Monday, June 27, 2011

Mexico Crushes USA 4 - 2

Despite limping into the Gold Cup final with Mexico, the US National Soccer Team took a surprising 2 - 0 early in the match, only to suffer a relentless Mexican onslaught of four unanswered goals enroute to a 4 - 2 humiliation before 93,000 mostly-Mexican sympathizers yesterday in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Padadena California.

A beautiful corner kick from Freddy Adu let Michael Bradley glance in a header in the 8th minute, and in the 23rd minute Landon Donavon finished a pretty through ball from Clint Dempsey to put the United States up 2 - 0.  For a moment the United States was in complete control of the game and enroute to a famous victory over their CONCACAF arch-rivals from south of the border.

But the famous victory went to Mexico, beginning in the 29th minute when Pablo Barerra struck a pass from Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez to put Mexico back in the game.  Minutes later Andres Guardado tapped in the ball aftera confused melee in front of the American goal, and suddenly the score was tied.  In the 50th minute Barerra stuck an incredibly skillfull shot with the outside of his right boot, swerving the ball into the goal for the third score of the night, and the Americas were now in retreat, looking confused and disorganized.  The clincher came in the 76th minute when Giovani dos Santos brilliantly controlled the ball away from US goalkeeper Tim Howard, dancing away past two defenders before chipping in a perfectly touched ball past the despairing lunge of defenders, for Mexico's final score of the night.

What a performance by Mexico, and what a dissapointment for the US!  I have prayed for the American's to get into the habit of scoring first, so when at last the team handsomely obliged my hopes, they reveal themselves to be unable to defend against world-class talent.  And that's what Mexico has right now, with Chicharito, Guardado, Barrera and dos Santos together comprising a new 'golden age' for Mexican football.  It looks like Mexico may be set to dominate CONCACAF for the next several years.

On our side, 'the usual suspects' delivered--  Donovan, Dempsey, and Bradley.  And the good news from this tournament was the re-emergence of onetime child phenomenon Freddy Adu.  Now 22 and seasoned from the dissapointments that come from high expectations coupled with a sense of entitlement, this older and wiser version of Adu seems capable of (at last!) fulfilling all the hopes DC United once had for him.  He has probably played his way into a berth on the US National Team for the next few years.

But the rest of the team just wasn't there.  Carlos Bocanegra was showing his age (35), and it's now clear that the US cannot play defense very well in the absence of Steve Cherundolo (also 35), and that is unacceptable.  We can't be that utterly dependant on one guy's presence on the pitch, and anyway our best defensemen are near retirement. 

So whats next?  It's pretty clear now that the US has lots of decent talent in the midfield.  But on defense we have age and talent issues, and we are still not an attacking team.  The upshot has been Bradley's bunker-and-counter attack strategy, which worked well enough to get us to the final.  But even though they fell behind, the Mexican's did not abandon their attacking style of soccer, which revealed the weaknesses of the American side on either end of the pitch.

This match has shown us the future: Mexican dominance in CONCACAF for the next several years, while the American program retools.