Gold Cup: Howard can't explain US collapse vs. El Tri

PASADENA, Calif. — Tim Howard has always been the picture of composure for the US national team, win or lose.

On Saturday night, he was tired of playing the diplomat and wanted to get one thing off his chest after the US’ deflating 4-2 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final.

“CONCACAF should be ashamed of themselves,” he told reporters before addressing questions about the actual game. “I think it was a [expletive] disgrace that the entire postmatch ceremony was held in Spanish. You can bet your ass if we were in Mexico City it wouldn’t be all in English.”

But clearer heads prevailed, as the US goalkeeper was quick to admit the dominantly pro-Mexico crowd out of the 93,420 at the Rose Bowl didn’t factor into how the Americans blew a two-goal lead. In fact, Howard is still at a loss to explain what happened.

“I thought we knocked the stuffing out of them at 2-0,” he said of El Tri, “really hit ‘em where it hurt. Tip your hat to them — they’re a good bunch of players. We talked about putting them in situations they don’t want to be in and they put us in a lot of situations we didn’t want to be in.”

Howard says the US game plan worked perfectly as the game opened up. They fully expected Mexico to try to use their dynamic attackers to stretch the field with possession and find seams in the American back line.

And instead of being intimidated and retreating into a defensive shell — a strategy all of Mexico’s opponents tried to utilize in this Gold Cup — the US plan was to push forward with numbers and look for attacking opportunities.

That game plan resulted in the Americans’ second goal, a gorgeous piece of combination work started by Freddy Adu, who slotted the ball to Clint Dempsey and set up Landon Donovan’s finish in the 22nd minute.

“We picked and [chose] our spots — when to go, when to get them,” he said. “Our combinations were good up front. Again, we hit them. It’s beyond me how they rallied back from that.”

But that’s exactly what El Tri did, as a makeshift US back line had few answers as they were swarmed by Man of the Match Giovani dos Santos and brace-scoring Pablo Barrera. Four minutes into the second half, the US found themselves down by a deficit from which they would not recover, and it was all Mexico from that point on.

“It sucks getting your ass kicked, and that’s what happened today,” Howard said. “It’s going to take awhile, but we’ll get over it.”

And even though Howard knows the US were beaten by the better team on the night, and were completely disrespected during the postgame medal ceremony to boot, he’s still confident of one thing:

“We’re still the dominant team in this region,” he concluded. “We showed that. Unfortunately we didn’t do it for 90 minutes.”