Gold Cup Final Thoughts

HOWARD MEGDAL: My strong suspicion is that the results of the 2011 Gold Cup will fade through history, while the tournament will come to be known as the Freddy Adu Emergence.

Really, how many people were talking about the group stage loss to Panama by the time the final rolled around? And how many people can take the 4-2 loss to Mexico hard when the US’s best defender throughout the tournament left with an injury 12 minutes in?

Mexico was better, on paper, in the lead-up, and during the match. Then, Mexico won. Whatever Bob Bradley’s merits or flaws as a coach, that doesn’t seem likely to have turned out differently with someone else at the helm.

But Freddy Adu… who saw that coming? (Other than, possibly, Bradley). Creativity with the ball. Beautiful passing, not only to set up the lone goal in the semifinals, but to induce the corner in tandem with Cherundolo, the about-to-be-fallen?

I know it doesn’t work this way, but as I thought about Adu’s loan to a second-division Turkish club, I imagined each first-division Turkish club manager refusing Adu, and sitting collectively in the Rose Bowl, cursing themselves for missing out.

Adu, as you probably know, was 14 years old when he was supposed to dominate MLS. Considering that what followed was irregular play at various stops, his learning curve is likely far different than other players. So at 22, it isn’t crazy to get excited about Adu, whose spark is exactly what the US has missed for the recent past.

Other than that, the main takeaway from the Gold Cup for me is I’d go see Jamaica play in a friendly anytime.

AIDAN KELLY: Undoubtedly, the re-emergence of one-time teenage prodigy Freddy Adu was the highlight of the tournament for the U.S.

A slight concern is the fact that Bob Bradley admitted it took time for the 22-year-old Turkish second division player to get up to speed with the rest of the team during camp, so it’s imperative that he win himself some regular minutes either back with the club loaning him out (Benfica), or land himself a deal with a bigger outfit. Even on the evidence of just one and a bit games, it will be in the best interests of the U.S. that he does.

The story of this Gold Cup, though, is the coming of age of Mexico’s Golden Generation. A team known in the past for its lack of backbone and mental fragility deserves much credit for its newfound resilience, while its youthful attacking flair will down better teams than the U.S. in over the next few years.

The future looks good for coach Jose Manuel de la Torre and his troops, as long as they work on trying to eliminate weaknesses such as sloppy defending against set pieces, which was exposed by the U.S. for the final game’s opening goal.

El Tri, which had five starters 24 or under (Moreno, dos Santos and Juarez played on the U17 World Cup winning side of 2005), will get to show to a global audience how far it has progressed when rubbing shoulders with some of the best at the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil, a year before the World Cup takes place.

But for the U.S., you just have to wonder what effect this defeat is going to have on the current squad and where a skillful new batch of talent (oh for a Chicharito) is going to come from. It will take more than Freddy Adu II to instill a sense of real hope for the future of American soccer.

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