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.
Sunday June 26, 2011 3:38 pm
I think we're going a bit overboard with not qualifying for the World Cup. What happened on the field was the mistake of both players and coach. First off, why in the world would Bradley insert Bornstein in the match? Shift Bocanegra to the left/right and have either Tim Ream or Maurice Edu (has history of playing CB.) What gets to me is the whole entire structure of the US. Klinsmann was willing to coach the US not just once, but twice! Give him the chance. This is the second time that the US has blown a lead up 2-0, and not just in any meaningless game either. The 2009 Confederations Cup eventually losing 3-2, and now Mexico? Terrible
soccer fan
Sunday June 26, 2011 3:23 pm
to be honest, the U.S could have won the cup, but our defense is whats causing the problems. we need young fast, and physically good defenders. bocanegra is getting old,bornstein is not getting play in mexico, lichaj is new to the team,churundolo is getting old but still fast. there is no communication within the defenders and tim howard. the USMNT program needs to try new players , we have 85 players playing in europe plus mls, we can find great players,but the coach always want the same ol players as usual.Gulati needs to realize,that our soccer program is getting old,and we are not letting our players be creative. look at mexico,all they have is 11 to 15 good players,and they dont even have a B or C team like we do,and they still won the cup. Gulati and the rest of the USA federation need to realize that a change needs to come now,for our coaching . just give jurgen klinsman a chance,the guy knows about MLS and europe, and they should give new kids a chance to shine for our national team,especially those in europe.
Sunday June 26, 2011 1:46 pm
Quite possibly the worst defeat between the two countries in this long rivalry. This game set the US program backwards and it is quite possible that with the improvement of teams like Panama and Honduras, that the US might not quallify for the next WC. That would set us back 30 years!

Although I praised Coach Bradley in my last post it appears he is too slow in reacting and adapting with a game situation and in between games of a tourney. After we were ahead by two goals in the Final where was the Bunker Bob philosophy? Then of course you can still counter attack. Freddy only appeared after the glaring need for more offense in the past FOUR games. Where was Spector or Edu as a defensive CM. Why bring Onyewu if you never intended to use him.

The defensive four that did not allow Spain ONE goal in the last Confeds Cup and held mighty Brazil in the first half to zero goals was not the one that played yesterday. That was Spector, Demerit, Onyewu and Boca.

Maybe we need to go back to old guard defensive players. Marquez was in their for Mexico for a reason. Experience is important in Big games.

Finally, the Dempsey shot that hit the crossbar and the Bradley attempt on a rebound that missed an empty net were good tries, but you have to FINISH to win. I honestly thought Freddy would create even more havoc than he did,but again he wasnt in the flow with the team because he had not had previous games to get into it. Demps, Donovan and Jones played well but still disappeared for too long during the game.
Sunday June 26, 2011 1:23 pm
All levels of our system are really poor right now. The reason for this is that we are not willing to let the best creative players play. We are letting the coaches favorites play at all levels and we get a big "F" for this. Our boring system is old and stale. We lack creativaty and do not have the passion and grit. That comes from management. Sunil Gulati- time to let go. Find something else to ruin. Bob Bradley- Time to go. MLS is a great place for you. Thomas Rongen- how many chances are you going to get? We are losing at all levels. We cannot even win at the U-17 level. Even the Women are struggling. Klinsman should have gotten the job , but rumor has it he wanted too much control. Maybe he saw this coming and Gulati could not handle the truth. What this program needs is passion and a will to go find better players. That will come with the right coach who has the right passion. That will come with Klinsman, a man who not only won a world cup as a player but coached in a world cup as well.
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