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Revisiting the Gold Cup Final and its Impact on CONCACAF

mexico wins title

In the past few weeks much criticism has been levied at those, including myself who made an effort to critique the 5-0 loss in the Gold Cup Final by the United States to Mexico.

After all what difference does a 5-0 loss make to your biggest rivals when you are playing a “C” team and they are playing an “A minus” team? But further reflection on that sorry July 26th afternoon at Giants Stadium makes the US program look even worse than before. Not only was it the worst US loss in a competitive match since 1957, but the squads were not as unbalanced when compared against one another, as advocated by many. It was thought by some that losing 5-0 wasn’t a big deal, even though the US had played many matches with a similarly watered down squad in the recent past ( even some against Mexico) and had never looked so terribly outclassed.

Before we get to specifics, let me re-state my perspective on the US Gold Cup performances.  When many other blogs and websites were saying the US looked disorganized and unimpressive against Honduras and Panama in the knock out stages, I complimented the US effort and the resiliency of a team that very well could have been outclassed.

Some other websites thought beating Panama in Extra Time was not acceptable. I argued strongly to the contrary. I actually was more favorable after that game the majority of other writers. I was pleased with the victory, actually having doubted the US’ ability to overcome a full Panamanian side with a watered down player selection.

That’s because I spend time evaluating our opposition, unlike even some mainstream media writers who simply make assumptions as if the USMNT exists in a vacuum. (This varies from writer to writer- some like Ives Galacrep do a credible job of scouting the US’ upcoming opposition, others who will remain nameless pretend as if every US opponent is the same, particularly if they are in CONCACAF and are not Mexico.)  I knew the tactics and style Gary Stempel was bringing to that match and covered it as such. I also knew Blas Perez gives any US defender, including Gooch fits.

Furthermore, I even gave the US more of a pass on the Haiti game because I watch Haiti  often in person and rate them higher than the US fans/journalists who couldn’t name more than one of their players before that night.

Football, like any other sport is about matchups and tactics. In many cases this area of coverage is lost by American football writers.

Accordingly, being  pleased with the US side heading into the final, the 5-0 thrashing did not deserve the pass so many people gave it. Mexico could have traveled to Cyprus or Belarus with that squad and struggled to win by more than two goals.

What Javier Aguirre did with the Gold Cup squad was experiment. He called in a number of players with scant international experience and baptized them by fire. This was by no means an “A” squad. Of the fourteen players that featured for Mexico in the final, only five had previously played in a qualifying match. Now, Mexico has featured eight of the fourteen in qualifying. One of the new additions to that list was twenty eight year old Miguel Sabah, who had never been capped for Mexico prior to this summer. Sabah, you will recall provided the touch of class needed for Mexico to turn its on the pitch superiority into a positive result versus the US at Azteca less than three weeks later.

The US, on the other hand was given a break by CONCACAF. Seven additional players were made eligible for the tournament. But of these seven, only one, Benny Feilhaber was used by Bob Bradley. Additionally, the US knew they would lose several players to European clubs during the course of the tournament, yet did not have sufficient cover within the selected squad for many of these players.

Considering Mexico was experimenting with young and in-experienced players, the United States was not at the disadvantage some may have claimed after the match. In fact, the USA may have had an overwhelming advantage, if the additional players made eligible for the tournament had been called into action.

The US also featured fourteen players on July 26th in the final, and of that group, five had previously played in qualifying for the US. Since that match, Stuart Holden, Kyle Beckerman and Chad Marshall have been selected for qualifiers, bringing the US total, like the Mexican one for that day to eight.

I will concede that the eight Mexican players that have featured in qualifying play a more prominent role than the Americans. It is not really fair to compare Gio Dos Santos to Kyle Beckerman. But the continued justification of the result on Mexico fielding many more regulars is simply false- it is an opinion that cannot be backed up reality or facts.

What that match provided for Mexico, was a confidence boost and a belief in Javier Aguirre, his system and his player selections that have served Mexico well going forward. This match has allowed El Tri to feel as if they have overcome the dominance the US previously exercised over them (this was far from the first time the US featured a watered down squad against Mexico in a match this decade, yet we have had not seen a match so one sided in the series in a generation) and regain its aura over opponents in CONCACAF.

After a summer that saw the US defeat Spain and defy the odds in several other matches, we may look back at July 26th and the Gold Cup Final as the day it all began to come apart. The US hegemony over CONCACAF was effectively ended, with Mexico’s three year crisis of confidence, finally over turned.

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  1. John

    September 23, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    The game was a national disgrace, and those who excuse it are indulging in the kind of game the USSF wants you to.

  2. Rex

    September 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    That match was critical and Aguirre knew it. He prepared and prepared his team accordingly. The US played it as if it was any other gold cup match. The game was critical.
    Had the US won the gold cup match, Mexico would have been booed out of the stadium after Davies first goal in the WCQ in Azteca and would have fell apart. 5-0 in DC gave Mexico, as a team and a county, a huge bit of confidence.

    • SSReporters

      September 22, 2009 at 9:23 pm

      We played Mexico at Giants Stadium.

  3. Cletus Bugsley

    September 21, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    You wouldn’t know “reality” if it came up and bit you on the butt. Your article ignores the fact that Mexico could probably go 30-deep, and still not have much drop off from what they already start. There are 6-8 players in the Mexican League as good or better than Vela, Santos, et al. There is no other Landon Donovan in the US. Not yet. But it IS starting to evolve.

    Do you write such outrageous opinions because you actually believe them or because you simply want to get a reaction?

  4. JMB321

    September 21, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Previous Posted Comment:
    Unfortunately, we continue to learn about what is wrong with the national team and US Soccer from you and Trecker but precious little tangible, realistic and achievable suggestions for improvement. Dwelling on lack of “accountability” does not suggest how to make the coaching staff and US Soccer more accountable ( beyond termination). Blaming the lack of coordination between the college game and the pro leagues does not provide viable solutions to get better cooperation. Criticizing the mainstream sports press on their unrealistic view of the level of play in MLS and the USMNT does not provide a means to ensure the press is more realistic in their evaluations.

    We now know what is wrong but how do we make it right? For example, is it realistic under the current circumstances to believe Scolari would have accepted the coaching position?

    With your knowledge and experience as an observer of the game, it is time to provide a set of tangible actions with realistic and achievable goals for soccer considering the extant cultural restraints for soccer in the US.
    Still waiting…

  5. Lars

    September 21, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I maintain had Refs not thrown the Canada-Honduras game, the US would either have been knocked out by Canada or at least been prepared for playing Mexico. Sadly, shite reffing lead to a US cakewalk to the Final.

  6. LI Matt

    September 21, 2009 at 6:42 am

    I have always said two things about that game:

    1. I don’t care if it’s the “J” team, conceding five goals at home is unacceptable.

    2. It would have been nice if, for a tournament final in the largest city in the US (a city which does not have, proportionally speaking, a huge Mexican community), more than 5,000 US supporters showed up.

  7. viva estadounidenses

    September 21, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Israel Castro toed in a lucky ball that bounced right to him for an ugly winner. It was not a “touch of class” that gave the Mexicans the result their inherent superiority entitles them to. (What circular logic!) I’m gonna laugh if Mexico doesn’t win the hex like you’ve told us they’re going to a thousand times.

    By the way, have you seen that the Hondurans are complaining about having a Costa Rican ref for the Oct. 10th qualifier in San Pedro? I guess a US win helps Costa Rica more than Honduras winning, but that’s pretty insulting to the ref. Plus, I can’t even figure out the logic with all the different scenarios of how us winning helps the ticos and I spent an hour looking at the Wikipedia article. Does anyone understand why the Hondurans would do this?

  8. ELAC

    September 20, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    0-23-1. What an embarrassment.

  9. Sal

    September 20, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    “But further reflection on that sorry July 26th afternoon at Giants Stadium makes the US program look even worse than before.”

    Congratulations to Katrik and his beloved Mexico. Now how about some futher reflection on the afternoon that the U.S beat spain!

    • DA in LA

      September 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm

      Grow up and offer an actual opinion.

  10. eplnfl

    September 20, 2009 at 8:25 pm


    I question why you run this article. Are we not beating a dead horse. Yes, Bradley should of put out a better squad vs. Mexico. He let things get out of hand and let his C team have a run put on them. Mexico had a experimental squad vs. our scrape heap and over the hill group. Who has ever heard of sending players off to their club in the middle of the tournament like the US did. Also, we saw some players wearing a team jersey for the US that never will again. You and I can both make our case by stating true numbers that sound good but do not prove a lot in the long run.

    To reach the sweeping conclusion that the US has lost it’s grip on Concacaf like the Soviet Union lost Eastern Europe is a stretch.(Yes, I know you said hegemony, thus the USSR reference) When a US “A” team who is motivated to win the Gold Cup is defeated then it’s time to announce a new era. Until such time the US team is the TOP TEAM in Concacaf.

    • eplnfl

      September 20, 2009 at 8:32 pm


      Forgot to say, you have to be proud about your Canes! Only if MSU could of won this weekend.

      • Kartik

        September 20, 2009 at 9:03 pm

        I know, we’re not going to hear the end of the domers for the title talk or the domers are back talk until USC (hopefully) wallops them next month. Until then, we get our ear plugs ready when Lou Holtz comes on!

    • Kartik

      September 20, 2009 at 8:49 pm

      When we win in Mexico we can proclaim ourselves the top team in CONCACAF. Winning Gold Cups on US soil doesn’t impress anyone outside the US and shouldn’t impress anyone within the region either.

      It’s sort of humorous that we claim to be the runaway top team in CONCACAF, when Mexico has advanced out of the Group Stage of the last 4 World Cups and last 7 Copa Americas. That’s a record that even Spain or Argentina would marvel at.

      • Tim

        September 20, 2009 at 10:01 pm

        How many of those world cups have they gone farther than the round of 16 in those world cups? Exactly one.

      • Pat

        September 21, 2009 at 5:02 pm

        I will never understand this logic. It’s quite possibly the most overwhelming home-field advantage in all of sport. No one EVER beats them there. That should not be the measure of being the best team in CONCACAF.

        That said, Mexico probably is the best team, and really has been. If you look at their talent and depth, it never made sense that we were beating them. They should beat the US almost all of the time, in my opinion. And when we start experimenting with squads, their depth should dominate us.

        8 Kartik September 20, 2009 at 8:49 pm
        When we win in Mexico we can proclaim ourselves the top team in CONCACAF. Winning Gold Cups on US soil doesn’t impress anyone outside the US and shouldn’t impress anyone within the region either.

  11. Brad

    September 20, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    The US had a chance to deliver a big blow to the confidence of the Mexicans but instead they gave them a big boost in that area.

  12. Call it Soccer

    September 20, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    You would have more credibility on articles and arguments like this if you stopped referring to the sport as “football” and stopped using all the British terminology to describe events and objects.

    This is an American site. We are talking about the US SOCCER Federation.

    We have two domestic leagues:

    Major League Soccer

    and the United Soccer Leagues.

    We have a kinds in college playing NCAA Soccer

    We call the youth game, Youth Soccer

    We call the playing surface a field

    We call the eleven players a team not a side.

    So, on and so forth.

    You make some good points here but most will be lost on the majority of Americans.

    • Lars

      September 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm

      It’s called Football.

      I used the term soccer quite a bit as well, but I switch between the two. Often, when i write, I use futbol, to distinguish between the types.

      When I talk to other people I switch between football, roundball and soccer. Often within the same sentence.

      The game can be called many things. Don’t be a hater.

  13. ELAC

    September 20, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    The USMNT has peaked. We have not deviated from our tactics and style for along time and its no wonder that Aguire has figured us out.

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