Second Half Collapse | a USA Match Reaction

The second halves of cup finals have not been kind to the United States in the last couple of months (How's that for understatement of the year?). After having the better of the play in the first half, and the first 10 minutes of the second half, it all fell apart for the US in cataclysmic fashion. And why did it? I'm going to try to be dispassionate here while hiding the razor blades and wondering how long it will take until we live this one down...

* Let's get physical. The US's game was reliant on staying compact and playing fast and physical. Which worked for about an hour. That's when fatigue started to kick in. The midfield and defense started getting dragged apart and Vela and Dos Santos started running amok in the gaps. When the play was compact (much like the US vs. Brazil in the Confed Cup), the Mexicans were forced to lump in the direct balls and crosses only for Marshall and Goodson to stand strong and tall against small, quick attackers with no room to operate in. When the midfield was pulled away from the defense and the fullbacks were stretched wide, Goodson and Marshall were exposed for what they are. Big, slow center backs.

* Can't capitalize. The US had the ball in dangerous areas. They had chances at goal. But they couldn't hit the final ball consistently, and when they did, the receiver either didn't know what to do with the ball or scuffed the opportunity. Neither of the US forwards was a pure goal scorer, and the primary goal threat for the US was probably always going to be the man charged with creating the goals as well, Stuart Holden. Tough to do both. Sadly, the other avenue to goal, the one that we've always been reliant upon, set pieces, were completely wasted.

* Psychology 101. This one was a two-edged sword. The doubts had to be surging in Mexican minds. The US has been working some major mind-voodoo on the Mexicans for years now, and with a clearly second (or possible third) choice US roster controlling the majority of play in the opening half against what was probably a half A, half B side for Mexico, you have to wonder what was going through Mexican minds. But when that PK went in, the belief had to be surging. On the US side, on a team without many caps, you always had to question their resilience. It's one thing to come from behind in the group stage against Haiti, or against Panama in the quarterfinal, but in a cup final against the arch-rivals in a hostile atmosphere? Who do you look to on this roster to be the veteran heart of the team. Ching? Pearce? Hmmm.

* Ch-ch-ch-changes. Aguirre and Mexico made them. Bob and the US didn't. Where have we seen this story before? All too often this has been a trend in Bob's teams. I'm not going to go on an anti-Bob rant, but let's just say I have some questions regarding his tactical decisions...

...You know what? I can't do this any more. I'm trying to be analytical, but all I can feel is that big hollow pain in my gut. I know this was a "learning experience" roster, and I was proud, and a bit surprised, that this group made it all the way to the final. That said, I could have stomached 2-0, probably even 3-0. But 5-0? That's flat out embarrassing for anybody representing the US. So I'm just going to wrap this up with a final thought and then go get some ice cream or something to try and put things in perspective...

You can bitch all you like about Campbell's questionable call for the opening PK, but after the first few minutes of the second half, you could feel the match starting to slip away from the US. Maybe it wouldn't have exploded quite so dramatically in Mexico's favor without that PK, but I think it would be hard to imagine the US winning this game anyway with the way the second half was starting to turn.

Ugh to the Nth power.

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