By Michael Lewis
PASADENA, California -- The United States will have a long, long time to ponder its Gold Cup final loss before it finds itself in a meaningful match again.
With World Cup qualifying for Brazil 2014 slated to begin for the Americans in about a year, they will have plenty of time to forget about, and learn from, their 4-2 defeat to Mexico in the championship game at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.
"I think we're in a good place," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "This will hopefully motivate us. We're a good team. We know what to expect from us. This team has been through qualifying.
"Look, right now it all hurts. It's going to take while. We'll get over it. We're still a dominant team in the region. We showed that. Unfortunately, we didn't do it for 90 minutes, but we're still up for that."
Midfielder Michael Bradley, who gave the United States a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute, said the defeat will only serve to prod him and his teammates in future games and competitions.
The defeat "motivates us even more," he said. "You walk away on a night like this and nobody has a good feeling in their mouth, so it's part of being a competitor.
"Nights like this you leave everything you have on the field and at times it doesn't go your way but it only motivates you more to work harder, to get better, to know what we need to bring on nights like this when things are at the absolute highest level. It's not a nice feeling, but having said that we'll be back. I know that."
Landon Donovan, who became the Gold Cup's all-time leading scorer with his 13th goal (surpassing former Mexican standout Zaque), said the United States improved during the competition.
"We got a lot better this tournament, just the way we were playing and the way we were moving the ball and keeping possession a little more," he said.
But the red, white and blue will have to improve a lot more if it wants to keep pace with the Mexicans.
"We still have a ways to go," Donovan said. "You saw tonight when you take it up another level it becomes even more difficult. So, ideally in these games, you want to even things out a little more than Mexico always having the ball, which is something that they're very good at, and make them defend a little bit."
The Mexicans have won two consecutive games - both Gold Cup finals -- over the United States on American soil after enduring an 11-game winless streak over 11½ years. Donovan did not think the loss erased any of the advantage the United States has built up over the Mexicans through past decade.
"We don't see it that way," he said. "Every time we play them it's a new scenario. They're a good team. We've got to go catch them. They have shown that they're the team to beat right now and we've got to go get them."
Donovan started at forward because coach Bob Bradley inserted Freddy Adu into a midfield role. Adu did not make his first Gold Cup appearance until the 1-0 semifinal win over Panama on Wednesday night.
"He did well," Donovan said. "He's done a lot since he's come into camp. The one thing about him he wasn't going to be overwhelmed by the occasion. He did a pretty good job. He tired a little bit at the end. He helped us."
Fan blogs and internet discussion forums as well as some commentators have called for coach Bob Bradley's firing in the wake of the team's performance in the Gold Cup, particularly the 2-1 loss to Panama in the group stage.
"It's not my concern, my friend," Donovan told a writer.
Howard didn't think it was fair to blame the loss on Bradley.
"The game today has nothing to do with Bob," Howard said. "It's all about us. We stepped over the line. We didn't accomplish what we needed to do. He prepared us. I think our game plan was right on and our lineup was fantastic. We didn't get it done. That's what it's about."