A 5-0 rout offers very little scope for rationalization. Was it an errant offside call? A rogue referee who called the fouls for Mexico? Missed opportunities? Max Bretos and Chris Sullivan might have spun harder than a 45 rpm turntable but even they failed miserably in putting a finer point to it all.
It was a US team thoroughly and unequivocally outplayed. Unlike the Brazil come from behind win, this was a non starter even though the US kept El Tri quiet for the first 45 minutes and created a few scoring chances of their own. What appeared like an inkling in the first half became a barrage in the second half as Giovanni Dos Santos and Carlos Vela combined to lead Mexico to an emphatic victory. Their first win in 11 encounters on US soil spanning over a decade and it was meted out mercilessly.
For Bob Bradley, the first redeeming thought would be that this team is a far cry from the one that was fielded in the Confederations Cup. Yes, it was a group of second and third stringers that performed yeoman duty to come all the way to the final but this was not how it should have happened. The US has gotten so used to having their way with Mexico it would appear immaterial which players were on the squad. In 2007, it was an unknown Benny Feilhaber in a brilliant moment, gave the US victory over Mexico in the Gold Cup. In this year's tournament, the US did not rely on one single player as someone always came up big. The team was stronger than any one individual. That convention was taken into this years final.
That perhaps was the problem with this squad, looking for their Feilhaber. Their serendipity ran out because unlike the previous matches they did not put the effort into creating one. It was inevitably flawed thinking. Having no set of go to players proved a big lacuna. On the other hand, Aguirre specifically introduced Carlos Vela in the second half to bolster Dos Santos, the duo that first attracted worldwide attention with their U17 magic four years ago and they did not disappoint. Both are Premiership players and will be a big part of Mexico's World Cup aspirations.
The Gold Cup has become a showcase for youthful talent so one has to credit Bradley's strategy of surprising the opposition with anonymity as partially successful. The Gold Cup threw up Stuart Holden as a valuable understudy to Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey and the one player who might merit World Cup inclusion. Beckerman, Quaranta, Pause, and Cooper had their significant moments but it is hard to see them cement a place in the first 23.
It will be counterproductive to dwell on this loss for too long as the US now have a monumental match against Mexico at the impregnable Estadio Azteca on August 12th in a World Cup qualifier with their first squad. A relief one might add, having a blank slate is the best antidote for coping with such a loss. The US has a chance of creating history of its own with a victory at the Azteca. Bradley on the loss and looking forward:
"There's no doubt that you want competitors and we are competitors," Bradley said.
"The second half for us is not what we're all about. When you have a game that feels like this at the end you don't forget it. It's something that we will always on the inside talk about, be honest about, and hopefully we can use it in a way that we're better from it today."
"Our focus now is on playing Mexico in Azteca during World Cup qualifying. We start over on that day and have a chance to do something the U.S. hasn't done before."
For those interested in keeping tabs on the cross border rivalry, the reports that Mexican soccer is on the ropes are premature. That to me is the most vital message and one that needs to be borne in mind when these two teams meet again in two weeks.