Sunday, June 26, 2011

U.S. faces dilemma going forward

The United States' 4-2 loss to Mexico on Saturday night in the Gold Cup final, before a crowd of around 90,000 mostly pro-Mexican fans, speaks to peaks and valleys with Sam's Army. The peak was a 2-0 early lead, despite El Tri being more dynamic in the offensive third from the start. Then came the valleys, and in turn the questions.

<a href="" target="_new" title="">Studio Wrap: USA/Mexico</a>

Is Bob Bradley the right man to lead this team through another World Cup cycle? And if not, who's a better fit?

Where will the defense get more pace (especially out wide) so it won't be eaten alive by the dynamic quick midfielders of the world, which is what happened Saturday?

And what is going on in central midfield? Jermaine Jones is a nice addition, and Michael Bradley has been very good at times, but is that combination the true answer?

Beyond all that, there's one glaring issue that seems to be good for archrival Mexico and bad for us. They have depth in dynamic young world-class stars. The harsh truth is we can't necessarily claim that as well.

Mexico is in a good place. Just look at the attack. Striker Javier Hernandez, more commonly known by his nickname Chicarito, is a beast. He scored 20 goals in all competitions this year for Manchester United, and he's 23.

<a href='' target='_new' title='PL Highlights: Man Utd/Everton' >Video: PL Highlights: Man Utd/Everton</a>

Giovani dos Santos is creative and electric out wide, and he's 22. Andres Guardado is an underrated but undeniably world-class left-sided midfielder, and he's 24.

We have quality young potential stars - Jozy Altidore (21) and Juan Agudelo (18) could be the striking tandem for years to come on the USMNT as an example. But truly upper-echelon world-class talent? That's hard to say right now for a wealth of players in the national pool.

Star midfielders Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, naturals in their attacking third roles supporting the midfield but not necessarily playing up top, will be in their early 30s once the 2014 World Cup rolls around. Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo, fixtures in the back for the United States, are not getting any younger either.

Therein lies the problem.

The loss to Mexico, broken down beautifully by's Jonathan Wilson, should be a wakeup call. The players are saying all the right things.

Our archrival has an attack that will be a thorn deep into this decade and for two World Cup cycles at least.

The U.S. is a team in transition, begging for more quality in defense after getting run ragged in that third Saturday and at this point seemingly in need of a spark. But where does it come from?

- Chris Lillstrung


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