Gold Cup final the end of U.S. Concacaf hegemony? Not so fast…

courtesy of reporterasdeguardia

courtesy of reporterasdeguardia

Kartik at MLS Talk has a piece revisiting the terrible Gold Cup final this summer in which a hodge-podge U.S. team got demolished 5-0 by Mexico. He writes,

After a summer that saw the US defeat Spain and defy the odds in several other matches, we may look back at July 26th and the Gold Cup Final as the day it all began to come apart. The US hegemony over CONCACAF was effectively ended, with Mexico’s three year crisis of confidence, finally over turned.

Kartik was also my foil for this past piece defending Bob Bradley – so it is clear we generally disagree over the state of the U.S. program, which is legitimate, but I think he is guilty of doing the same thing he accusses U.S. promoters of doing after the Spain game: putting too much emphasis on a single game.

The Gold Cup final was a blow and should have brought U.S. fans back to earth. It exposed a lack of depth and experience in the U.S. program. For Mexico, the game clearly is a huge pyschological boost, by beating the U.S. in the U.S. they got the monkey off their backs. Kartik is exactly right on this point:

What that match provided for Mexico, was a confidence boost and a belief in Javier Aguirre, his system and his player selections that have served Mexico well going forward. This match has allowed El Tri to feel as if they have overcome the dominance the US previously exercised over them.

But I think he is totally wrong in arguing that this represents a structural shift in terms of Concacaf. This strikes me as a misrepresentation of the what took place, as well as reading way way too much into one game and one bad scoreline. Lets remember a few points:

1. The game was tied at half time and 5 goals came in the final 35 minutes after a suspect penalty. Remember Mexico only broke through after a horrible penalty call in which Dos Santos elbowed our player in the face and somehow was awarded a penalty. After that we tried to push forward, but with Carlos Vela and Dos Santos Mexico was primed to counter and counter. We should have done better and the young team did not respond well. Also Robbie Rogers had a clear opportunity to put us ahead in the 48th minute.

2. While Mexico’s team was perhaps solid B side, they did send out a team with arguably their two best players in Dos Santos and Carlos Vela – both of whom will likely start for Mexico in the World Cup. The U.S. was much more of a B/C team. The only two U.S. players that would be on my World Cup squad are Holden and Cooper. Beckerman is 5th on the holding midfielder depth chart behind (Edu, Bradley, Clark, and Jones). Ching I just don’t get and Heath Pearce had fallen off greatly after not playing club soccer for basically six months. Perhaps, Robbie Rogers due to a dearth of wingers, but he failed to impress in the tournament. I think the game could have been a lot different if say Altidore and Bradley or Edu had played.

Even if you agree with Kartik that Mexico’s squad was also second tier, all this proves is that Mexico is much deeper than we are. Few I think would really dispute this. They have a more established development system, have a better league, and a much more developed soccer culture. So perhaps that game signaled a renewal of Mexican confidence. But it doesn’t signal any decline or collapse of the U.S. position in Concacaf.

Here are some of the highlights of the game:


One Response

  1. […] 5-0 win in the Gold Cup final was no-doubt a great ego boost to Mexico. But they may have also paid a significant price for it. Gio’s latest injury in the Carling […]

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