After a disappointing defeat to Mexico in the Gold Cup final, there is not much to do if you're a USA Soccer fan. There is no Confederations Cup to look forward to, World Cup Qualifying is far in the distance and even that small tournament hosted by Brazil is over 1,000 days away.
Many USMNT fans are still drinking their troubles away in a hope that the Gold Cup will magically appear in our trophy case. Just in case you lost a few braincells in that process, here is a list to refresh your memory of what we learned in this past Gold Cup. Enjoy!
After being buried on the Benfica depth chart for roughly four years, it would be hard to find a USMNT fan who predicted Freddy’s coming out party at this Gold Cup.
Even the most optimistic Adu fan in the country probably wouldn’t have anticipated his invitation to training camp, much less his startling performances against Panama and Mexico.
Adu has always had the talent that he put on display (he certainly did not learn it in Turkey) but has never had the confidence to perform his tremendous skills on a big stage. Plagued by unbelievable expectations, Adu was never truly comfortable on the pitch, always trying to do too much to impress the scouts.
But once people stopped believing in him and the pressure ceased, Adu could finally fill the expectations that were kept in the attic of our dreams. It was clear from only 100-plus minutes of gameplay that he was determined to silence the doubters and eradicate the painful tattoo of “Bust” that the American media had left on him.
With Adu (22) confident and playing with a chip on his shoulder, he could truly become the star we were all expecting him to be (or at least close to it). After years of wanting to forget the legacy of Freddy Adu, it seems like the legend is just beginning.
Who knew that all this time the USMNT was capable of scoring goals early? After leaving USMNT fans on the edge of their seats for the entire World Cup/Qualifying, the squad smoothly assured the world that getting on the scoreboard first was physically possible.
Other than the Panama game, the USMNT scored first in each of their Gold Cup matches, with most of those goals coming in the first half hour of play. Four of the nine USA goals came in the first 30 minutes, and not once did the squad make late heroics in the final 10.
Even if this trend doesn’t last until next World Cup, USMNT fans now know what it feels like to tranquilly watch a soccer game.
Even if you didn’t need any more convincing, Jonathan Bornstein blatantly assured you how inadequate a defender he is at the International level.
After Steve Cherundolo left the Gold Cup Final with an ankle injury, Jonathan Bornstein was subbed in only to flagrantly flunk his final USMNT test. Time and time again Bornstein was tested on the left side, each time awkwardly approaching the attacker before being run past.
Many of you already knew that Johnny B wasn’t the answer, but this slide is for the few souls who hadn’t smelled the coffee yet.
After what was supposed to be a momentous popularity increase last summer, the 2011 Gold Cup attendances were relatively disappointing for the USMNT.
The Stars and Stripes never drew more than 30,000 for a group stage game (granted one was in Livestrong Park) and had attendance figures unfortunately similar to 2007 and 2009.
Nobody expected this Gold Cup to draw primetime audiences, but the fact that the team drew similar attendances the last four years suggests that the 2010 World Cup might not have been as influential as we once thought.
As I watched Mexico fill up 90 percent of the Rose Bowl in the Gold Cup final, I thought, "What was the primary cause of the Gold Cup attendance problem?"
Location? Quality? Opponents? Let us not make excuses next time and just put fans in the stands.
It was a lesson worth learning when Benny Feilhaber went down with an injury a week before training. Feilhaber’s injury was seen as a disaster for the USMNT before the tournament, significantly weakening the USMNT’s midfield depth and causing bob Bradley to bring in yet another unproven winger.
As we look back on the 2011 Gold Cup, that once unproven winger is now an established starting option for Bob Bradley.
Alejandro Bedoya really took advantage of his fortunate opportunity and proved to all USA fans that he can compete (at least at the CONCACAF Level). After multiple significant injuries, Bedoya's emergence came as a pleasant surprise.
The USA is about as deep as Pee-Wee Herman's voice on helium.
If one thing is for certain, this Gold Cup put on display the USMNT's horrific inconsistency throughout the 18-man roster. Bob Bradley has come under a lot of heat for his substitution problems late in games, but can you really blame him?
When he looks over to the bench, it must be quite alarming to see Chris Wondolowski in the same outfit as Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey. If anything, we were re-taught how impactful injuries (Stuart Holden, Charlie Davies, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo) can be.
Unlike his Red Bulls teammate, defender Tim Ream’s inexperience and immaturity leaked through his jersey in the 2011 Gold Cup.
Despite playing with so much confidence at the club level, Ream looked like a deer in the headlights in his first two Gold Cup caps. His early struggles resulted in Bradley making a firm seat on the bench with his name on it for the rest of the tournament.
It is clear that Bob Bradley and the entire USMNT fanbase wanted Ream to begin his quest to be the next great American defender this Gold Cup, but his rise to international stardom should be postponed for a few more years.
After watching Giovani dos Santos net the game-clincher for Mexico in the Gold Cup Final, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the USMNT defense.
It was an agonizing defeat at the hands of a great squad and for many of them, their final chance at silverware in a USA uniform. Apart from Eric Lichaj, the starting defenders for the USMNT were near their last breath, signaling the start of what hopes to be a promising instigation of the next generation.
With Lichaj, Tim Ream, Jonathan Spector and Timothy Chandler, the USMNT defense has the potential to be rock solid in 2014. However, if USA fans have learned anything, it is that potential never quite lives up to its name.
Ever since Charlie Davies’ injury in October 2009, the USMNT formation has been the epicenter of some of the fiercest debates in US Soccer history.
With little forward depth and a plethora of midfielders, Bob Bradley has been forced to create some of the most anomalous formations known to date; formations where even the players are probably confused where they are supposed to be based.
Well, after a year-and-a-half of criticism, I think we can all agree Bob Bradley has finally found the right formation.
The 4-2-3-1 formation seemed to spawn a lot of terrific attacking opportunities for the US despite only playing a lone striker up top. The formation also seemed more comfortable for players such as Kljestan and Bedoya, who in the past, have had trouble finding a specific spot in the first XI.
The only question now is: Was it too late?
Bradley spent nearly half his career trying to figure out which formation might be best suited for a team he may not coach for much longer. With Charlie Davies, Jozy Altidore and Juan Agudelo becoming more respectable forward options, he would most likely rather have two strikers up top instead of the lone wolf.
Did Bradley really do all that work for nothing? We will know soon enough.
Where do we go from here? After a disappointing few months for the USMNT, Bob Bradley’s job security is once again dangerously close to the cellar.
On the one hand, he has finally fixed the formation/timely scoring problems, but it would be unwise for the USSF to keep Bradley through his contract. With the World Cup Qualifying just a year away, now would be the perfect time to reset the staff and instigate new tactics before the competition matters.
A change of staff too close to Qualifying/World Cup would be very risky, especially considering how important this next four-year cycle could be to soccer in the US. Also, as the next generation of US players rise to prominence, inserting a new coach before their inclination could provide a smooth coaching transition.
Simply put, it is now or never for the USSF, and the majority of USMNT fans are certainly hoping for the former.
What else did we learn about the USMNT in this past Gold Cup? Comment with your thoughts.