BRENT LATHAM - Monday, July 27, 2009
It was ugly. It was sad. It was downright disgusting.

So, unfortunately, a summary of lessons for the Americans from what might have been an otherwise relatively positive Gold Cup has to begin with the most forgettable moment of the tournament, the humiliating drubbing at the hands of Mexico in the final.

For three mid-summer weeks, it seemed like Coach Bradley might really have something brewing with his group of upstart MLSers. Unfortunately, in about thirty minutes on Sunday afternoon, with a five goal barrage that ended with the American team completely giving up, Mexico proved it all to be an illusion.

To be fair, this group of Americans did well to make it as far as the final. But the manner in which the team collapsed against its fiercest rival would not have been dignified for Grenada or Guadeloupe, much less the giants of the region.

If the first goal by way of the penalty spot was a backbreaker, the four that followed were farcical, even for a Sunday afternoon recreational league. The Mexicans waltzed in unimpeded and took aim at Troy Perkins' goal time and time again, as the American defense meandered about nonchalantly thirty yards up the field.

So sickening a spectacle it was for American fans that it will be hard to accept the nonchalance of some of the American contingent after the game. Acceptance of defeat might have been understandable had the Americans fallen with dignity, but this group did no such thing, to the point that it can be questioned if any of the principal culprits – including the entire back line - should ever wear the US crest again.

But it's easy to blame the players. The bottom line is that this team was a disaster waiting to happen. The breakdown of what led to this sorry day began not at halftime on Sunday, but last month, with the roster selection process.

While Bob Bradley began the tournament with a handful of decent players, and what looked like a relatively solid team, he ended the Gold Cup with a makeshift squad that could be considered a fourth or even fifth string team. The team fielded against Mexico was devoid of any creative offensive threat in the middle, and missing even the semblance of a decent player in a few spots on the field - right back and holding midfield to name the two most glaring deficiencies.

That it turned out this way can be chalked up to two things: fear of club teams in both Europe and MLS, and downright poor planning.

We already know a host of players weren't available after the Confederations Cup because of preseason European commitments, and that is fair enough. But others who could have helped were ignored in favor of players who could be described as mediocre at best, but nevertheless ended up being called upon to play significant roles in crucial stages of the tournament.

To aggravate the questionable selection errors, the US failed to take advantage of an expanded and overly generous thirty man roster, which CONCACAF permitted it after the trip to the Confederations Cup. Bradley responded by adding seven players from that Confederations Cup roster, but then used only one of them – Benny Feilhaber for about thirty minutes in the second game - even as the roster shrank to the bare minimum in the final round of the tournament.

Defenders of the USSF will now argue that the point of the Gold Cup was to take a look at some young players, but that doesn't explain how sending Jay Heaps and Logan Pause out to get torched against many of Mexico's regulars helps anything in the long run.

If the Americans were going to experiment with unproven players, why not make them young, new elements that may have a shot at helping one day? Calling in Sam Cronin, for example, made sense for that reason. But why waste extra roster spots on over the hill veterans, or worse, players based in Europe that can't even make it to the US for the tournament?

If the departure of the core of the team came as a surprise the situation might be forgivable, but Coach Bradley says he knew he would lose many of his European contingent mid-tournament. If that was indeed the case, how to explain the lack of a replacement creative midfielder or withdrawn forward when Freddy Adu left the team? And how is it possible that once Steve Cherundolo packed his bags, Heaps was the best remaining option at right back?

Seriously, it may be nice to see Heaps get a cap, but how will that benefit the US in the long run? Is this guy really in the mix for a roster spot going forward? It would have made much more sense to put someone like Marvell Wynne on the roster, and call him in for the last round. Wynne could have used the international experience of playing Mexico in a final.

The same goes for Sasha Klejstan, who would have benefited from the confidence built by playing against this level of competition. Diddo for Ricardo Clark in the place of Pause.

Clark and Klejstan were both on that expanded roster, but never called in. Which brings us back to our earlier point. There are explanations for all of this, just not good ones. Clark and Wynne were left out to avoid depleting their MLS teams, after having them in South Africa for a long time, and with Brian Ching and Stuart Holden from Houston, and Sam Cronin from Toronto already on the US roster.

But a national humiliation that won't soon be forgotten is far too high a price to pay for pleasing a couple of MLS teams.

A 5-0 loss is a disgrace at any level, with any team. All games that the national team plays, on any level, without exception, need to be taken seriously.

When club and country conflict, that should really just be too bad for the club team, especially if that team plays in MLS, which refuses to adjust its schedule to the realities of international soccer.

Still, with a deep and intriguing pool full of players that really need a test at this level, and huge roster, there was plenty of wiggle room to get this right and still come out with a competitive team, at least for the final. This is the second time the US has been in this sort predicament under Bradley, the 2007 Copa America being the first.

Hopefully the lesson will have been clearer this time, to the tune of 5-0.
Monday July 27, 2009 3:46 pm
I agree with most of the statements made here....Bob could have, and definitely should have, taken advantage of a 30 man roster. At least bring half of the 7 extra players he was given. The team looked exhausted, I'm not sure if it was fatigue or just lack of heart but it was miserable to watch. And Jay Heaps...probably the worst coaching decision Bob has made with regards to this tournament. Like Brent said, whats the point? what is the US getting out of Heaps in the long run? He got burned time and time again, and it wasn't just that he got beat, he got beat really badly - to the point where he almost fell a few times. He also had a hand the two goals Haiti scored. Its tough, but lets try and not let this shadow the positive things we saw in the tournament and over the past few months....
Monday July 27, 2009 3:43 pm
email me if you wanna comment:clintondelgado_u@hotmail.com.
Firsst of all this is Bradleys fault, i know he made second ,but we lost pride and respect angainst mexico. Here are the mistakes he did.
1) he let alot of europeans go.
2)the uss team doesnt show so much dominance in thir matches,i usually see a shy team.
3) The mls roster sucked big time(except holden and rogers who i see a great future.
If i wanted an experimental squad here were my options

1.- Perkins
2.- Bocanegra
9.-adu or nimo better than alot of the players on that roster
Ed Ho
Monday July 27, 2009 3:43 pm
Well said Brent.

Heaps was especially appalling - considering how poorly he played in his first game. Also agree on Pause.

It seemed that Bradley was rewarding those two based on their contribution to MLS vs their capability to help the national team now or later. If he wants to do that. I say great, but do it in an Intl freindly vs some Zidane led All Star team, not in a Fifa sanctioned tournament.
Monday July 27, 2009 3:39 pm
There is no American who loves this game and plays or has played it at a competitive level in this country who could see this result and not be angered by it.

The ease with which they ran through the midfield was pathetic.

That players at this level would chase the ball and tire themselves out after being down by only 1 goal is absolutely pathetic. That's high-school or junior club ball coaching. The "silent strong type" approach of Bradely on the side lines was disgracefully inadequate.
Monday July 27, 2009 3:35 pm
Bradley's use and assessment of Cooper is so naive. Just because he has a big body, the first mistake any coach will make is making him into something he is not. Cooper is a very unusally talented player like a Dirk Nowitzski who breaks the mold of players and Bradley cannot figure out how to use this guy other than for 10 minutes per game...maybe?
He is not a Target player and he is not a smash mouth player. He is an extremely intelligent player that has an incredible knack to score goals.
Paul Lorinczi
Monday July 27, 2009 3:33 pm
The Lawn-chair Association of America kids lose.

Well, yesterday's game showed that you can not win on heart alone. You have to have some technical ability to compete against better players.

I still blame Bradley not only for team selection, but also team management. This is the 2nd final he has ran his first 11 into the ground for them to lose in the 2nd half.

2 finals, 2 losses in the 2nd half.

I still blame Bradley.
Monday July 27, 2009 3:33 pm
pathetic and the excuses were even worse. i can't forgive that reckless display on sunday. but what can i say. it's beating a dead horse. us soccer is stuck in neutral. true fans see opportunity everywhere, but complacent management finds excuses to keep up the status quo as long as the cash is coming in. how many more pathetic displays will it take before we start to demand and live up to higher expectations? i'm over it.
Monday July 27, 2009 3:28 pm
Thank you for stating what I couldn't find the words to say
Monday July 27, 2009 3:24 pm
Agree about the poor planning of the roster for tournament success. Is it the policy of true soccer powers to routinely send second and third rate squads to big international tournaments-like the U.S seems to be in the habit of doing? (Gold Cup/last Copa America). Surely a better roster could have been assembled.
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