Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!
I loved the first half of the movie Wedding Crashers. It was a comedic tour de force with quotable lines and great banter between the characters. Sixty minutes in you thought you were watching a potentially epic comedy. But then the movie took a drastic turn for the worse and never recovered. It went from funny and light to an obsessed John Beckwith getting beat up by Sack Lodge.
Such was the Gold Cup final for the US versus Mexico. Fifty minutes in you thought the US was playing well and a goal wasn’t too far off. Forty minutes later you were wondering how something something that started so well could end so badly.
I share Matt’s view of the first half –strong all-around play for the US only marred by the absence of finding the back of the net; good mix of aggression and patience while varying the method of attack. However, the penalty kick by Mexico early in the 2nd half let the air out of the US balloon. Actually, it pretty much popped the US balloon and the air came rushing out all at once (along with their fitness level?).
Was the PK the right call? In a word, NO, but I think the referee thought he had to call something with the mess of bodies in the box. From my view, Heaps stood his ground (with a little grabbing) and the Mexican player more or less launched himself through and over Heaps putting the onus on the official to make a call. It reminded my of a NBA player going strong to the rim, making contact with a bigger defender, and hoping the ref bails him out. While in basketball, its a “50/50 play,” the odds are decidedly against the defense in soccer.
After the PK it was open season for El Tri. The youth of the US squad caught up to them in a hurry as the game snowballed out of control. And, surprisingly, their fitness level came into quesiton; something I didn’t expect from a US side. Perkins did all he could, but the streaking runs of the Mexican strikers were relentless and it was only a matter of time before Mexico struck again. Simply, the US could not get organized during the run of play to stop the Mexican attack.
Hindsight is 20/20, but I’d be interested to hear what you thought Bradley could have done differently. (Kick a Mexican player? Try to convince the referee that timeouts were allowed in the Gold Cup?) I am guessing that most fans were like myself, hoping time would run out without further damage. Alas, the goals kept coming even as Mexico looked to kill the clock.
While the half was a disaster all-around, I must point out one thing, specifically, I didn’t like. In contrast to my brother, I thought the yellow cards taken by the US were horrible and embarrassing. Take a yellow to protect a teammate (re: Tim Howard’s head), but don’t pile up yellows merely out of the frustration of getting whooped, especially not one from the veteran on the field. Unnecessary fouls, be it bad tackles or finishing after the whistle, are emblematic of lack of discipline from Bob Bradley. One game would be an anomaly or even one tournament would be an anomaly, but this is back-to-back tournament with different players.
Best Play of the Game Troy Perkins point blank stop around the 60- minute mark.
Most Unheralded Play of the Game Brian Ching’s continuing to fight and steal the ball down 4-0 at the 85-minute mark.
Golden Shinguard Despite the late yellow, this one goes to Brian Ching as well. He truly was the one standout in the game who made his presence felt the full 90 minutes.
C: Bob Bradley – INCOMPLETE Took the same team from the semi-final and had them playing much better the first 50-minutes against Mexico. Bob’s job isn’t done, however. He’s got a room full of kids who just got their ass kicked. They need to hear the good, but I also hope he will directly tell the bad and what they can learn from the experience. Hence, he gets an incomplete.
G: Troy Perkins – 7 If ever a goalie could be impressive while giving up 5, that was today. Perkins stopped some point blank shots, but couldn’t win every one v. one situation he found himself in. Seemed to be in good position even on those. And the fifth goal was perfect placement by the Mexican player who squeezed the shot between two US defenders.
D: Back Four – 5 In this tale of two halves, it’s hard to give the each of the guys individual grades. So, I am taking the middle of the road on the defense as a whole. I thought Jay Heaps had some excellent challenges and clearances, but ended up with being sent off for two bad tackles. Clarence Goodson was all over the place winning headers and tracking down players, but clearly ran out of gas. Ditto for Chad Marshall along with a great tackle to stop a Mexican counter-attack deep in the area at the end of the first half. Heath Pearce again played aggressive on the overlap, but got caught pressing for goals when the US fell behind.
M: Robbie Rogers – 4 Seemed overmatched against a stronger Mexican squad. Knocked off the ball repeatedly and blasted an eight-yarder over the crossbar on the best opportunity of the day for the US.
M: Kyle Beckerman – 6 Worked tirelessly in the mid-field. Had more room to operate and create, but couldn’t get the ball on frame in three chances from just outside the area.
M: Logan Pause – 5 Seemed to be more involved than the past two games, but didn’t do much worth mentioning.
M: Stu Holden – 7 It’s nice to have a player on the squad that gets you excited when you see he is about to take a shot, but he was wide on his one opportunity. Good service, set pieces and corners (despite having a bottle thrown at him by the “home crowd” on one of them.)
F: Brain Ching – 8 Chased down balls on long runs, tracked back inside the six to help out on defense and battled the whole way.
F: Davy Arnoud -5.5 Didn’t make the most of his chances again, but played better than in the semi-final. If the US had another game in this tournament I don’t think he would be starting.
SUB: Cooper, Quaranta and Cronin – INC
In the end, I don’t think it was as epic a loss as the announcers would have you believe, but I am disappointed by the way the US lost. This isn’t a step back for the US program as some might suggest, but they certainly missed an opportunity to step forward.