US Soccer Team’s Gold Cup Loss to Mexico: Where Was the Defending?

Photo by Sam S. Osman

I felt like I was watching my favorite Premier League side Arsenal Saturday night.  The United States built a 2-0 advantage over Mexico in the Gold Cup final before coughing up four goals.  It was an epic collapse and now it is time to look at what went wrong for the US.

The problem is simple, and it is the same problem that has plagued Arsenal the last few seasons.  The central defenders are not good enough to play at an international level.  Goodson and Bocanegra just do not have the speed to cover players like Giovani Dos Santos and Andres Guardado.

To be fair, Bocanegra was forced to move from left back to center back after the 2-1 loss to Panama in the group stage.  Goodson is a decent center back but struggles against the top teams.  The United States need to develop a couple strong, agile center backs before 2014 or we could be in big trouble.

Tim Howard did not have his best game last night.  He was beaten near post for the first goal on a strike from Pablo Barrera.  If you’re a keeper, you need to cover that near post and force a tougher shot towards the far post.  Dos Santos scored a cracker of a goal for Mexico’s fourth of the night.  Howard was unable to secure the ball after dashing out towards Dos Santos.  The back four did allow Dos Santos to get behind them but Howard should have been better.

United States allowed Dos Santos so much time and space on the ball.  He was running free all over the US half of the field.  Bob Bradley should have had a talk at halftime to his defenders about this.  Adjustments should have been made to the back four after the first half, but instead Bradley focused on offensive substitutions.

Steve Cherundolo’s absence was glaring.  After his injury, Bradley was forced to bring on Jonathan Bornstein early on in the match.  Bornstein played poorly but no one expected anything different.  He had not played at all during the tournament and was very rusty.

On a bright note, Eric Lichaj proved himself in this tournament.  He is an attacking force down the wing.  Lichaj has a great work rate, and he has shown why Aston Villa continue to stick with him.

Tim Howard was very upset after the match: “CONCACAF should be ashamed of themselves. I think it was a [expletive] disgrace that the entire post-match ceremony was in Spanish. You can bet your ass that if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn’t be all in English.”

I, on the other hand, was cursing after the match but it was not at CONCACAF. It was at the poor defending by the US men’s national team.

34 thoughts on “US Soccer Team’s Gold Cup Loss to Mexico: Where Was the Defending?”

  1. why the hell did OGuchi Onyewu not start or play in any games at all??? he is a much better defender than goodson and i promise u that if he was playing then that dos santos goal would have never happened. and seriously? bornstein for cherundolo? why would u put him in when u have spector on the bench?? does anyone not remember how he shut spain down at the confed cup and put in so many beautiful crosses? there definitely needs to be a coaching change. michael bradley and dempseys efforts were just unacceptable dempsey plays so much better for fulham, people think he is good for the US because he has so many shots but yet he hardly ever puts any in the back of the net. hes a good player he just lacks any heart at all when the US is down. bradley and dempsey need to sit out the next few friendlys and world cup qualifiers to learn a lesson. time to finally bring in jurgen klinnsman and get rid of bob bradley! it was good while it lasted coach but all good things must come to an end.

    1. You also forgot the fact that Spector can be a great force in attack, he scored two goals against Manchester United last season, sure it was the Carling Cup but still he scored against the future Prem champions.

      1. I totally agree about Michael Bradley. He might have scored but that is the only thing he did well the entire game. He consistently gave the ball up with poor decision making and just looked all around rusty (not surprising since he can’t get in a first team for club football). Bradley needs consistent club football again before he can be considered in the US midfield. On a brighter note, Adu was brilliant.

    2. I’m not sure which Dempsey you’re watching, but the one who played this tourney showed way more heart than the one that plays for Fulham. The difference is that the one that plays for Fulham has better midfield support than the one that plays for the U.S.

  2. Offense wins games diffense wins championships, until the Americans learn how to defend they will not win, when you score 2 goals you should win 80% of the games

  3. I am more unhappy about the Mexican team fans who are US and non US residents. Its ok to cheer for Mex but to boo the US team when u live here. Go back to mexico then. If u make a living here, show some gratitude..cheer for mexico yes but don’t jeer the country that feeds you Have some respect(eg the ‘BHUTO’ (?)(ass hole??…whatever) jeer at Howard every time he kicks the ball was sickening) mexico was the better team no doubt. I am one of the most pro-Mexican American I know and I am upset at some of the fans!

    1. Dear Sam:
      The shouting when the goalkeeper kicks the ball is a mexican tradition of national soccer. It was shout even in south africa when the local goalkeeper from south africa kicked the ball. Nothing personal just a tradition. And about “lack of respect” I didn’t see any of it, as I saw all mexicans clap with the US anthem. and when it comes to soccer, its just sports man! chill, you americans always get so mad with us, because you start to see everything as “you contry and my country” and it is just sports. AND FOR THE RECORD, I am mexican and I live in mexico and go to the US often to spend many of my money in your stores. Much money. So maybe i’m helping your economy. Don’t you think you have to show gratitude too?

      1. I was at the game, and Albert is right. As a U.S. fan who went to the game with my son, I can confirm: the most obnoxious fans were a small minority of U.S. Soccer fans. The 80,000 Mexico fans were, by and large, friendly and fun and generous.

    2. And sam,
      You don’t have to be worried about a defeat in soccer. The US is the best country in the world and the best sports nation. No big deal.

    3. Look Sam tickets were available to everybody. USMNT supporter didn’t buy enough of them. Get over it. If I were there I would have boo them too. Good teams don’t loose 2-0 leads.

    4. dont get butt hurt…remember its a free country so they could say anything they want the first amendment dumbass…i went to that game any i was cheering for Mexico and i was calling the U.S.A Team culeros and BHUTO cause i can…and you spelt it wrongs its PUTOS

  4. I think the problem right now with US defending is the fact that playing a defensive role in soccer is not really shown as being a good in the US. For example when a kid watches TV and sees a soccer ad, that ad will only show goals, maybe one clip of a good defensive play but most of the time they just show goals which makes the kid think that the one position he should go after is the striker or midfielder.

    1. To be fair, I think the same is true all over the world – highlights reels will always be dominated by attackers, and no-one ever grows up dreaming of being a defender. If the US lacks decent defenders, I don’t think they can blame it on a lack of role-models on TV.

  5. Wow, Howard sounded like a real sore loser. He loses 2-4 after being 2-0 up, plays like a chump, and the thing he is angry about is the language used in the award ceremony?!?

    I don’t see the big deal. Concacaf is a federation made up mostly of Spanish speaking countries, the crowd was largely Spanish speaking, and a Spanish speaking team won the game. Thus, it makes sense to present the trophy in Spanish.

    1. Plus, the U.S. hosts the gold cup every time. It’s not like the World Cup when we all learn about South Africa and use their langauage because they will host it once in our lifetimes.

      1. After hearing Tim Howard complain and moan about Spanish Ceremony I am no longer supporting the US Team until Howard is off the team. I’m Mexican-American, born and raised in California, and sick and tired of being made to feel like I’m not American because of my language and heritage. F-You Howard

          1. Paul, if you think Howard should still be USA’s #1 goal keeper after the Dos Santo’s goal, looks like USA is going to have a tough time qualifying for WC 2014.

          2. Yeah, Howard is likely to be round for a long time unless someone else emerges. I believe Howard is a little overrated, but who would you replace him with? Guzan?

          3. And the US is never going to have a tough time qualifying for the WC. Concacaf gets so many wc-slots compared to its quality level that the US and Mexico are pretty much guaranteed entry. Bob Bradley could stick my grandad in the goal and the US would still qualify.

        1. What about all of us non Spanish speaking people that had no idea what was being said. Southbay is not a problem for spanish speaking people. Concacaf should just do the ceremony in multiple languages so everyone is happy and noone feels shafted.

        2. Is part of that heritage yelling the word for faggot every time there is a goal kick?

          Is part of that heritage making monkey chants every time Freddy Adu was on the ball?

          I don’t think the idle threats of racists not supporting the US anymore (as if they did in the first place) is anything the program is going to lose sleep over.

          1. Racists chants (identifiable as such, not one that could be understood as such -that’s another matter) is not heritage, but plain stupidity. On the other hand, the chant against the goalkeeper is another subject since it is largely used for Mexican fans in every single game. Actually, the story behind this chant (“¡P*TO!” (POO-toh), well translated to “*SS H*LE!” by Sounders fans) is a nice one: the opposite fans, through this chant, actually are showing their regret towards the goalkeeper that is so afraid to pass the ball to his backs that kicks the ball the farest (is this a word?) possible away from his own goal.

  6. You can tell which US players play in Europe and those that don’t. The ones that don’t play in Europe have no clue how to defend a very talented Mexican player. They’ve never seen a player that good, or more so, players that good. So we need more experienced defenders.

    But our coach should have known this. With the possession distributed 80% to 20% in Mexico’s favor, Bradley needs to hammer on his players that they need to keep possession more. Have them watch a Barca match for an example!!! Keep the ball on the ground, no more kick and run. Our players are probably skilled enough, they need more discipline.

    1. But that is the problem. Bradley and Jones are not good possession players. They’re both tacklers. Unfortunately, with Holden hurt and Torres not selected for the squad, the US is sorely lacking in the middle of the field. Our lack of depth has been exposed once again.

      I’m also not sure why the message was not sent out to the fullbacks after the US was up 2-0 that they should concentrate on defending rather than continuing to push up the pitch. A lot of people are killing Lichaj, but that’s his game. It was up to Bob Bradley to send the message, which he clearly didn’t. Far too many times in the second half it looked like the US had only two defenders.

  7. Totally agree they need an overhaul, maybe get more speed, the mexicans ran circles around us. Our defenders also lack basic soccer sense like on the last goal Bocanegra cleared the ball to the front of the goal even though he had two teammates nearby to help him out. Then when Howard came out for the ball there were five guys standing around just watching him. In ice hockey you would come the aide of your goalie. Please let me know if I’m wrong about this, I don’t claim to be an expert, except in ice hockey of course…

  8. As an american I must say that the mexicanos are way too good right now for our soccer level. I’m a soccer expert from scottish roots. Based on the performance and the soccer tactics shown at the game I must say mexico’s team could on the top 10 soccer teams in the world. They got dos santos, chicharito, barrera, guardado, juarez. Top quality. I guess if they continue at this level for WC2014 they will get at least on the final 8 or could get into semifinals. They are a dangerous attacking team and fun to watch.

  9. So let me get this straight. The USMNT looses to Panama and beat teams like Guadalupe 1-0. One guy leaves the game and the rest fall apart. The Mexicans were playing with 17 player for most of the tournament, and lost two defensive players early in the final game. Somehow (coaching) they overcame and won. Bob Bradley needs to go. Oh and don’t tell me that BB was bold by starting Adu. The only reason he made the team was thanks to Altidore’s injury. Otherwise no one would have seen him play.

    1. It is a testament to our lack of depth, especially in the back line. The fact that when a right back (who has had an exceptional 14 months for the national team, mind you) goes down, we immediately turn to a player that is better suited for the USMNT from France 98 than South Africa 10 proves just how inept Bob is tactically. When they made that change I knew the only way we would win was if Howard played an absolute blinder. The first goal, for me, was the worst of them all. I could have played that ball into the gap because the channel between Bornstein and Bocanegra must have been at least 15 yards wide.

      I am still very excited about Ream, Lichaj, and Spector. But three young defenders does not a back line make.

  10. Yes, defense wins games. Americans understand this in basketball and football, but oddly enough don’t get it with soccer. This is a great Mexican team. It’s no humiliation to be beaten by them. Good for them! However, we need to improve. As previously posted, our backs are a little too slow to cope with world class speed. So, given that, their line was too high. A high line allows to support the attack, but in defense fast forwards use the space behind you to kick and run. They need to get back, deny the opposition time and space. I think Bradley had an off night; usually he does hold the ball really well. Again, I hate to lose, but Mexico does have a great team.

  11. Look….I was born in mexico but raised in the united states, I
    love the US and for no reason would i cheer for mexico… but I do
    agree with everyone about our defense, we need to improve and
    fast….our problem is that we do not invest on our soccer youth
    programs as other countries do. Other countries have develpment
    programs with the purpose of finding players and developing their
    skills. what do we have? high school soccer, maybe college soccer.

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