PASADENA, Calif. — It was a night when Bob Bradley’s team took a stunning 2-0 lead in the first half on a favored opponent in a cup final.
And not unlike that night in Johannesburg two summers ago, when the US took a shocking 2-0 lead over Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, they let their advantage slip away in a deflating 4-2 loss to Mexico in the final of the 2011 Gold Cup.
The parallels were not lost on Bradley.
“When a game is fast and you’re playing against a skillful, good team, you’ve got to find a way when you have a lead to deal with it,” he said in the postgame press conference on Saturday night. “And tonight, we didn’t do a good job of it.”
The moment that killed the Americans’ momentum, Bradley says, wasn’t Mexico’s equalizer before halftime, and it wasn’t even the go-ahead goal five minutes after the break — it was Pablo Barrera’s strike in the 29th minute to pull Mexico to within one.
The West Ham winger took a quick pass from Javier “Chicharito” Hernández off a throw-in, torched Jonathan Bornstein and beat Tim Howard to the near post to cut the US lead to 2-1. That changed the way the Americans had to play and killed their plans to push for a third instead of fall back and play more defensively.
“That really changed the momentum before the half,” the US coach said. “I think we had one good attacking opportunity when it was 2-1 but didn’t do enough [to add to the lead].”
In the end, Bradley admitted Mexico’s talent through the feet of Barrera, Chicharito, Giovani dos Santos and Andrés Guardado was too much for the US to overcome. As the game progressed, Mexico’s dynamic attack got stronger and the Americans weren’t able to hold down the fort.
“It’s a difficult way for us to end the tournament for sure,” he said. “As a team, we made a lot of progress. We had been looking forward to this matchup. ... We put a good amount into it and we’re disappointed to let one slip away.”