THE contrast in competitiveness between the United States women and men’s teams was starkly exposed on Sunday when the former won a fourth World Cup and the latter went down to Mexico in the Gold Cup final.
The 1-0 loss for the men in a regional competition the US had won six times before was a missed opportunity to take a big step forward under Gregg Berhalter, who was leading the team in his first tournament as coach.
“When you talk about a step the team needs to take, we’re close,” Berhalter told reporters after the match in Chicago.
“But we weren’t there tonight. We needed to score goals, we needed to put pressure on, and you saw tonight as the match went on, they took control and scored the winning goal.”
Berhalter, who was hired in December, has called for patience during his short tenure but all results will be deemed meaningful after the United States failed to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.
The Americans certainly had another opportunity to lift a major trophy against a Mexico side missing several key players.
US midfielder Christian Pulisic, a promising 20-year-old who many expect to play a leading role in the team in the years ahead, had a couple of good chances but missed both.
Still, Berhalter said, there were some positives to take from the final.
“I think the guys will learn a lot from this game,” he said.
On the same night, however, the female team completed their Women’s World Cup defence with a comfortable 2-0 win over the Netherlands in France.
A Megan Rapinoe penalty, awarded after Referee Stephanie Frappart consulted VAR, and a brilliant Rose Lavelle solo effort ensured the Americans clinched a fourth World Cup trophy from just eight tournaments.
In truth, the margin of victory could have been greater had Jill Ellis’ side not found Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal in inspired form.
Rapinoe, whose outspoken views have been so prominent throughout these finals, returned to the starting line-up after sitting out the semi-final win over England. – Reuters