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USMNT looks back at 2011 Gold Cup final loss ahead of CONCACAF Cup


Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports


More than five years after the fact, the U.S. Men’s National Team’s last trip to the Rose Bowl still stings just as much as it did on that June afternoon.

It was at the Rose Bowl that the U.S. suffered one of the team’s most famous defeats in recent memory: the 2011 Gold Cup final. That loss, which sent Mexico to the Confederations Cup, started the wheels spinning on the dismissal of head coach Bob Bradley as the U.S. was forced to rethink their approach ahead of the upcoming World Cup cycle.

Five years later, the aftereffects of that loss are still felt. Jurgen Klinsmann took charge for Bradley shortly after, ushering in a new regime for U.S. Soccer. Yet, those that partook in the previous era still lament the defeat, one that they remember to this day.

“I think revenge is the wrong word,” Jozy Altidore said of the game. “For the players that were on the field, you still feel a certain sting from that game, especially when you look at the highlights, even now four years later. I think it’s a great opportunity for us with soccer in our country right now, with the magnitude of the game, to put in a good performance.

“I thought it was a really good game. I thought it went back and forth. I thought we started really well at the beginning of that game and, like Michael (Bradley) said the other day, Mexico was really able to make a couple of plays at the end of the game, but I thought it was a balanced game, more balanced than people give it credit for.”

Despite the eventual frustration, the USMNT got off to the ideal start under the Rose Bowl sun.

Within 23 minutes, the U.S. found themselves up a pair of goals on finishes from Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan. Goals from Mexico’s Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado sent the two teams into the locker room level at 2-2.

From there, the wheels came off. According to Bradley, Mexico made the plays as the game wore on, while the U.S. simply did not. A 50th-minute finish from Barrera served as the difference-maker, while the now-famous chip from Giovani Dos Santos in the 76th minute resigned the U.S. to their fates.

Now, the U.S. has a chance to make amends in Saturday’s CONCACAF Cup clash. With yet another Confederations Cup berth on the line, the U.S. will need to make a major statement in the latest clash with rival Mexico.

“In games like this, the past and what’s said and spoken about beforehand doesn’t really matter,” Altidore said. “It’s the day of the game, on that day, who feels the best and who’s ready to make the bigger contribution in these games, because so much goes into those days.”

“Every game is different, to be honest with you,” added Clint Dempsey. “The personnel is different. You just have to make sure you prepare the best that you can and do what  you’ve got to do to win. That’s what you can do. Just study tapes on their recent performances and try and figure out ways to exploit their weaknesses.”

Those weaknesses may come in the forms of injuries, as Mexico enters Saturday hobbled by several knocks to key players, like Dos Santos. They may come in the form of shaken confidence, as Mexico has yet to defeat the U.S. since that 2011 clash.

For the U.S., Saturday’s game isn’t going to be about exorcising demons or, worse off, what happens if they don’t. Rather, it’s about achieving a goal that they’ve had throughout the year of sealing passage to Russia in 2017.

“With the people outside, what they say, we don’t really care,” Jermaine Jones said. “We know we have a good group here together and we go in that game to win that game. We don’t look what happens if we lose. It’s important that we win, and we know that. That’s the biggest thing.

“The last game we played Mexico in 2011 in the Rose Bowl, we lost, and this time, we want to change it.”


  1. Well they should be looking back to the 2015 Gold Cup where they lost in the semis. What does four years ago with a different coach have to do with tomorrow. Granted I didn’t read the article but the headline alone seems to be deflecting focus on Klinsmann’s failure to Bob Bradley’s.

    • I saw it differently, and granted it’s not a main stream view cuz mine,

      but are the players actually putting the pressure on Klinsmann for this game?

      Talking about Bob getting fired 5 years ago for a similar failier, and then not “wanting to talk about what happens if you lose this time.” What is implied to happen if they lose??

      Are they throwing Juergen under the bus pre-game? Toes in the fire?

  2. Still cant believe demps wanst send off for that studs up kick to the mex gk groin. As a guy thats is the most digusting act of cowardance a man could do. Stay classy.

  3. Look, i love this site and hate when people harp on tiny journalism mistakes but…

    “FIVE” years later?? The mistake is made in the first sentence, repeated in the third paragraph, and not corrected even after Jozy says “four years” just in the next paragraph.

    (please feel free to delete this once you make the correction.)

    Either way, go USA and let’s get that payback.

  4. Jumping out to a early lead might not be the best thing. Looking back at the 2014 friendly where Bradley and Wondo scored early, Mexico came back with 2. Davies scores early in the Azteca, Mexico responds with 2 and wins.

    Seems like nearly every time we win it’s with second half goals, or perhaps 1 just before half, at the earliest. Of coarse the 2002 WC goes against this. I feel like when Mexico is in control they’ll often slow the game down, and perhaps become too safe. However when they are down they are actually more dangerous.

    • The premise seems to be a little bit of a stunt because we won the 2013 Gold Cup after this loss (though not the last, hence this game), had a few positive quali and friendly results against Mexico since then (including the historic Azteca result), went to Brazil since then, and are one coach beyond that point as well. So much has changed it feels artificial.

    • Never understood that line of thought. It’s rather fear based. Jumping to an early lead is always a good thing. Backing off and coughing it up is the issue. Turns out- learning to deal with success/play, stay aggressive with a lead is kind of essential to being a consistent winner.

    • There have only been two games that count with the A teams. The two WCQ. A win and a draw. None of those two were bigger than that Gold Cup Final. We will see what happens on Saturday.

      • I guess since it is a one off game it is different but I would place a World Cup Qualifier as much bigger than a gold cup final.

      • I have to agree. The negativity around here really amazes me sometime. The Hex is HUGE, to me way more important than a Gold Cup. Every game in the Hex is meaningful, especially the two Mexico matches.

      • Especially when you consider Mexico barely qualified, I’d say those games were pretty important to them. Some people around here have a real inferiority complex about Mexico. This isn’t 20 years ago – we are absolutely as good as they are.

      • Oh please. In this case it has nothing to do with an inferiority complex. You guys are the ones lacking perspective.

        In a Gold Cup final if you win you are the champion, if you lose you aren’t. It is the continental championship.

        World Cup qualifiers are a “it depends” situation. For example, the second qualifier that the U.S. played against Mexico last cycle wasn’t that important for the U.S. because they could afford to lose and still qualify for the World Cup. They had a good cushion.

        The correct answer is all games matter.

      • Not sure how we are lacking perspective. Some Gold Cups are full of B teams (2009, 2013) because teams have other games that are taking priority. I agree that an A team Gold Cup (2007, 2011, 2015) is more important generally than a world cup qualifier but if that qualifier is the difference between making it the world cup or not, I’d say the qualifier is more important. There’s no right answer though.

      • Seeing as how they are doing everything they can to minimize it’s relationship to this game, I’m going to guess because they are being asked about it.

      • Qualifiers are more important. The U.S. and Mexico have taken B teams to past Gold Cups. Neither team would dream of starting their B teams in qualifiers against each other. That highlights the relative importance of Gold Cup vs WC qualifiers.

      • You are generalizing a bit, in my view — Not all Gold Cups are created equal.

        When a Confed Cup berth is on the line, the US and Mexico have typically brought very strong teams. When no berth is on the line, or when one team has already participated in the Confed Cup earlier in that summer (ie USA in 2009 or Mexico in 2013) both teams have typically dialed back their commitment to the tournament, particularly with the fixture congestion caused by the Hex at that point in the cycle. It’s just good strategy– it doesn’t mean they don’t value the tournament generally simply because they didn’t commit to an off-cycle Gold Cup.

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