It seems that the theme for the U.S. at this Gold Cup has been, 6-1 thrashing of Martinique aside, winning ugly. Two of the three Group Stage games finished 1-0 (against Haiti and Canada). Then the quarterfinal against Jamaica finished 1-0. And so naturally then the semi-final against Qatar played out the same way, with the Qataris applying the bulk of the pressure (even being awarded a penalty that was skied over the bar) before the U.S. found a second straight late winner (this time from Gyasi Zardes) to eke out yet another 1-0 victory.
While the results have been good, the performance for the Final will need to be much better. It’s the matchup that the fans want, the broadcasters want, and the matchup that CONCACAF most definitely wants. It’s USA vs. Mexico.
The U.S. performance for this Gold Cup is somewhat similar to their performance at the 2019 Gold Cup. That year, the U.S. was a much more dynamic in attack, scoring a total of 15 goals on their way to the final. But they were quite stout defensively, only allowing two goals the entire tournament (in the semi-final against Jamaica and in the final against Mexico). This year they have not been nearly as good in front of goal, with only 10 goals (the bulk of those coming in one game against Martinique) but they have been every bit as good at keeping the ball out of their goal as they were two years ago, having only conceded once through five games at this tournament.
They also have a ton of positive momentum on their side, perhaps the first time since the heady days of 2013 where the results on the field translated into true belief from the fans. The U.S. rolls into the final, riding an eight game winning streak and has won 13 of their last 14 (the lone loss coming in May in a friendly away to Switzerland). Dating back even farther, since the absolute debacle that was a 2-0 loss to Canada in October of 2019, the U.S. is unbeaten in 17 of their last 18 games. Along the way they even managed to win a trophy, defeating Mexico in the inaugural Nations League final. Now they face Mexico with another trophy on the line and a win is vital if the U.S. is to keep the good times rolling with World Cup Qualifying starting in September.
While the U.S. hasn’t been the best version of itself at this tournament, neither has Mexico. This is quite surprising for El Tri as they brought a team thought by many to be close to their full A squad, while the U.S. brought a B or even C squad. They topped their group and have reached the final but they haven’t made it look easy. They started the tournament off with a dud, drawing 0-0 against Trinidad & Tobago. They then seemed to have everything in order as they dispatched Guatemala 3-0. Things got interesting in the Group Stage finale as they squeaked past a resurgent El Salvador, 1-0. They again seemed to right the ship in the quarter-finals against Honduras where a 12 minute blitz in the first half saw them put three past the Catrachos and never look back. But the semi-final against Canada was a nervy affair in which El Tri took the lead, conceded a spectacular goal to Tajon Buchanan, missed a penalty, and then grab a last gasp winner in extra time through Hector Herrera. Their run to this final is not dissimilar from their 2015 tournament where they stumbled all the way to the final before finally figuring it out and lifting the trophy (though odds are that Tata Martino keeps his job after this tournament as he seems far less likely than Miguel Herrera to attack reporters at the airport).
1. This is the first ever appearance by the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) in Las Vegas, though Mexico has played here as recently as 2017, a friendly against Iceland in front of 30,617.
2. This is the second straight USA/Mexico Gold Cup Final, after the preceding three only featured one of the two teams.
3. This is the first game the USMNT has played in the month of August since a friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina in 2013
When and where to watch games on US TV
Sunday, August 1, 2021
Las Vegas, Nevada
Live on FS1, Univision, TUDN and fuboTV
USA trails 20-36-15
Sunday, June 6, 2021
Empower Field at Mile High
USA 3-2 Mexico (extra time)
Current FIFA Ranking
Thursday, September 2, 2021
World Cup Qualifying
El Salvador vs. USA
San Salvador, El Salvador
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