead there is. (It’s not; 1-0 is far more precarious. Or 4-0 if you are Arsenal.) Two years ago when it happened in Brazil, we were all disappointed. Nevertheless, because the US punched above their weight by beating Spain and advanced to the finals to meet BRAZIL!, we overlooked that the US choked. This time, we cannot be quite so forgiving. This was not a choke per se, but the US have won the Gold Cup before, Mexico are not Brazil, and inferior teams around the world are capable of holding onto two goal leads, especially when playing at home.
Nothing will be done of course. This is only the Gold Cup not the World Cup, and besides the US were expected to reach the final round. Therefore, the USSF has every excuse to turn a blind eye to the failings of both the team and the national infrastructure. Certainly neither Sports Illustrated nor ESPN will hold the USSF accountable, and the next intelligible comment to come out of Fox Soccer Channel will be the first.
Oh, well. Today begins the Women’s World Cup. The more successful US Women’s National Team is still very much a contender, and they know how to win.