By Kayla Knapp
The CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament ended yesterday in a thrilling final between the United States and Mexico. Mexico came storming back from being down 2-0 early, and defeated the Americans 4-2 in front of a sell out crowd of more than 90,000 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.
As a USMNT supporter, I learned a lot about both the US team and Mexicoâ€™s team on Saturday. The biggest lesson I learned? Mexico is really, really goodâ€”and young. Usually when any team goes down by two goals in the first 25 minutes of the game, you donâ€™t expect the other team to come back. Maybe they score one goal, but a 2-0 early lead SHOULD have been enough.
The USMNT goals came from Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan, with help from Clint Dempsey, and the big surprise of the night: Freddy Adu. In a move no one could have expected, USMNT coach Bob Bradley started Adu over Juan Agudelo. If you have asked any USMNT fan if they ever thought Adu would be starting in the Gold Cup final, youâ€™d get blank stares or laughter. But he did, and he was one of the bright spots for the team.
Mexicoâ€™s four goals came from Pablo Barrera, Andres Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos. Most fans expected Chicharito to notch at least one, but to the surprise of many, he was goal-less. This should scare anyone who plays Mexico over the next couple of years; they donâ€™t always need their superstar in order to score lots of goals. Mexico is quickly on their way to becoming a powerhouse in the soccer world.
Back to the USMNT and what needs to happen moving forward. To startâ€”and I think most fans would agreeâ€”Bob Bradley has got to go. He has long overstayed his welcome as the national teamâ€™s head coach, and we need a change. Sure, he got the team to the finals of the Gold Cup, but look at how they go there. It was UGLY. He made some terrible coaching decisions throughout the tournament. The most glaring was in the final, when Cherundolo went down with a sprained ankle in the 12th minute, and Bradley brought on Jonathon Bornstein at left back. Bornstein was smoked over and over again by the quick and nimble Mexican forwards and midfielders. His weakness on the left side was exploited perfectly by Mexico.
But Bornstein wasnâ€™t the only player who failed in his position. Despite his goal, Bradley struggled in the middle, along with Jermaine Jones. They both were of little help defensively when it was clear the back four were getting broken down attack after attack. All around, defensively, the USMNT needs a facelift. Two players immediately come to mind, and they are both LA Galaxy defenders that Iâ€™ve watched hold down the fort at the Home Depot Center all season long: Todd Dunivant and Omar Gonzalez. Why neither of them got the call up for the national team is beyond me. Iâ€™m sure other fans of MLS teams around the league could pick out a defender from their team that would have been a better choice than Bornstein.
The bottom line is this: soccer has been growing steadily in the United States over the past decade, but the way the USMNT is being coached and the players being selected isÂ not going to win over any new soccer fans. If US Soccer wants to help the popularity of the beautiful game in the United States, it is time for Bob Bradley to go and a new coach to revitalize this team.