It hasn’t always been pretty for the US at this Gold Cup, but they’ve managed to make it to the final. After solid wins of 4-0 and 6-0 against Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, they struggled to beat Panama 1-0 but still locked up top spot in the group. They followed that up with an ugly 1-0 win over Curacao in the quarter-finals in which they were out-shot, out-possessed, out-hustled and out-worked. But in the semi-final against Jamaica they came out guns blazing and were quickly up 1-0 thanks to Weston McKennie netting his second goal in as many games. But things nearly went over the rails as after less than 20 minutes, play was stopped for nearly an hour and a half due to lighting in the area. When play resumed the US picked up right where they left off and found themselves up 2-0 thanks to Christian Pulisic. Jamaica tried to battle back and halved the deficit with 20 minutes to play, but the US responded well and it was Pulisic scoring his third goal of the tournament that restored the two goal lead and secured the win. The US now moves on to the Gold Cup Final to take on a team that is flying high at the moment with a new manager and fresh new players. It’s a big-time rivalry game in the biggest game in CONCACAF. It’s USA vs. Mexico.
One of the narratives for the US at this Gold Cup has been that as long as the team gets to the final the tournament should be considered a success. That narrative picked up a substantial amount of steam after the ugly pair of 1-0 wins over Panama and Curacao. However, it’s quite a ridiculous narrative. It speaks volumes about US Soccer’s (and the American soccer media’s) bizarre acceptance and tolerance for failure. Not winning the Gold Cup is simply not good enough. Just because the US failed to qualify for Russia 2018, does not mean getting housed by Mexico in a Gold Cup Final is now acceptable. If losing the Gold Cup to Mexico is such a great success, why bother showing up for the Final at all? What’s the point in even playing if losing isn’t considered failure? Failing in one goal should not mean that failing to achieve other goals is acceptable. But that’s the message US Soccer has been sending. Part of the narrative is that Berhalter has only been on the job for seven months and still hasn’t found the perfect guys to fit his system, and so on (then perhaps don’t wait 13 months to hire the full-time coach). Now, they have to face a Mexico team coached by Tata Martino who many US fans wanted instead of Berhalter.
Nobody will ever know for sure if the US would have been able to actually hire Tata Martino, but not even calling him was sheer lunacy. Some believe that a quote Martino gave when hired by Mexico could be a sign that he would have taken the US job if offered, saying that when he gets a job the first thing he does is to think of all the places that didn’t want him. If that’s not a shot across the bow at US Soccer, what is? And as expected, Martino is absolutely rocking and rolling with Mexico. He’s only been in charge since January and is currently 9-0-0 (W-L-D) with El Tri. And their last two Gold Cup games not-withstanding, they’ve been demolishing teams: 3-1 against Chile, 4-2 against Paraguay, 3-1 against Venezuela, 7-0 against Cuba and 3-1 against Canada. During the group stage they earned a maximum nine points out of nine and topped Group A ahead of Canada, Martinique, and Cuba. In their last two games of this tournament however, they have run into some speedbumps as they were pushed all the way to penalties by Costa Rica in the quarter-final and then again into extra time by Haiti. Of course, they are missing some of their best players; Carlos Vela, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Hirving “Chucky” Lozano chief among them. They do, however, still have Andres Guardado (28 goals in 158 appearances), Raul Jimenez (21 goals in 75 appearances), Hector Moreno (4 goals in 99 appearances) and Guillermo Ochoa (105 appearances). And they figure to have massive support in the stands as well, which is nothing new for Mexico games in the US.
1. Tata Martino has now made it to the final of the last four international tournaments he’s managed in: 2011 Copa America Final with Paraguay, 2015 & 2016 Copa America Final with Argentina, and 2019 Gold Cup Final with Mexico.
2. During their time as MLS mangers, Tata Martino posted a record of 4-0-1 against Gregg Berhalter (and posted a combined score of 10-2)
3. While all five US games played in football stadiums this year have drawn under 30,000 fans, every single one Mexico’s games in the US has drawn over 49,000 fans.
When and where to watch the game on US TV and streaming
USA trails 19-34-15
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
USA 1-0 Mexico
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