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Winners And Losers: United States Versus Mexico

By Noah Davis

After a scoreless first half in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the United States Men's National Team gave up a stunning five goals to its arch rival Mexico in the final 45 minutes of the 2009 Gold Cup. It was a shocking result for the confident Americans, who looked shell-shocked after Gerardo Torrado broke the tie with a well-taken penalty kick in the 55th minute. 

Winners

Troy Perkins

The U.S.'s third-choice goalkeeper was the unsung hero throughout the Gold Cup. While his backline routinely limited the number of chances it allowed, Perkins was there to make every save -- some in spectacular fashion -- that was required of him. Against Mexico, he was one of the few players (maybe the only one?) who didn't lose focus after Torrado's goal. The Vålerenga backstop made a lovely save on the sequence that led to El Tri's second tally but was a victim of his team's inability to mark Giovani Dos Santos, who pounced on the rebound. No goalie will relish giving up a five spot, but Perkins cannot be faulted for any of the strikes.

Losers

Bob Bradley


The American coach -- who, despite some ups and downs, has orchestrated one of the most successful summer campaigns in recent memory -- needed to act quicker in New Jersey. There was a visible letdown by the U.S. players on the field after Torrado's goal, and he should have substituted someone -- anyone -- immediately after going down one to nothing. Even before Dos Santos drew the questionable foul in the box, it was obvious that the momentum had turned in the favor of the Mexican striker and his teammates. As in the final against Brazil, Bradley may not have had the horses, but it would have been good to see Santino Quaranta come on sooner. He wouldn't have altered the match in the same way Carlos Alberto Vela did when he came on at halftime, but something needed to be done.

Brian Ching

The Houston Dynamo striker, who relies on effort and hustle as much as skill -- not a bad thing, just a fact -- didn't have his trademark energy against Mexico. He looked slow throughout and couldn't keep pace with El Tri's backline. He did manage to hold up some balls, but failed to distribute them properly or effectively. Ching missed a few matches earlier in the summer due to injury, and it looked today as if he might have re-aggravated it. Given his wealth of experience and understanding of Bradley's philosophy, there will continue to be a place on the national team for Ching, but with the emergence of Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore, it's possible he could see his starting spot disappear. (That said, if he's healthy, he'll be in the Starting XI on August 12th in Azteca.)

Jay Heaps

After a first match to forget, the New England Revolution flanker -- who finally won a much-earned international cap -- switched to right back and played well against Panama and Honduras in the knockout stage. He wasn't bad during the first half against Mexico, although he did earn a yellow card in the 24th minute for a tough challenge, but things went south during the final 45. Perhaps the penalty call was harsh, but if we've learned anything from this summer's slate of red cards shown to American players, it's that the U.S. won't get any favors from international referees. Heaps lost Vela on Mexico's third goal and then saw his day end early, as he drew a second yellow for a studs up challenge on Vela. Overall, it was a tournament to remember for Heaps, but this match won't top of the list.

Stuart Holden

The U.S.'s best player throughout the Gold Cup gave a decent performance in the first half, but, along with the rest of his teammates, faded fantastically in the second stanza. The Americans needed a couple moments of brilliance and Holden failed to deliver. It was a tall order indeed, but you'd like to see a man with World Cup aspirations rise to the occasion. Of course, he no doubt impressed the U.S. coaching staff with his skills during the two-week competition. While this loss will sting, the overall Gold Cup was an extremely positive one for the Dynamo midfielder.

Long balls

During the first 15 minutes of the match, the Americans dominated possession with excellent passing and ball movement. When they lost possession, they hustled hard, tackled aggressively, and won it back. Then Mexico calmed down, knocked the ball around the pitch, and the U.S. seemed to panic. Bradley's boys were too content to smack the ball 50 yards up field in hopes that Ching or Davy Arnaud would win the aerial battle. Simply put, this strategy doesn't work. It was surprising to see this, especially in light of the fact that playing possession football resulted in a few chances. Mexico was scrambling, and then they were let off the hook. The game tape will say it all.

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.

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