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CONCACAF Gold Cup Final: Battle of the “B” Sides Broken Down


When “B” teams face off it’s tough to make determinations about things. Today’s game at Giants Stadium is sold out and is a Continental Championship match. But the fact is Mexico and the United States are both fielding “B” teams.

Mexico has a roster that includes just 7 of 23 players chosen by Javier Aguirre for the most recent World Cup qualifiers.  The US team has just two players, Brian Ching and Heath Pearce who have featured regularly in qualifying. In fact, Pearce has been one of the best players in the tournament, but the fact that he lost his regular place in the USA starting XI due to his troubles in qualifying on the road says a great deal about this tournament.

With this tournament permanently held in either the US or Mexico, results often times seem pre-ordained. (for more on that check out Episode 100 of the MLS Talk Podcast with Juan Arango who has commentated on the tournament for the international TV feed) But both teams have done well to get this far. Bob Bradley has shown his tactical and player selection savvy all summer long while Javier Aguirre has quickly restored Mexican confidence after a very poor start to this tournament.

But what exactly can you tell from a “B” match?

  • Coaching & Tactics

Bob Bradley hasn’t had quite the success against Mexico on American soil that Bruce Arena did. In Arena’s tenure, Mexico didn’t score a goal in their last six games vs the US. But in Bradley’s three games vs Mexico the US has given up three goals. Part of this is because Bradley is more aggressive from the start than Arena who preferred to hold back and counter attack. But Javier Aguirre is one of the few coaches from CONCACAF to ever have success outside the region and as good as Bradley has been, he’s now matching wits with someone very accomplished.

We could also learn that Aguirre cannot match wits with Bradley. After all, Aguirre’s Osusuna and Athletico Madrid team constantly lost big games and Bob Bradley is the one manager on the planet who has put one over Vincent Del Bosque in the last year.

In 2004 when the US fielded a “B +/A-” team in Dallas versus Mexico which included Jonny Walker in goal, the victory signified Arena’s tactical mastery of Ricardo LaVolpe. It also hastened LaVolpe’s desperation to naturalize more players, especially Guille Franco and Zinha who served El Tri well in Germany 2006.

Of course in 2007, the US played in Glendale with the likes of Josh Gros, Brian Carrol, and Chris Rolfe and beat Mexico 2-0. For that game, Hugo Sanchez called in a full “A” squad. The coach for the US that night? Bob Bradley.

Our friends who support the England national team will also recall the 2-1 loss suffered by England B to Belarus on the eve of Germany 2006, which told us a great deal about Sven Goran Eriksson inability to make tactical changes with a second unit against a spirited opponent.

  • Does the US keep its shape at the back?

Mexico’s strikers in this tournament have been good, but the El Tri midfield isn’t anywhere near the caliber that the US will face next month in Azteca. If the US loses its shape, even with the makeshift lineup, expect real trouble next month. Positioning is the key. Mexico’s attack has broken down consistently in the final third in this tournament because of a lack of creative midfielders.

  • Are Vela, Dos Santos and Ochoa Ready to Lead?

With the exception of Gerrado Torrado, Jonny Magallon and Guille Franco, El Tri will field a very inexperienced squad tomorrow. Even the older players on the team have either not played much at the international level or like Omar Bravo they are possibly being given one last chance to prove they should be considered going forward.

But three of the stars that led Mexico to the 2005 World Youth Championship are on this team. (It should be noted the best player of that 2005 bunch, Andres Guardado is not on this team, and Guardado is clearly the best full international of the bunch also) This triumvirate needs to show their mettle if the Mexicans have any chance to win this game.

Personally, I think Ochoa has been spectacular most of this tournament. Gio has looked shaky at times but had a great game vs Haiti. Vela, however is the most ready to contribute in a big way, but could easily be pushed off the ball by big US defenders like Clarence Goodson, Jimmy Conrad and Chad Marshall.


Today’s game has been reported as a sellout. Here are the 10 largest Gold Cup attendances for the USA entering today

1998 Final vs Mexico (Pasadena) 91,255

1996 vs Guatemala (Pasadena) 88,125

2007 Final vs Mexico (Chicago) 60,000

2009 vs Honduras (Chicago) 55,173

1996 vs El Salvador (Anaheim) 52,355

2007 vs Canada (Chicago) 50,760

2000 vs Peru (Miami) 50,004

2000 vs Haiti (Miami) 49,513

2002 vs Korea Rep. (Pasadena) 42,117

2005 vs Honduras (East Rutherford) 41,721

Incidentally, the smallest crowd ever for a US Gold Cup match was the 2003 third place game in Miami which I attended versus Costa Rica (then coached by Steve Sampson). Only 5,093 attended the game just days after the US lost a semifinal match in front of over 35,000 in the same stadium.

US-MEX Gold Cup History with US scorers (all matches in the finals others than 1991 which was a semifinal match)

1991 Los Angeles  USA wins 2-0             Peter Vermes, John  Doyle

1993 Mexico City  MEX wins 4-0

1998 Pasadena MEX wins 1-0

2007 Chicago USA wins 2-1                    Landon Donovan, Benny Feilhaber

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  1. wholesale baseball hats

    March 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    it is interesting and informative article. This has been very helpful understanding a lot
    of things. I’m sure a lot of other people will agree with me.

  2. soccer goals

    July 28, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Let’s hope that Bradley gets the right tactics against Mexico on the 12th.

  3. bill

    July 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I was at Giants Stadium yesterday. Pretty much a sell out, but as any one watching saw 75,000 plus were in support of Mexico. US fell apart in the second half after the penalty did the crowd get to them, Why was the left back not taken off terrible performance. Vela could be a great player and that was a great finish.

    Despite this being B-teams the result does matter I mean it was 0-5 this is a derby all games matter.

    US fans cannot be too critical though, were was the support in the stadium, embarrassing. US fans had a little section could not even hear them, such was the noise being generated by the Mexicans.

  4. ryan

    July 26, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    the fact is that the US has fielded their C team throughout this whole tournament.
    (they had one maybe two players that had played in the confeds cup(davies and Ching) on the roster)

    Mexico should have won and they deserved the win.

    but honestly USA will win in the azteca in a months time, without a doubt

  5. Greg

    July 26, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Hey kent, how does 5-0 taste?

  6. Kevin_Amold

    July 26, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Wow, what a demolition. The yanks completely quit it seemed after the third goal.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 26, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    CONCACARAP Conspiracy- You need to listen to MLS Talk Podcast #100. We discuss Canada’s poor luck with officials including the 2002 tournament when as defending champions they were on the back end of many calls against the US in the semis.

  8. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    July 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    True Jammer- taken the last 3, and the last 6 games on US soil for Arena. Should have stated that. Obviously, the Glendale match in Feb 2007 which I discuss as being a US team with “B” players was under Bradley.

  9. Jammer

    July 26, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Bradley’s goals in this tournament were to see which players in this group would step up and earn a spot. If he calls in other players for the most important game it would defeat his purpose.

    El Tri is mostly right about Castillo, but I don’t see how it’s more important than the game? Several players playing today are more likely to break the WC roster than Castillo. Holden has impressed me most. The defenders have also looked good, and if Cooper scores today he would make a case.

    Kartik, Bradley has coached 4 games against Mexico not 3. And Mexico’s March 2005 2-1 win was among Arena’s last six games.

  10. Angry USA Fan

    July 26, 2009 at 11:35 am

    We’re going to get smoked thanks to Bradley’s unimaginative selections. We tied Haiti! Kartik thinks it was a good result, but Mexico without Vela and Franco took them apart just days later. I cannot wait for the post from Daniel after the game talking about how well Bradley coached despite the loss and that we should give him a lifetime contract.

  11. Florida Goal

    July 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Castillo was brought into the team by Sanchez and the subsequent coaching changes have hurt him. He’s switching now because of that. Arena didn’t like him Bradley did. Sanchez liked him but Sven and Aguirre don’t.

    As International Soccer grows bigger and bigger, it becomes more a mercenary sport. Jermaine Jones actually picked Germany over the US despite Arena’s efforts years ago. Now a decade later he feels more “american,” despite being called into the German team a few times.

    For some guys it is simply a natural evolution.

  12. Terry

    July 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Funny how no one wants to address Bradley’s major fudge up of this tourney………………

    He gets 7 gift spots from CONCACAF and then precedes to pick 6 players not available for any part of the tournament.

    Now our fans are complaining about a “C” side, which it is not (if you look at the collective national team experience of the teams, Mexico only has slightly more experience) and saying if we lose it is okay.

    It is not okay…….

    Bradley picked Kljestan, Bornstein, Clark, the same people that are worn down for Confed Cup. Why didn’t he used the extra spots to bring in someone who could contribute today? Marvell Wynne perhaps? We need a right back. Eddie Gaven? Maybe even Jerimiah White or Frank Simek? You could add them to the roster and call them in for the final without disrupting their pre-season too much, but Bob did not think about it.

    If we lose, it is all on Bradley and Gulati for their unimaginative picks for this tournament.


    July 26, 2009 at 10:49 am

    isn’t it funny, the two teams that draw the most fans to the stadiums, are in the finals

    the four teams that draw the most fans to the stadiums, were in the semi finals

    this is all a concacaf conspiracy to show that they can run successful tournaments by drawing maximum crowds.

    Anyone who actually knows a thing or two about the rules of football, would know that the referee screwed up royally when Canada scored the tying goal against USA in 2007 calling it back for an “offside” after Onyewu (mis)played the ball.

    Anyone who saw the Canada Honduras game knows that the penalty called against Canada was a complete farce, even the Honduran player after the game ADMITTED it. This tournament is a complete joke with referees who would never be able to properlly call 6 year olds playing let alone senior internationals.

  14. Kent

    July 26, 2009 at 10:46 am

    mexico will losenot even mexicos coach has confidence on them ahha
    thats low and pathetic they should just throw the towel already and people saying mexico is gonna
    win get real if you couldnt beat costa rica only in penalties what makes you think you can beat usa haha
    theyre defence improved alot
    USA wins period. 2-0, 2-0, 2-0.

  15. El Tri

    July 26, 2009 at 10:39 am

    More important today than the game is discussing “El Gringo” Castillo and his turnabout to play for the U.S.

    Ok America, the ONLY reason Edgar Castillo would rather play for the U.S. instead of Mexico is because for the U.S. he actually has a chance to even come off the bench. Mexico is filled with left footed young talents….Guardado, Salcido, Nery Castillo, Vela, Dos Santos….im sure if he was right footed he would stay with Mexico…thats the exact same story with Torres, he would never play in the Mexican national team so he went somewhere where he would play….thats what Brazilians and Argentinians do all over the world…..end of story……

  16. Futbol Mexicana

    July 26, 2009 at 10:31 am

    good write up mr. k. agurirre will be judged in mexico by today and august 12. we want to win both but must win august 12. if we win today and you win at azteca that is no good.

    i disagree with you on vela. gio is much better, and vela is too much in the english style of playing to ever be very effective for mexico. hurricane wilma forced him to move from cancun to london and he has become very english in his play.

  17. Earl

    July 26, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I am surprised to see that the US has only played Mexico three times previously in the final.

    What were the other final matchups? I assumed every meeting was US-Mexico?

  18. Johnny

    July 26, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Kartik, how many of those were pure US crowds and how many of them were turnouts to see the other team? I’m guessing all were turnouts to see the other team. I was at that Korea game, and it was ALL Korea.

  19. Jeff

    July 26, 2009 at 9:37 am

    ” Bob Bradley has shown his tactical and player selection savvy all summer long”

    ET TU KARTIK? WTF, ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!???????????????????????????

  20. ERT09

    July 26, 2009 at 9:22 am

    Good write up. No doubt we need to stop Gio and Vela. However, unlike you and Daniel, I am not ready to annoit Bradley. A win today and a good showing at Azteca and that changes. You are judged on how you fare against Mexico and truthfully, the draw last year in Houston has me concerned that they are closing the gap on us even if they are stuggling with everyone else.

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