Gold Cup Final Preview

Dale Money | July 7th, 2019

A rivalry that dates back to 1934 in Italy, where they played in a World Cup Qualifier. Since then the USMNT has faced off with Mexico 67 times, with Mexico leading the series 34–15–19. It all comes to a head at Soldier Field in Chicago, this was ironically the site, where Mexico suffered it’s only Gold Cup final loss, 2-1 to the US back in 2007.

Mexico has won seven titles in their previous eight finals appearances, the most in the tournament’s history. A win by the United States would tie them for most titles. These two neighbors last met in 2018 in a friendly match, Tyler Adams scored the only goal to give the Americans the 1-0 victory.

It all kicks off Sunday at 9 PM Eastern.

How They Got Here

Team USA has had a fantastic showing, at the Gold Cup. Winning all of their matches so far, not to mention that goal differential has been incredibly impressive.  Giving up one goal to the fifteen they’ve scored. Playing in a Group that included Panama, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. They would no doubt have revenge on their minds, going into their match against Tobago. By picking up the decisive 6-0 victory, it was indeed a clear message. They ended the group stage, with a perfect eleven goals to zero goals given away.

Onto the knockouts, their first match was versus Curacao. This was looked at as perhaps, a bit of a walkover as far as on paper. It, however, ended up being a much tighter contest than expected. The USA broke the game open in the 25th minute, on a goal from Weston McKennie. They would need a strong defensive showing in the second half to salvage the 1-0 victory.

In their semi-final against Jamaica, Weston McKennie opened up the scoring for the Americans in the 9th minute. They were able to keep the momentum going into the first half, however, the semi-final was stopped for 90 minutes because of lightning. Christian Pulisic would put the US up by two, in the 52nd minute. Jamaica would cut the lead down to one in the 69th, off a goal from Shamar Nicholson. However, in the 87th it would be Pulisic again, coming through in the clutch. Putting the States back up by two, that would be how the game finished. Putting them through to the finals.

Mexico was very strong in the groups, which wasn’t very surprising given the strength of the squad. In a group that also included Canada, Martinique, and Cuba. They didn’t have much of a problem barreling through, sweeping all three of their group games, along with putting up thirteen goals compared to three goals allowed.

The knockouts were a lot tougher than might have been expected. In the quarterfinal against Costa Rica, Raul Jimenez struck first blood in the 44th minute, off a low cross from Rodolfo Pizarro. Burying it past Costa Rican goalkeeper Leonel Moreira. Only eight minutes later Bryan Ruiz, would manage to tie up the scoring. It would come off a penalty shot after Ruiz was taken down by Luis Alfonso Rodriguez.

The game would end up going, to penalties after neither team would manage to break the deadlock after that. Mexico did not get off on the right foot after Jiménez, was stopped by Leonel Moreira on their first penalty kick. However, they were given a bit of hope when Randall Leal hit the third penalty wide, making it even stevens. After Carlos Salcedo put Mexico up 5-4, Ochoa would, in turn, deny Keyser Fuller, putting his country through.

It certainly did not get any easier for them in the clash against Haiti. What would turn out to be a real grind them out affair. Where an extra-time penalty goal in the 93rd minute from Jimenez, would secure their place in the Gold Cup final. It came off a foul in from Haiti’s Herve Bazile.

Their problems with finishing shots, in the past two games have been quite concerning. They don’t seem to create enough opportunities, to score regularly. That certainly needs to be cleaned up ahead of the final. 

Predicted Starting Lineups

Uriel Antuna, Jimenez, and Rudolfo Pizzaro are expected to start up front for Mexico. Jesus Gallardo, Andres Guardado, and Jonathan dos Santos will cover the midfield.  On defense, it should be Carlos Salcedo, Hector Moreno, Edson Alvarez, and Luis Rodriguez getting the start. Guillermo Ochoa will look after the net.

Mexico has two of the top goal scorers in the competition in Jiménez and Antuna. Between the pair of them, they have combined for nine of the goals. They also have arguably the best goalkeeper in this tournament, in Ochoa. The US will certainly have their work cut out for them. If there is one team, that can break him down and find the holes, the Americans are certainly up to the task.

Looking at the US lineup going into Sunday. Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, and Paul Arriola should start up front. In midfield expect Pulisic, McKennie, and Michael Bradley to start. On the backend look for them to go with a core of Nick Lima, Walker Zimmerman, Aaron Long, and Tim Ream. Zack Steffen should get the nod in net.

The US has a plethora of options at their disposal. Zardes and Pulisic each have three goals in the tournament. McKennie, Altidore, and Morris can also be relied upon as solid attacking options.

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Main Image Credit:  Embed from Getty Images