Photo by David Leah/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
PASADENA, Calif.- The U.S. men's national team knows all too well the benefits that come from winning the first of two Gold Cups in a World Cup cycle. But if the Americans are to repeat their performance from four years ago when they lifted the Gold Cup trophy, they'll have to beat an undefeated Mexican team that is considered to be one of the most talented in its history.
The United States takes on its all-too-familiar rival on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel/Univision) in what is expected to be a sold out crowd at the Rose Bowl. For the Americans, the game not only stands as a chance to reclaim the Gold Cup title that it lost to El Tri in 2009, but also to receive a berth to the 2013 Confederations Cup.
"We take all of the experiences and bring them into play. We understand what it takes to win a final, we know the feeling of letting one go," said head coach Bob Bradley. "But we also focus primarily on this group and where we are, and what's happened in the last month and what it's going to take to play well and win."
Having endured a topsy-turvy start to the tournament, the United States comes into the championship game peaking at the right moment. The Americans, who have not conceded a goal in 324 minutes, have won all of their last three games, and while the goals haven't been coming in bunches, the ability to dictate the tempo of games and create chances has been much improved.
Juan Agudelo has been effective in the lone forward role in the 4-2-3-1 formation Bradley has deployed in the knockout rounds of the tournament. The 18-year-old will need to be a handful against New York Red Bulls teammate Rafael Marquez and his centerback partner, Hector Moreno, in his first meeting against Mexico in order to open up space for the midfielders behind him.
That's where one question lies for Bradley. Landon Donovan was relegated to coming off the bench for the U.S. team in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but has a proven track record of coming up big against Mexico. That leaves Bradley with a big decision on his hand.
"Many factors," said Bradley of what goes into deciding whether or not Donovan starts. "The way we play. What we think this game will be like. What you need at the beginning of the game. What you might need as the game goes on. There's so many different factors. These are all things that the staff discusses and then often times we discuss it with different players so these are part of some of the discussions leading into decisions the last two games and we'll do it the same way."
Two players who are all but assured to start are central midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones. The American duo has started every match since the tournament began, and will be needed to limit a Mexico team with plenty of attacking quality in the midfield.
From the likes of Gerardo Torrado to Andres Guardado, Mexico enters the game still having some of the familiar faces that U.S. fans saw play at Soldier Field four years ago. There are some new Mexican players, however, that have slightly changed the dynamic of Mexico's anatomy.
"They have some good young talent to go with the experienced guys that we've all gotten to know well over the years," said Bradley. "I think their style of play is similar, but at the same time, things change as new players come into teams. That's true with us and true with them."
Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez is one of the players that is still fairly new to the Mexican national team, but he'll likely still prove to be a handful for Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson and the rest of the U.S. defense. The 23-year-old striker, who has never played the United States before, is coming off a dream first season with Manchester United, one in which he demonstrated good movement, well-timed runs and impeccable and deadly finishing.
Bocanegra and Goodson won't have to be the only ones though stop him, though. Instead, it will take a collective defensive effort from the U.S. team.
"The key for us in the game is stop Chicharito," said Donovan. "What he does on the field is different than the rest of the players. In every moment, he can do something special. If we're not focused, he can score one, two, three goals."
The Americans can't let that happen, not when they want to reach a second consecutive Confederations Cup in order to gain the invaluable experience of playing in the eventual World Cup country and its stadiums.
"The main objective is winning the game and getting to the Confederations Cup," said Clint Dempsey, who has scored a team-high three times. "That's the goal."
Dempsey also acknowledges that reaching the tournament in 2013 with a win on Saturday will allow the United States to continue to build on what they accomplished last cycle, something that needs to be done in order to show that the team is improving.
"That's what our goal is: To be better than we were last cycle, try to be moving forward as a country in soccer," said Dempsey. "A win tomorrow will be a step in the right direction."
Clints gonna have a field day with Torres-Nilo!
Well when your allowed to score goals with your forearms… i guess even Vidic would have trouble with that.
Here’s hoping Jones doesn’t see red.
Stopping Chicharito is one thing, but Mexico has also shown that De Nigris can step up when Chicharito isn’t playing well. Focusing on just Chicharito and ignoring De Nigris would be a huge mistake.
No Salcido! Exploit the left!
Both teams play better against better opposition. I think Mexico is going to play beautiful futbol today and the US are gonna spill their guts on the field.vIt will be a tight game but I do not think it will be boring in any way!
hahaha You are right. He is no Jozy Altidore.
Ok…whatever you say Sir Alex!
Yeah, I’m sure De la Torre hasn’t picked up on those details!
‘…PAGING DR. PHIL…!!!’
As a DC Fan (Both DC and LA have won Concacaf Champions Cups). your right in a sense. But technically it was not the CL until 2008. It was the champions cup. I know a little nit picky. I read that article too and Ives may have made a minor mistake with the name but his point was still dead on the tournament post 2008 is much more demanding and much more challenging to win (field expanded from 8 to 24, quarters and semis with home and aways instead of a short knockout tournament).
Also, random question but since RSL was the runner up at the CCL does it still get an invite to Copa Sudamerica?
Yeah, but he’s still overrated.
Chicharito makes a living beating much better defenders than the USNT can ever dream of having.
+1 on all your points. Dolo and Lichaj are tough, physical defenders. And Jones is going to be more than happy to “disrupt” Chicharito’s pussyfooting runs through the middle.
Mexico have not yet played Fullbacks of the caliber of Dolo and Lichaj (or however you spell it). I think the pair will keep up with Mexico’s boyish attempts at running down the flanks.
As for Cheech… We have to rough him up. I would love to see Brad or Jones roll up their sleeves and take a couple of shots at him. Sorry Mex but your golden boy’s luck runs out today.
This is a tough one to call. Can Lichaj hold down the left? Can Howard come up big when called upon? And can we find a couple “moments of brilliance” from Dempsey and Donovan? I think Donovan’s play is critical, this is normally the kind of team he can run rampant thru if he can find himself. It will be tight and come down to who can finish, hence gotta give the edge to Mexico. Would love to be wrong.
I would like both Kljestan and Agudelo to sit. It could be close, but this is the best side Mexico has had in many years, while the USA is in decline. Mexico improves on their 1-1-7 record, El Tri 4 USA 1.
Don’t do it its a trap
I can’t believe I’m working during this game. Sigh. Go US, pound them!
I agree. but that’s why we play. In the past they have always felt that they were better. They weren’t. Right now they are better. We need to contol or at least get a tie in the midfield. We have to finish on one or two of the very few chances that we will get.
This is a game that we could really use Holden. Bringing the confidence he showed this season in England to this match could keep Mexico on its heels. I also hope we see Adu in the second half again.
Salt Lake is the first MLS team to make it to the CONCACAF Champions League finals. However MLS teams have made it to CONCACAF Champions Cup finals. I know the format change is a technicality but it does make you technically wrong.
USA wins on penalties, Cherundolo nails the clinching PK.
The other options were pretty bad, but this is still nice to see.
Extra time win for us is my guess.
I’m pretty sure they were the first MLS team to make the CCL finals under the new format, a qualification that SBI did make at some point. Let’s give these guys some credit.
We must crush them.
usually, when it’s USA v Mexico on our turf, I have a good feeling that we have a reasonable chance for a victory. I just don’t know this time…Mexico seems VERY strong. All that being said GO USA!!!
I’m there with you.
Mexico was plenty wasteful against Honduras. Chicharito missed an open header from 6 yards and Gio missed about three himself. Although I would call Mexico a slight favourite, they are beatable with a well organized defense.
You need therapy.
Mexico won’t be as wasteful in front of the net as Guadeloupe, and Panama. Jamaica is the only complete defensive game I felt solid about. We may get one but if they get two we still lose.
I think Adu will be better in a game vs Mexico than big strong fast opposition like Panama, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, etc
In fact we haven’t played a El Salv/Guat/Mex type of opponent yet this Gold Cup.
I think that was a struggle for us, playing guys more athletic than us. It became a problem for Mexico when they faced Honduras.
USA has not been pretty, nor convincing. But USA has won when it had to. I expect more of the same against Mexico – tough match, boring and ugly with a few key USA attacking moments. Finish those, and USA wins.
You should ask for your money back.
Adu 2 – Mexico 0
You asked your wife to take you to a strip club and you are questioning Bob Bradley’s tactics?
“the game won’t be decided between the players”
Really? It’s not foosball or football manager. I think the players on the field might have a little bit to do with it.
I doubted BB decisions and I still think we need another coach to take the US team to the next level but I think after the Panama game (and the Jamaica) I have a little bit of hope and more confidence that we can pull this one off.
For one he showed a lot of guts benching Donovan till the second half and secondly bringing in Adu (my Favorite player!!!!) instead of Edu, at a time that he had a “lot on the line” and so much to lose. Making a tactical switch that resulted in a goal against Panama and created more chances against Jamaica is more than enough to refresh my belief that with proper planning and execution…..Mexico CAN be beaten. If Honduras can come out on the pitch like their hair was on fire then so can we…..with better options up top.
I think your going to be dissappinted tomorrow. I’ve always argue that when these two team play, there is no favorite. Bug unfortunelty we have been playing below average Futbol. Tomorrow the game won’t be decided between the players,… The Coaches will be the key here! This is where I have Chepo having the advantage over Bob. Chepo knows exactly what type of Futbol he wants to play every game. Where as Bob seems to be confused on how to utilize his players and has no idea what type of game to start of with.. Bob has been very sloppy as of late.
U fuc$&ng hate to say it, Mex 1-0 win. Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! 🙁
I asked my wife to take me to a strip club tomorrow night so that I won’t be depressed all weekend. She agreed…. I don’t think I would ever say this, but I will,… I HOPE MY WIFE DOESN’T TAKE ME TO A STRIP CLUB TOMORROW! …. U.S wins, and I’m good all year.
I am soo hyped for this.. Ill be upset if usa lose :/
cause lichaj needs defensive help more than dolo.
spector sees the bench for the first time this GC in the final.
Why do people keep putting LD on the left and Bedoya on the right?
LD and Dolo work well together on the same side, I’m sure that’s what we’ll see.
calm down, he wrote the article from Pacific time, jeez, u guys act like ya never made a mistake b4. These guys have been working their asses off. When u r tired like they r. U could make a simple mistake like that. How about a “thank u” instead,for all good coverage, smh
Playing league of legends is fun.
That is all
Do you think MLS guys don’t care at all about the playoffs?
Hope BB doesn’t get too smart and starts the A team, that means you Landon. Would love to see:
LD – Clint – Bedoya
Jones – MB
Lichaj – Boca – Goodson – ‘Dolo
or a straight 442 with Clint & Agudelo up top.
The question is who to bring off the bench. Right now, without Jozy, we’re thin. Of the players that have gotten some minutes in the GC, here’s my thoughts:
concerns (minuses to go with pluses): Sacha, Adu
not ready: Wondo, Ream
I don’t think any of the others have played in the GC: R.Rogers, J.Spector, Gooch, J.Bornstein
Wow, that’s it. We are so light on the bench, aside from Edu.
I think with the MLS guys (in general), that they really haven’t played in games with the pressure on them. No promotion/relegation means that whether they win or lose, the impact on the club can be managed. When everything is riding on 1 game, I don’t think the MLS guys have experienced that. My $0.02
Pretty late post
don’t ya think? 😉