In looking at the Chalkboard of the USA-Mexico Gold Cup Final on Saturday, some statistics are rather illuminating. Now, I'm somebody who thinks Jonathan Bornstein gets a lot of stick on the USMNT. He seems to be a favorite of Bob Bradley's, and he seems to be the whipping boy of U.S. fans, who take all of their frustrations and anger out on him. As a Chivas USA fan, I always suspected it was partially because he played for Chivas, because U.S. fans also seem to have an inordinate amount of bile for Sacha Kljestan. And while Bornstein played a bit part in the tournament overall, his presence in the final was unwelcome for many fans. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, however, and when he won a ball in the middle of the field soon after he entered the game for Steve Cherundolo, I thought he might have a pretty good day.
But the statistics don't lie.Statistically, Bornstein likely had the worst performance of any player on the day. Several players, including Cherundolo, Carlos Salcido, and Rafael Marquez, were all subbed off early and had little impact in the game due to their limited minutes. The same goes for Kljestan, Juan Agudelo, and Jesus Zavala, who came on late as substitutes. But for the rest of the players who saw significant time and were not injured, Bornstein had an active, and poor, shift. Most telling was how often he gave up the ball, as he logged 29 successful passes, and 14 unsuccessful, to go with losing possession 15 times on tackles. In contrast, Freddy Adu also lost possession 15 times, and has a reputation for losing the ball easily. Ideally no player should give up the ball easily, but offensive players are meant to take risks and in the process are prone to losing the ball. In contrast, defenders need to make sure they hang onto the ball and get it up the field to a teammate who can convert it to a scoring chance. Dispossession for defenders can be deadly.
On the heatmap, Bornstein clung to the left side of the field, and three of the four goals came from the right side, while the fourth was scored in a goalmouth scramble. So Bornstein did his job, right? Not exactly. Mexico's play was mostly working on the right, so contrary to what American fans might tell you, he was not directly responsible for that. He did not mark Andres Guardado very well, however, who played shaded over to the left but pretty much through the center of the field for the game. Essentially, Bornstein covered the left like a champ, but since nobody was playing there, he was pretty much irrelevant. In turn, that put extra pressure on the central defenders, who could not withstand the pressure.
In the end, I'm not going to say Bornstein himself was the sole reason the United States lost. That was a team effort. But he did not have a good game, and unfortunately, the statistics prove the haters right.