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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 8:48 pm
what a disaster, bob bradley has done his job as best as he coiuld but it is time now for a change 1 year left, perfect timing for a qualified international coach who can bring out the desire ambition, skills and winning attitude the top teams in the world have, we have been on the cusp of getting over that hill for a long time lets do this. as for this tournament, the US basically let this tournament and dominance over the region slip away with a mere catfight, the players played their hearts out the coaches did a poor job once again, but it was his best but not good enough. heaps, quaranta, pause, ching, cooper, are not international players, their good enough for the MLS but they have not performed well under pressure time and time again im sick of it, lets get the younger players and see what they can do. i would like to see these players.
clark has talent needs more time and experience. kljestan needed to be here to boost that morale that was left in the dirt, now bradley will call him for the mexico qualifier idiot. wynne has speed, guts needs more playing time, the following players need to be evaluated to find out if they have what it takes, if not move aside: conrad, bornstein, rolfe, califf, convey, hill, orozco, szetela, spector, torres, list goes on.
im gonna blow a gasket im done for now.
Monday July 27, 2009 8:39 pm
WOW! Great piece Latham. Finally someone with the courage to call it like it is. I think many hardcore fans would have said they would have been satisfied with a dignified loss.... but to lose 5-0.... that's pathetic. It doesn't matter if it's your a,b,or c team. You don't lose to any team 5-0. Especially not your archenemy. Holden goes to azteca.... everyone else on this team stays in the u.s. and rots.
Monday July 27, 2009 8:15 pm
I've said it on other boards but Bob Bradley must go but will not. He is a coach that has improved the team to the best of his ability, but his player selection, substitutions, and game management have at times been awful. As for the success of the Confed Cup, he got lucky when Brazil spanked Italy.

I don't think he is going to be fired but 5-0 is dreadful and surly much of it lies on the shoulders of the manager.
Monday July 27, 2009 7:01 pm
The Gold Cup team from the start was a farce. I understand Bradley was trying to field some third string players but let's save that for the friendlies...not any type of tournament. I'm a Revolution supporter but was utterly shocked with disbelief when I saw Heaps on the team.....totally unacceptable. He's not national team material as seen by his performances. Stick with your starters and seconds...not thirds. I would have rather have Beasley, Eddie Johnson, Hahnemann, as our representatives who need to prove themselves rather than an experimental bunch where 3/4 of the team doesn't even belong there. Ching, Adu, Guzan, Clark, Altidore, Parkhurst, and Casey should have played more or been used. It's up to the managers of the clubs to determine whether to let the player go and Bradley should not hesitate to call up players that deserve it or who have been called and not used regulary from before. The only new players worthy of having a chance from the Gold Cup squad would include Beckerman, Quaranta, Arnaud, Davies, and Cooper. The rest should have been the unused team members (even if they were in the previous tournament) and maybe a couple of second stringers.
Monday July 27, 2009 5:01 pm
I felt in the Confederations Cup that we would gain more by losing the final to Brazil than winning it. I also feel that we COULD learn more from the loss to Mexico than by having this team of nobodys beat them. What would a victory yesterday have meant to US Soccer? It would have given them the false sense of superiority that our B,C, or D team could beat anyone in our region at home. Probably not a good thing to have Sunil and Bob thinking down the road.

If they can look in the mirror and admit that they made a mistake in the selection of this team (and the Confederations Cup team [*see below]), then this loss may go some ways into fixing this problem of tournament team selections. If they stick to the line of, "we just wanted to see what the youngsters would do when overmatched against Mexico", then the investment of emotional capital into the Gold Cup by us was the mistake.


* Why select players like Torres and Adu for the Confederations Cup and not put them out there then have to send them back to their clubs during the Gold Cup because you've had them in camp too long? Pretty freakin' stupid. scott
Luis Ramon
Monday July 27, 2009 4:49 pm
It time to make the change MLS!!! Schedule the season around the International realities of soocer.
Monday July 27, 2009 4:42 pm
SPOT ON. MLS and their schedule should not be catered to. What a disgrace!! No excuse!
Arthur Adams
Monday July 27, 2009 4:31 pm
I couldn't agree more. An ugly loss, to a bitter rival in a Cup Final/Championship match. We had NO bench in the Brazil Confed Final, and now this. You deserve credit for making both finals Bob, but what the hell were you thinking? What the hell were you doing? This doesn't happen to a well-managed program. The Gold Cup tally is now Mexico 5, USA 4, with no "*" just because we brought a 3rd string team. Yesterday was a disgrace and a lot more of the casual sporting public were paying more attention this summer, making the loss even uglier and more costly.
Monday July 27, 2009 4:24 pm
I think ussf/mls greatly underestimates the importance of winning every tournament they enter. Look what winning has done for the women's side. Look at the buzz that was generated by making it to the confederations cup final. The average american fan loves the bandwagon. If they plan to sell the sport to the average american fan they MUST win against mexico. Do they think people are going to read the headline and understand they were using the gold cup for development? Do they think kids that are choosing between soccer, football, baseball, or basketball want to be associated with this? They have to sell soccer and nothing sells more than winning.

The amount of pressure on the senior team for next months match in azteca is ridiculous, which really doesn't matter anyway because they aren't even smart enough to get it broadcast in english. The culture surrounding the team is accepting of losing. Why enter a tournament you don't plan to win? Aren't friendlies for developing talent?
Monday July 27, 2009 4:12 pm
I think the dual embarrassments of Copa America and this loss have shown that the CONCACAF Gold Cup is played too frequently. Why do we crown a continental champion every two years when Europe and S. America do it every 4? Money. It works out fine for the smaller countries who might have a harder time getting friendlies but complicates any opportunity to gain experience outside of CONCACAF. US Soccer's 4-year cycle should be: World Cup, Copa America, Gold Cup, Confederations Cup (or US Cup if we fail to qualify).

Instead of riding the Confed Cup success, Bob Bradley has exposed himself as a manager of limited ideas who has benefited from a lot of luck. Advancing from your group with 3 points = plain luck. How can you call it an experimental squad when you cart out the same line-up every match and make the same substitutions too late to effect the match, as usual? I really wonder about his mental faculties - obviously he isn't the brightest bulb. Seriously, Cooper doesn't get a single start despite Ching offering the same mixed bag in every match. You don't try playing Cooper and Arnauld?

The biggest indictment of Bradley was that his team was unprepared to deal mentally with going behind - that is basic preparation.
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