DAVID SMITH - Sunday, June 26, 2011
The US bent over to accept a third straight loss to their arch-enemies, blowing a two-goal lead to spectacularly lose the Gold Cup final to Mexico in front of more than 90,000 spectators in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Despite tournament filled with unexpected allegations and surprise results, the predictable pair of CONCACAF's two powerhouses fought through the fray to reach the final of the 2011 Gold Cup for the third straight time, and much like two years prior, one team proved they were no match for their opponents over which they had much dominance in the soon to be forgotten years gone by.

The two knockout games leading up to the final had seen the US apparently overcome their earlier difficulties during which they acquiesced their 26-game unbeaten streak in the group stage. On the other side of the ball, Mexico's road to the final had proven tougher than their controversy-ridden cakewalk through Group A, with the team needing an inspired overtime performance to finally pass Honduras in their semifinal matchup.

While the early minutes of Saturday's final initially looked to have the US on the ascendancy and headed for a date in the 2013 Confederations Cup, both teams quickly returned to their earlier level of play, with Mexico ripping a hapless Stars and Stripes defense for four unanswered goals.

US head coach Bob Bradley's starting lineup included one major wild card which few had expected, with forgotten son Freddy Adu earning his first national team start in nearly two years after a strong substitute performance three days before in the team's semifinal win over Panama.

His confidence in the young playmaker was quickly rewarded, as the forgotten Benfica man perfectly delivered an eighth-minute corner from the right side which Michael Bradley managed to get his polished noggin on just inside of the near post, sending his header across the face of goal and inside the far post for the early 1-0 lead.

While the goal gave the US the clear upper hand with barely any time gone by, an injury and subsequent lapse of judgement in the following minutes ultimately opened the door to the lopsided end result.

An apparent leg injury to Steve Cherundolo three minutes after Bradley's goal forced Bradley to pull his most consistent defender over recent memory from the game. Faced with an unexpected wrench in his plans, he reverted to habit and called upon long-time favorite Jonathan Bornstein - who had yet to take the field in the Gold Cup - to fill in the gap, shifting left-back revelation Eric Lichaj to take Cherundolo's place the right side while giving Bornstein the duty of defending the left side of the field.

Mexico quickly recovered from the early setback and looked to have gained control of the proceedings until a slick showing momentarily gave the US a two-goal advantage in the 23rd minute.

Adu hit a short pass to Clint Dempsey midway between the center circle and the edge of the penalty area, which the Fulham attacker slipped forward to the onrushing Landon Donovan just inside the penalty area.

Donovan's run carried him left of the defense and backup Mexico keeper Alfredo Talavera, and a cool finish just inside the left post gave the US the familiar 2-0 lead.

The second goal seemed to momentarily take the wind out of the Mexicans, however they pulled one back on the break six minutes later in the first exploitation of Bradley's poorly-judged substitution.

Javier Hernandez hit a pass from near the center stripe directly into the path of Pablo Barrera, who had somehow slipped past the hapless Bornstein and into free space.

With Bornstein unable to recover in time, Barrera's first touch was a low blast which flew past the reach of keeper Tim Howard and just inside the right post to cut the lead to a single goal.

Mexico then pulled even in the 36th minute as Bornstein and Lichaj teamed up to practically serve up an equalizer on a silver platter.

Bornstein momentarily lost Giovani dos Santos in the right side of the penalty area, which allowed the former Barcelona player to rocket a dangerous shot towards goal. Lichaj did get a foot on the ball to reverse its momentum, however it rolled directly into the path of Andrés Guardado, who barely beat Howard to send it rolling slowly over the line for 2-2.

With Mexico having clearly gained the upper hand on all fronts, the US needed to tighten the defense and hope to hold onto the even scoreline, however were dealt the ultimate death blow five minutes into the second half.

A weak clearance by Carlos Bocanegra placed the ball directly in front of Guardado, who chested it to the ground before hitting a short pass to the right edge of the area to Barrera. The West Ham forward one-timed his shot to the left post, just out of Howard's reach and into goal for the 3-2 lead.

Dempsey nearly pulled the game on even terms when he struck a rocket towards goal seemingly from nowhere in the 59th minute, but his shot was inches off target, bouncing off the crossbar and keeping the scoreline in favor of El Tri.

Bradley brought on Juan Agudelo in the 63rd minute in place of Alejandro Bedoya in hopes of generating a spark at the top of the attack, however the only true electricity came off the foot of dos Santos with 14 minutes left as the game was put on ice.

Howard lunged off his line to try and grab the ball from the 22 year-old's feet, however was a touch too slow, and the headband-sporting youngster lifted a spectacular volley which flew seemingly in slow motion towards the far post, just over Lichaj's attempted headed clearance into the upper left corner, to bring the score to its final 4-2 standing.

With the win, Mexico secure their place in the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil and leave the US with their second straight Gold Cup runners-up consolation prize.

The Stars and Stripes will be left with many questions to answer from their largely underwhelming tournament performance, and will have a series of friendly matches until they enter the third round of qualification for the 2014 World Cup next summer.
Hugh McDonough
Thursday June 30, 2011 8:50 am
USA senior team should hire Ancellotti, Lippi, MartinO'Neill ex Celtic Aston villa boss, or Klinssmann. Usa needs to sort out their weak defense.
Costa Rica , Panama, Honduras are getting stronger, could cause USA problems for World cup 2014 qualification. Usa needs new experienced defenders, and strikers. Even if USA recruits very experienced European born players,
what's the harm? Usa will get stronger. BB has to go. Klinnsmann we hope.

Rep.of Ireland manager Trapatoni wants to recruit US born players for Ireland. USSF needs to stop Trapatoni's plan. Good luck USA Hugh
Mike E.
Wednesday June 29, 2011 3:16 pm
Kyle: "We need coaching ability to match the level of the players' ability." I agree. But who is AVAILABLE besides he who lives in California and insists on full roster power (something Gulati will never cede)?
Monday June 27, 2011 10:43 am
Sunil Gulati needs to step down, as well as Bob Bradley...NOW!!!
Monday June 27, 2011 10:42 am
The key failure in this game IMO is that our defense just isn't good enough. We have a great goalie, but the guys infront of him aren't doing it.

IMO if Bradley is kept around (I think he will be) someone needs to tell him he cannot dress Bornstein. Bornstein is a terrible soccer player. Him dressing over Spector is insane. Hell I'd rather have the young and inexperience Chandler there cause at least he has potential.

In order to have a prayer in 2014 we need Onyewu, Chandler, Ream, and Lichaj to step up. Cherundolo is getting old, by next WC if he can go I doubt his ability to go 90, much less compete with the best in the world. I don't think I'd want to see him defending Nani or Ronaldo. I do think that Lichaj will take Cherundolo's spot, he's fast, big and from when I've watched him he does a good job at crossing. My only gripe on his offensive game is he seems to hold the ball too, long but that really is the issue with the US team. THey should by trying to emulate Spain/Barca cause that style of soccer IMO woudl benefit them when they face more athletic teams.
Sunday June 26, 2011 11:24 pm
Soccer can not be coached like a football team. The coach is the least important person on game day, all his work is done the week prior. It is the players who must make the decisions on the pitch. When he is called upon to make a sub it must be thought out prior to the game. How on earth was Bornstein considered in this? Because he sits the pine in Mexico? Bob is loosing it.
Sunday June 26, 2011 9:12 pm
This one came down to tactics and personnel. We need coaching ability to match the level of the players' ability. Right now there's a disconnect. Sorry Bob, you had a good run.
Sunday June 26, 2011 8:13 pm
What about Spector, although I like the idea of having Edu there. Why didn't Jay D play? Didn't he do a good job last summer? I know that it's bad to make excuses, but it did seem that the whole thing went to hell when Cherundolo came out and JB came in. If JB can't even start at Tigres, then why should he even get playing time for the national team? It just doesn't make sense. Don't we have one better defender than him. And why move Lichaj who up until yesterday had impressed everyone playing? The bottom line is that Sunil has to go. Klinsmann wouldn't come in while Sunil was there. He's the problem. It starts at the top. Maybe Bob is not the problem. I heard Wynalda on the radio here Friday afternoon and he seems to think that Bob is great. He could be following orders.
Sunday June 26, 2011 8:10 pm
The bottom line is we need a new coach. The soccer in the US has outgrown to be coached by an IVY leaguer who has never played a minute of a major club ball. Our players deserve better....its not like US Soccer Federation doesnt have money to hire a big name coach...I bet Gulati was happy to see all those screaming 90,000 Mexican fans at Rose Bowl....(Why in the world would you have the final in southern California other than fact that CONCACAF and US Soccer Fed was counting on Mexico to be in the final. -$$$$$$$$$$) so much for home field advantage for the US team.
Sunday June 26, 2011 6:41 pm
This is a message for the USSF (United States Soccer Federation), If you want to be the best you have to get the best. Bob Bradley is a middle level coach. As long as we have him we will be stuck in mediocrity. It seems like instead of progressing we are moving backwards. If you don't do something we will be behind programs like Costa Rica, Honduras and Jamaica and guest what we will not be qualifying to the WC. One more note on the game yesterday. I know what the coach from Mexico told his players when Bornstein went in. You must attack their right side. This player doesn't even play in his own club and he is supposed to be better than Edu. Edu is a starter in his club, he is better physically, mentally, etc. How come we see this and Bob doesn't? I would not blame him for not coming back to the team.
Sunday June 26, 2011 4:58 pm
I love the USMNT, but I have serious concerns about the current state of the program. this team is getting old and there is not a lot of talent coming up through the ranks. this was horribly evident yesterday. conversley mexico has a very young and talented team. the scale in CONACAF has without a doubt tipped in favor of mexico.

the USSF needs a total overhaul. a european coach needs to be at the helm of the senior nats. talent and tactics needs to be recognized and utilized effectively. this team is not cutting it, and there isn't a cultivation of talent out there.

this all starts with BB going. there is no excuse for his crappy tactics, lack of adjustment, and player selection. none. bornstein is a perfect example. he continues to not only brought to camps, but actually gets selected and used in meaningful games. he is by far the worst USMNT player i have ever seen. his dismal performances have cost the nats several games and yesterday was another prime example.

i'm disgusted with this team right now.
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