After a month-long tournament, the Gold Cup final is here, and the matchup won’t surprise anyone. The United States and Mexico will face off in the final for the seventh time in competition history and the 72nd meeting all time on Sunday night. Here’s what to expect from the match.
(FIFA Ranking: 11)
The reigning champions enter the final in search of their 12th title. After a surprising 0-0 draw with Trinidad & Tobago to kick off their tournament, El Tri won their remaining group matches, cruising past Guatemala before pulling out a 1-0 win over an upstart El Salvador. They dominated the stat sheet in their quarterfinal against Honduras, but found their biggest test in the semifinals against Canada. Mexico won the match 2-1, thanks to a Héctor Herrera winner in the 99th minute.
Canada exposed some weaknesses in the Mexican side, absorbing pressure in a back three setup and finding plenty of dangerous moments on the counter. It was a peak Concacaf match, with Canada conceding a pair of soft penalties and several red-card worthy incidents missed.
Despite bringing close to a first-choice group to the tournament, Mexico haven’t been nearly as dominant as we’ve seen in past years. They’ve struggled to break down teams consistently with the ball and have looked vulnerable at the back. Their core of aging veterans is still in place, but manager Tata Martino hasn’t yet showed consistent faith in younger players to do a similar job.
As always, though, El Tri are consistently dangerous in attack. Rogelio Funes Mori is one of (if not the) best striker in Liga MX for Monterrey. Cruz Azul winger Orbelín Pineda and FC Porto’s Jesús Manuel Corona are more than a match for opposing fullbacks, and the two will stretch the field and open up space for the midfield to operate.
Héctor Herrera still pulls the strings for this side. He’s created the second-most “big” chances in the tournament (according to Opta’s designation), and has completed a leading 69 passes per match. He was lethal in the Nations League final and will be lethal again tomorrow. He’s firmly in the conversation for the tournament’s Golden Ball award, and a win against the U.S. would cement that.
It’s the second championship match between these two sides in two months, with the United States winning a Nations League final that has already gone down as one of the most memorable victories in program history for the Yanks. From Mexico’s perspective, a second loss to the U.S. in a championship match would be a disaster. While they should have more than enough in the tank to qualify for the World Cup, Martino will feel much better about his job security with a win tomorrow night.
United States 🇺🇸
(FIFA Ranking: 20)
Like Mexico, the U.S. haven’t necessarily convinced, but they’re in the final. While Tata Martino seems to know his preferred group, Gregg Berhalter went into this tournament largely looking to fill out his World Cup qualifying roster in the fall, and a couple players have made strong cases to be included.
Matthew Hoppe has played in a new role on the wings, and has been one of the few players to look consistently dangerous. His style is reminiscent of Clint Dempsey’s “just try shit” attitude, and he’s shown up in big moments.
Kellyn Acosta is the only player on the roster who started the Nations League final against Mexico. After being out of the national team picture for two years, he’s worked his way back into contention, and seems like a solid choice for the “second six” role behind Tyler Adams.
Centerback is arguably the biggest question in the national team pool. Wolfsburg’s John Brooks is the clear starter, but his partner (or partners in a back three) aren’t set in stone. Miles Robinson has been more than impressive in this tournament. His 1v1 defending is nigh-on elite, and is unmatched in the pool. He’s improved his distribution tremendously in recent seasons, and after his strong Gold Cup showing he should be in the mix for starting minutes in the fall.
Walker Zimmerman could also be added into that “impressive” category. He was excellent in their first two matches, and there’s been a notable drop in defensive stability since he left the tournament with injury ahead of the knockout rounds. He’s been on the fringes with the senior team for the bulk of his career, but with Aaron Long injured and larger squads set to feature for qualifying, he seems likely to get a callup.
Matt Turner has been the other standout. His performance against Qatar in the semifinal featured a pair of reaction saves that arguably no other ‘keeper in the pool would make. Zach Steffen has been the first-choice option for a couple years, but Turner is closing the gap rapidly.
From a U.S. perspective, it’s already been a successful tournament. A win tomorrow would be the icing on the cake.
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Date: Sunday, August 1
Time: 7:30 PM central
Location: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
Broadcast: FS1 (English), Univision/TUDN (Español)