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.
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.
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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