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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Mexico’s Pace and Movement Too Much For US To Handle

Written by on June 25, 2011 | 14 Comments »
Posted in CONCACAF Gold Cup, Mexico, United States

Think back to a few months ago during the Premier League season when Manchester United was down 2-0 to West Ham.

They had not played particularly poorly in allowing West Ham to take a two goal lead – that was just the way it was.

This game was almost a replica. At 2-0 the USA Mexico had been at the very least as good as the USA – I actually thought them better even at 2-0 down.

A goal by Barrera (if there is Gold Cup Golden Ball or MVP thingy he should get it) narrowed the gap and another by Guardado brought the sides level.

By the time Clint Dempsey rattled the Mexico bar the USA was down by 3-2 and an exquisite move from Dos Santos was the capper.

Lots to discuss from this one and what happens next for the USA in days to come I think.

For Mexico the future looks bright….at the moment. The difference between Mexico under Javier Aguirre and Mexico now under Manuel de la Torres is significant. Under Aguirre there was a well-defined but flexible structure (an oxymoron?) that saw Mexico change shape depending on situations.

From a tactical perspective it made for fascinating study. But de la Torres may have chosen a much more pragmatic route and one that many international managers have taken. De la Torres looks to have opted for a “broken-team” approach.

Essentially job one for his back four and the double pivot of Torrado and Castro is to stop the opposition from scoring and after that their other function is very simple – get the ball forward to the four players who know how to do the damage.

Player Ratings (1 – low, 10 – high)


Tim Howard – 5, Had little or no chance with three of the goals while on the chip from Dos Santos he was left with no option but to challenge him after some lax defending.

Steve Cherundolo (off 11th) – NR

Clarence Goodson – 4, confirmed that against more modest opposition he can do the job but cannot handle a step up in class. A decent squad player but if he is a starter come 2014 I will be very surprised.

Carlos Bocanegra – 6, the best of the back four on a night that all of them will want to forget very quickly. He still has a role to play but he needs to be surrounded by defenders with more pace, better positional play and an ability to anticipate forwards movements.

Eric Lichaj – 5, switched to his more regular position of right back when Cherundolo went off injured. Rarely got forward on account of a very lively Guardado and generally looked very unsure and nervous against a better calibre of player.

Jermaine Jones – 4, after showing improved form in his last two outings it was “please return to Go” for Mr. Jones. Ineffective and too easily passed around. Mexico proved the adage that you can’t tackle what you cannot catch and Jones did precious little catching.

Michael Bradley -5, scored a goal which counts for something and if a late volley had flown a tidy bit straighter it might have made for a very interesting last few minutes. Did not play high enough up the pitch to bother Castro and Torrado and that allowed Mexico to find a rhythm after going two goals down.

Ajejandro Bedoya (off 63rd) – 4, did not do much wrong but the problem was he didn’t really do much at all. Playing on the right side of midfield he was often hurried in his passing and was unable to get the better of either Salcido or his replacement Torres.

Freddy Adu (off 86th) – 5, nice touches at times but here is the question that I think needs to be asked – apart from delivering the corner that led to the first US goal what did he actually achieve?

Started in a defined role just behind Landon Donovan and slightly to the right. He then drifted wider and wider until he was playing up against the Mexico left back.

Whether he was following instructions or not we don’t know but it did take away space that Bedoya would normally look to move into and it often set up a scenario where one Mexican defender could mark two US attackers.

Clint Dempsey – 6, one of the better US players and if his shot had been an inch or two lower on the hour mark it might have shifted momentum again. Some nice interchanges with Donovan.

Landon Donovan – 6, started in the lone-striker position and shifted to a deeper role from time to time. After a 4-2 loss a lot of good stuff can be forgotten unfortunately. Let’s hope that one thing that does stick with USA fans is the second goal. It was a wonderful move and finish – a truly spectacular effort.

Subs used

Bornstein (on 11th) – 2, let’s just say that the mark is generous. Four goals conceded and all emanated from the left side of the USA defence.

Agudelo (on 63rd) – 4, tried hard but he could not make an impression on a Mexico defence that grew more solid as the game progressed. He has talent though – here’s hoping it is does not go unfulfilled.

Kljestan (on 86th) – NR



Alfredo Talavera – 6, could not be faulted on either of the two US goals and looked pretty solid no matter what the US tried.

Efrain Juarez – 5, thought he was surprisingly quiet and did not take the opportunity to push forward even though he had no direct marking opportunities. However, his timidity might have been more about ensuring that he did not take space away from Dos Santos who often started his telling runs from deep positions on the right side of the Mexico attack.

Rafael Marquez ( off 43rd) – 5, the end of the national team line is coming for Rafa and it was obvious tonight as the Mexico defence looked a  more solid unit after he went off injured.

Hector Moreno -6, solid and dependable but still not convinced he would not be found wanting against better opposition.

Carlos Salcido (off 28th) – 4, looked to be struggling from the start and in all likelihood de la Torres was happy to get him off.

Gerardo Torrado -7, rarely wasted a pass. Plugged the centre of the field nicely with intelligent positioning.

Israel Castro -5, failed to pick up the run of Bradley on first US goal and could have done better when presented with a scoring chance late on.

Pablo Barrera (off 75th) – 8, continued his tremendous run of form that had seen him involved in all four of Mexico’s goals in the knock out stages. This time he added two goals out of the three Mexico scored while he was on the pitch.

When he got a chance at the World Cup last summer he looked to have pace but during this Gold Cup he has shown that he has more in his repertoire.

Giovani Dos Santos – 9, always regarded dos Santos as a bit of a rabbit-killer but he was absolutely brilliant tonight. There again the US offered up what he thrives on – space in deep positions and that allows him to run at defenders and gets them backing up.

Against more compact midfields and defences he still has trouble but mentioning that makes me feel very churlish after such a breath-taking display.

Andres Guardado -7, had one of his better games in the tournament and he really can be a terrific player when he is on his game.

Javier Hernandez – 6, he didn’t score which might be some sort of consolation for the USA although he had a couple of early chances that he should have potted.

Subs used

Torres (on 28th) -5,  solid and dependable. Like Juarez he pretty much stayed at home

Reynoso (on 43rd) – 6, never flustered and looked very solid after replacing Marquez.

Zavala (75th) – 5, his task was simple – keep it simple.

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14 responses to “Mexico’s Pace and Movement Too Much For US To Handle”

  1. Nathan says:

    Again, I think your ratings are low for the losing and high for the winning side. To me, Adu was the one bright side to a dull American performance. He is the only one that provided any creativity at all. The rest of the team, Dempsey and Donovan included, were complacent at running straight at the Mexican defense or waiting for a through ball. Sure, Adu showed his youth and inexperience at times, but especially in the first half, he showed the class that is somewhere inside of him.

    On the other hand, there was nothing spectacular about the Mexican side. They just happened to out-do an American team. Dos Santos’s goal was pure class. But, besides that, I think he had a dull game and a 9 is way too high for him. He ran, he attempted passes, and the American defense deflected. Against a more skilled defense, he would have been completely shut down. Sure, he seemed impressive against a shattered American defense, but he didn’t provide anything special apart from his one goal.

  2. Mr Mcmahon,
    Rafa is getting old, but you have to wonder about the States team.
    The youth movement is not bright: stuart holden was announcing because of his injury, Oguchi Onyewu just hasnt been, Agudelo was outclassed and hopefully not damaged, Altidore was injured in the competition and on the reverse side, Donovan and Dempsey and Adu are mature players. When the World cup comes, they will be a few years older.

    Mexico’s youth movement is alive, healthy , and well.

    What can be done to change the youth development scenario in the States?

  3. Yeah Bobby I think you are rating Adu way too low. He was our best player. He showed he is clearly good enough for this level.

    I just think people give Adu a bad rap because he is judged from a much higher standard because of who he was to supposed to be. I think Adu and Gio excellent examples of players with loads of ability following different trajectories because of Gio being shown some faith by his national managers and the US not showing any to Adu. Look at who killed us today. Gio and Barrera. Two guys who cannot get minutes are their clubs, but because they are trusted by their manager to perform they step up to the occasion.

    Adu may not be Pelé, but he deserves to be shown more faith by the US because there is no one else in that pool of players with his skill set.

    Imagine what a fit for 90 and playing in top flight football Adu would look like?

  4. @Nathan, dont be bitter. Adu in truth needs to start playing more. He didnt have the speed that playing more would have afforded him.

    and if anything, Adu showed one of the biggest problems with USSoccer. To many talents have gone over to europe to get money and be neglected athletically, or stay domestic and not face or be apart of enough quality.

    The USA had a player, in Adu, starting, who barely plays for his club. Mexico’s side , no matter the athletic analysis, was full of full time starting players wherever they play.

  5. PAQuaker says:

    Agree that Dempsey and Donovan are quality players that probably have one more WC in them.

    MNT needs someone like Adu. I think you were a little harsh. I think the more he plays, the more accustomed MNT players will be with him. He has the ability to actually dribble around a defender or two, draw another defender, and then dish off to a teammate for a shot. He just needs to get into a decent league and play.

    Agree on the backline, especially your rating of Bornstein. If the backline does not improve, qualifying will be a nail biter for sure. I’d be surprised if Bornstein ever gets another run out.

    The US just ran into arguably the most talented mexican team we’ve ever seen. Probably the best chance to have a CONCACAF team in the semis or finals of the WC…still 3 years to go.

  6. Gabe says:

    @Paquaker Yes Adu has the abilities you mention, but there is a reason why he doesn’t play at club level consistently. He is more like an indoor soccer player, a very good dribler in short spaces and a good passer, but lacks the speed or physical presence to make a difference consistently. But more importantly he seems to lack good football instincts. His positioning tends to be poor and his decision making when on the bsll is somewhat poor and inconsistent.

    If it was just one or two coaches who saw his limitations, then I would say he might still develop into a very good player, but the reality is that every coach who has had him have realized that he flaters to deceive.

    I still believe that there could be a limited role for him in the US MNT, something similar to what he did against Panama.

  7. Terry143 says:

    The US’ second goal was indeed world class. I don’t know what Bradley’s working on at practice, but that is the sort of play we should be seeing over and over. Soccer is a simple game, you make it complicated when you play it the wrong way. And if US can not build a physical defense with speed they will struggle when it counts.

  8. What are you smoking Gabe? Did you not watch today’s game?

  9. Soccerlogical says:

    There is a reason why Adu has ended up on a 2nd div Turkish side. Against top level competition in WC matches he may be used as a sub by the USA… at best.

  10. Jim in Bingo says:

    What else did Adu achieve?

    Well, the pass to Dempsey that allowed him to spring Donovan for the 2nd goal — for one.

    He also made some intelligent runs into space that the US midfielders, usually with their heads down, failed to spot.


    Re Bornstein — dear lord. I know we have no depth, but Bradley could’ve put anyone else in at leftback at the half after that performance in the first half. No one could’ve done worse.

  11. Mark says:

    Can we please get a new Coach, now? One that works on a) First Touch, b)Off-The-Ball movement, c)”showing for the ball” (in other words, creating triangles, so the player with the ball always has someone else to pass to (see Spain) and he doesn’t always have to pass horizontaly or backwards, d)better tactics (ie. more international experience and e)defensive covering.
    Thank you.

  12. alan bradbury says:

    USA problem is and has been for awhile the back four.It seemed inevitable that dos santos and hernandez would have a field day against two of the slowest center backs in the tournement.Other than Cherundelo is their any other USA fullbacks either abroad or in the MLS who can fill the bill? On the bright side we do have promising offensive players and whatever one might think of Bradley his teams are usually entertaining

  13. William Bailey says:

    RE : MARK

    When I read these posts, I usually try to scope out the one(s) that I agree with the most. In this case, it was yours, Mark. Everything you succinctly mentioned, I agree with, and I believe your litany of issues (that Bradley is apparently not focusing on) comprise a healthy percentage of the USMNT’s problems. WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON THE BASICS.

    Bob Bradley has to go. Somebody who really knows the game (likely from abroad) needs to replace him. He doesn’t indoctrinate the pillars of football (the ones that you mentioned, Mark) to his team. This is a huge problem, and I believe that the people who are making executive decisions concerning the USMNT , do not know what they are doing; because when you think about it, USA soccer really hasn’t gotten much better since 1994 (excluding the 2002 performance).
    When speaking of a) First Touch: Some players do not have good ones. Sorry to name names, but I thought that Agudelo was namely atrocious with this. He simply couldn’t control the ball well. The vast majority of his touches in this particular game were not controlled well, with a subsequent quick loss of possession, with no hold up play. Playing the ball forward to him in the air will never be a winning strategy. There’s a better chance of you finding the face of Michelle Lissel in your morning pancake, than there is of Agudelo helping your team out, when you play him lofted Hale Marys (PLAY FEET PLEASE). Whatmore, he tries to take players on too often, and is almost never successful. I know he is young, but as of right now… he is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. NOT EVEN CLOSE. I really believe that he stunts the offense significantly when he is on the field. Anyways…
    When speaking of b) Movement Off the Ball: In general, the team collectively doesn’t do this very well, and it clearly isn’t something that Bradley (coach) doesn’t emphasize… either that , or the team just doesn’t listen : /
    c)”showing for the ball” THIS IS ONE OF THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE GAME!! Every player that doesn’t have the ball at any given moment, needs to put themselves into a strategic position ASAP. The US of A doesn’t do this with enough quickness, and this tends to lead to the ball being played off to someone who isn’t a clear passing option, segue into the ball being lost to the foes (very USL like)— . ie: Our goalkeeper has the ball after a harmless backpass has just been played to his feet. Our defenders and defending mid-fielders do not make themselves available with enough urgency, when, say, an opposing attacker is applying pressure. This will usually cause Howard to have to drive the ball downfield into a 50/50 situation, when we could have just kept the ball with 100% certainty, if we had just shown for the player who had the ball, quickly and effectively.
    Sorry, but some of these players really must have molasses in their veins. Bradley (player), sorry bud, you are the first person that comes to mind. In general, I feel like this guy is really lethargic in the midfield when he doesn’t have the ball, and is too brooding about what to do with the ball, when he has it. He also lost the ball a good bit, because of this sloth. He always trottin’ around the middle of the park at a snail’s pace, with seemingly not much agenda. He is not my favorite player. I was ambivalent about him scoring the goal that he did, because I liked seeing the USA jump to a lead, but now his father is going to have more of an excuse to keep him on the pitch, in future games. I guess I was thinking “big picture”.
    When it comes to d)better tactics and e) better defensive covering — ditto. I’m not going to expound upon that.
    Sorry to seem so negative, but if the topic is USA soccer, I usually don’t have a choice. Believe me, I’m really tired of having to talk “smack” about the USA team! Certain players are playing well, however (Donovan, Cherundelo). We just need to work to together better as a team. This is a team game (see Germany or Spain). Merci beacoup.
    ps. -Shout out to Bobby McMahon and his no-nonsense opinions. I agree with you 99 percent of the time.

  14. Man of the Hour – is that not the problem? He has yet to show that he can perform on a consistently high basis.

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