The final score of the Gold Cup final -- Mexico 4, United States 2 -- wasn't shocking at all. Four goals was about par for the course for this Mexican team, which boasted a handful of stars on the attack. But, the fact that the U.S. coughed up a 2-0 lead was shocking, and the reason why this loss stings infinitely more for the players than it would have if the game had gone Mexico's way from the opening whistle.
Some post-match quotes from the coach and players about Mexico's comeback:
“It’s a difficult way for us to end the tournament for sure. As a team we made a lot of progress and we were looking forward to this matchup. It’s a very good game. It’s fast. There’s a lot of very good attacking on both sides. We certainly congratulate Mexico. Give credit to them for some of the soccer they put together and like I said we put a good amount into it and we’re disappointed to let one slip away.”
“You have to give Mexico a lot of credit. They are difficult team to play against, and they have a bunch of guys that can make special plays. Tonight I thought Gio was excellent, Barrera was excellent. Actually of all things we did a good job with Chicharito, preventing his chances, but they just had too much for us and they were good.”
“Our game plan worked to a ‘T’. They came out and possessed it and spread us out. We picked and chose our spots when to and when to get them. Our combinations were really good up front. Again, we hit them. It’s beyond me how they rallied back from that.”
"Nights like this you leave everything you have on the field and at times it doesn’t go your way but it only motivates you more to work harder, to get better, to know what we need to bring on nights like this when things are at the absolute highest level. It’s not a nice feeling, but having said that we’ll be back. I know that.”
Unfortunately for the United States, it won't get a chance to really redeem itself for quite some time. The quest for the 2014 World Cup doesn't begin for the Americans (in the third round of CONCACAF qualifying) until next summer. Even then, similar to the group stage of this year's Gold Cup, it won't be tested against top competition right away.
Head coach Bob Bradley surely will schedule some challenging friendlies along the way -- and the U.S. could pull off an impressive upset at some point -- but this loss will sting for quite a while. Still, I think Bradley proved some of his doubters wrong with some gutsy calls in the Gold Cup, which included the bold benching of Donovan, the revival of Freddy Adu and a willingness to stray from the long-time American staple -- a 4-4-2.
No doubt, U.S. fans woke up bummed Sunday morning. That's understandable. A fifth Gold Cup and a victory over rival Mexico -- on American soil yet in front of a pro-Mexico crowd -- looked like an uphill battle at the outset, but suddenly realistic 25 minutes later. The opponent Saturday night, however, could be even better than everyone thinks.
Those dangerous four players on the attack -- Chicharito, Gio Dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera -- are all under 25. Who knows if the Mexicans will hold up their end of the bargain and represent the CONCACAF well at the 2013 Confederations Cup -- as the U.S. did in 2009. But, the future looks bright for them.
The future for the Americans still is promising. Before his injury, Jozy Altidore was starting to score again (albeit, a small sample size). The depth at midfield is ridiculously rich now with the inclusion of Alejandro Bedoya, Adu and the eventual return of Stuart Holden. On defense, age will be a factor for some players come 2014, but the unit did post four shutouts in six Gold Cup matches. Finally, Tim Howard isn't showing any signs of slowing down.
So again, the future is bright. But unfortunately, the "future" is a long way away.