Bob Bradley was as frustrated as his players that his United States team gave up a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final.
Yet the coach also saw the upside: The Americans' performance in the 14-day competition was another sign of the remarkable progress his team is making since the disappointment of the 2006 World Cup.
"Progress involves understanding how you play in harder games when they have to play against the best teams," he said. "Everything gets put under the magnifying glass a little bit more when you're playing the best teams. It's easy to talk about those things but it's important that the players see it for themselves and I think that's what's been happening."
Bradley, who was promoted from coach of the U.S. Under-23 to the top job after the team performed poorly in Germany three years ago under Bruce Arena, saw past the result, even though he shared the disappointment of his players.
"It's not that we learned it today but I think we get confidence that we are able to go up against big teams and create chances and make it harder for them in terms of when they have the ball," he said.
Bradley has turned the team around, winning the respect of the players with his calm approach and leading them to a triumph at CONCACAF's Gold Cup in 2007, a title it defends next month on home turf.
Now Bradley is getting the best out of players who have shown they have the potential to mix it up with the world's best but not the consistency required to win titles.
Landon Donovan showed at this competition he has the ability to break through defenses and Jozy Altidore unnerved the Italian, Spanish and Brazilian defenders with powerful running.
Clint Dempsey scored in three straight games for the United States, his last a deft side-footed volley in the 10th minute that should rank among the tournament's top goals.
Defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit have shown they could be playing for better clubs than Belgian champion Standard Liege and English second-tier team Watford, and goalkeeper Tim Howard has displayed why he has played for teams like Manchester United and current club Everton.