An international conspiracy:
John Harkes in the Brazil vs USA final said at one point that US defenders will have to be careful with their tackles given how the referees have been carding them. The Italy match got the ball rolling on that controversy. Thereafter, it was a cumulative process as the US picked up their share of yellows and reds generating a buzz that FIFA did not want to see the US succeed against the bigger teams. The Brazil match should bury that. The Seleccao were carded more often.
Here is a stat that the US should be most concerned about: It is a team with questionable ball control. Of the semi-finalists, the USA passed the ball the least and were least successful in holding onto it. The South Africans made 2389 passes completing them 76% of the times. Spain was even better with 3229 passes and an 81% success rate. Winners Brazil passed 2077 times with a 79% completion rate. The US was way below on the possession index with fewer passes, 1824 passes for a poor 60% completion rate.
In short, the passing was infrequent AND even more tellingly, ineffective. When you take a lead, you also have to hold onto the ball to make it possible to win. The US failed to do that even as they led the four teams in shot accuracy.
So before assigning any international conspiracy which has a nice emotive feel consider these stats. Bob Bradley and his training staff would be better off concentrating on this aspect of the game rather than getting distracted by some unproven plot.
The "we let one get away" theme:
This has been peddled not just by pundits but also by Bradley and Dempsey. Again it has a nice emotive tug. It gives the impression that the US team let the Brazilians back into the game when they had them on the ropes. If you take away the two scoring opportunities which the US did very well to capitalize on, Julio Cesar was otherwise work free. On the other hand Tim Howard had to deal with 31 goal attempts, 13 of them on target. Under such a torrid barrage, it was a matter of when the citadel would finally fall, not if. As mentioned above with the possession stats, the Brazilians swamped the US with superior ball control and the US coughed it up more quickly making it harder for them to maintain the lead.
The two themes muddy what clearly should be obvious. The passing game needs lots of work. You might be able to bury some teams with effective strikes but sooner or later this fundamental flaw will be exposed by superior and more resilient teams.