photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
HOUSTON, Texas – As Honduras applied most of the pressure towards the end of regulation of its semifinal match against Mexico on Wednesday night, there was a growing sense that maybe the U.S. men's national team would not face its most bitter rival in the Gold Cup final afterall.
That belief was quickly crushed with an improved Mexican effort in overtime, an effort that saw El Tri score two goals to set up a United States-Mexico final for the third consecutive Gold Cup.
"Honestly, I think it's going to be a difficult final against a tough opponent that we know has quality players," said Giovanni Dos Santos. "We're going to have dig in deep and do our best to win the final."
Mexico may have won the last Gold Cup final, in 2009, with a 5-0 dismantling of the United States. But that result came against a U.S. team comprised of mostly reserves.
The last time the CONCACAF heavyweights squared off in a final with both being at full strength was in 2007, when the United States needed a come from behind effort, and a wonder strike, to defeat Mexico, 2-1.
""What happened in that moment, happened then," said Andres Guardado, who scored the opener in the 2007 final at Soldier Field. "But now it's a new tournament with a new team. We have more confidence now. We've had a great Gold Cup and we need to finish it off with a win in the championship match."
Guardado, a key figure in Mexico's attack, also admitted he could potentially miss the final with an ankle injury suffered in the 2-0 win against Honduras on Saturday.
"I'm a little worried because it's the final and we all want to be there," said Guardado. "It's the most important game to date, and I don't want to miss it. The doctor has given me reasons to be optimistic and told me that I might be able to play without a problem, and I hope that's the case."
Whether Guardado is there or not, Mexico will enter the final under somewhat different circumstances than their American counterparts. The Mexicans began the tournament in dominating fashion, but have looked beatable in their last two matches.
The U.S. team has done the exact opposite. After starting out slowly with less-than-convincing performances, including a first ever loss in the group stage of the tournament, the United States has rebounded. The Americans have continuously gotten better with each passing game and appear to peaking at just the right moment.
"We're playing a lot better and sometimes it's good to get a wake-up call," said Landon Donovan, who scored off a penalty kick in the 2007 final. "We've said all along that this tournament is a marathon and we can't get too caught up in one result, one performance. You've got to keep getting better as the tournament goes on and now we find ourselves in the final with a chance to win it."
Following their respective games on Wednesday night at Reliant Stadium, both teams shared a mutual respect for one another. Veteran players spoke about how the contests are always tight and how their opponent always provides a stiff test. They also spoke about how it's always special when the two teams meet.
But the awareness of how special and big the final is didn't just come from the guys who have been there before.
"They're a tough opponent, and they're in the finals for a reason," said Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez, who has yet to play against the United States.
"Yeah because I've grown up watching USA play Mexico all the time," said Eric Lichaj. "I would like to be playing in that final game against Mexico if I could."
If you get goals why does it matter to you where they come from?
“Yes Howard is world class..one of the top 5 keepers in the world and most ‘experts’ would and do agree on that…”
That is very,very debateable. Maybe top 20, or top 15. How often do you hear about any top team wanting to buy him?
“you may recall he won keerp of the compeition in the 2009 Confederation Cup…”
That was in 2009 before he had a pretty shaky 2010 World Cup.
Howard is a very good keeper who periodically loses concentration at bad times. Keeper is not necessarily a problem spot for the US but it would be very good if someone would challenge Howard for the US job as he gets complacent with his “automatic” selection.
Maybe not but they think enough of him to feature him in commercials.
The food at McD’s is annoying simpleton? Maybe you should re-think your attempted insult. You should take heed to your name and ‘go away’.
Hell Yeah boys!! I’ll be wearing my Dempsey away jersey with a SA scarf and letting the Mexico fans have it. DON’T TREAD ON ME!
the truth hurts, eh?
You’re such an annoying simpleton!
Just like the food served in McD’s!!!
I am in 4-H, will be wearing a Donovan Jersey and USA flag, and screaming my A$$ off.
more likely Rafa gets a red card. doesn’t he try to injure a US player every time we play? i’ll predict another
DOS A CERO!
screw that! there will be plenty of US supporters who’ve got your back. wear your red, white and blue with pride
That’s if he passes the drug test.
El Tri 4 USA 1
US gets two red cards, Jones and …………..
Costa Rica fans wouldn’t make the same impact as Mexico, the difference in the populations of the countries will tell you that. Though I will grant you that Portland would be a place to shoot for a USMNT game.
I always thaught Donovan a World Class player and I’m Mexican so what’s the problem? Tim Howard World Class keeper, amongst the top ten in the world, so what’s the problem?
BUT a player that scores twenty goals for the Premier League Champions and runner-up European Champions, is World Class too my friend. And maybe Dos is not World Class, but he had Messi riding the pine for a year while he was at Barca. Maybe a story he can tell his kids.
And Dempsey? So why isn’t Salcido World Class? Different positions same club. He was champion with PSV back to back, has played Champions League and UEFA.
To say that Howard is the only world calss player from both teams would be admissible to some, if it weren’t for the fact that one Rafael Marquez is there also!
Richards may be fast but he also can’t dribble the ball and something which Mexicnas are very adapt at.
We were outnumbered 70-30 at Giants stadium in 2009, what do you expect in LA?
I agree with the pressure comment. The U.S. can force turnovers and counter- that’s their best chance of scoring. The longer the game goes on as a tie or a U.S. lead, the greater the advantage it is to the U.S. The key, as usual, will be to not get behind early, especially in the first half. If that happens, Mexico will loosen up and possess the ball more. They seemed tight and feeling the pressure of high expectations in the last two matches. The U.S. has possessed the ball much better recently so it will be interesting to see how much possession they get against Mexico. With the U.S. peaking at the right time, I predict a final score: USA wins 2-1 in overtime.
In stadium Civility???
As in Baseball and Football or just soccer? Please clarify.
Did all of the American fans come back in one piece from their Azteca experience?
Has there ever been an American fan hurt in Mexico attending any sports event?
Javier Hernandez scored twenty goals in his first year anywhere other than Mexico for the Premiership Champions and European runner ups, had Dimitar Berbatov benched, and for country has been unstoppable scoring against everyone including France and Argentina in South Africa…but he is not World Class… sheesh!
I’ll be there! Looking forward to a great game with some lively crowd support from both sides!
This is going to be a great game. The US can pull it off, but even if they don’t it will be great experience for some of the young’uns as qualifying starts up next year. (The Rose Bowl should approximate an away game quite well under these conditions.)
Not sure it as an advantage, but it is clearly better than playing in Mexico city!
I remember a USA qualifying match vs Guatemala in Birmingham. AL
The USA fans were badly outnumbered, by tiny Guatemala. A check in the parking lot showed that a very large number of cars and vans from Washington, DC, New York and Florida with tailgate parties of fans wearing the blue and white Guatemalan colors.
My favorite though was in Chicaqo at the Gold Cup final; a girl was carrying a flag pole with both the Maxican flag and the Stars&Stripes; hedging her bets I guess.
I’ve attended the last 3 GC finals and am sorry I can’t make the trip to the west coast for it. For those of you who will be there, yell 5 times louder to make up for the numbers deficit.
Mexico beat Italy by one goal and lost to Uruguay by one goal… neither of those results suggests they’re out of Mexico’s league.
Russia didn’t qualify for the World Cup because they got beaten by Slovenia, whom everyone around here loves to beat up when they’re slagging the quality of the USA’s group in last year’s World Cup.
I’m not seeing the problem here.
If you had asked me early on in the tourney, I would have said Mexico will win 3-0. However, as things have progressed, the U.S. seems to have found the right combination on the back line, and the adjustments in the midfield and up top after the Panama loss have greatly improved our play. I can’t imagine though that we’ll see Donovan come off the bench in this one like has in the last two. My projected line up and formation are below:
I think we will see Bedoya, Adu, and possibly Edu come in as subs. Bedoya has the intensity, passing, and field vision to play well against El Tri, and Adu has the on-the-ball skills to be very disruptive to their midfield and create chances with Donovan and Dempsey like he did against Panama. If Jones plays well throughout, we may not see Edu.
I predict a 1-0 U.S. win on a late goal.
Not many…but he isn’t even being courted by any English teams either…
Altidore had a world class goal too…just sayin’…:) It doesn’t make either world class and that was my point…
My mom is English…from Mansfield and I lived in the Oxford, Liverpool and Ipswich areas for 8 years as a kid…my dad American…you have fun too…great place you are going…
Don’t ever go to a stadium in Argentina let’s you need therapy for the rest of your life!
Mexico isn’t know to bunker.. the US does.
Those rankings make less sense to me than the FIFA rankings, honestly. Egypt ahead of US? Mexico above Portugal, Croatia, Uruguay, Italy, Russia?
Nah. Two of our midfielders are also our best forwards. When we play 4-5-1 (4-2-3-1) goals from midfielders are expected. How many of Dempsey’s goals this tournament can you say specifically were scored from a midfield position? In reality, Dempsey plays as a freelancer and, especially late in games, moves into a forward position. I don’t fear Aldo De Nigris any more than other teams feared Herculez Gomez when he was the leading scorer in the FMF or Edson Buddle when he was bossing the MLS.
They have 0 world class players and we only have one.
If you feel otherwise, you are devaluing the label “world class”.
If Chicharito is world class, then Dempsey is world class (Dempsey is better in the air, better at distance shooting, better on free kicks, has better ball skill, and both have similar scoring record in the same league). Hernandez could be a world class player someday, but he isn’t there yet.
If Guardado or Dos Santos are world class, then so is Donovan. I consider Guardado and Donovan to be about the same level and the same type of player. Gio has the potential to be better, but he is still an average player and not “world class”.
The truth is, Howard is the only world class player from both selections.
I’m expecting an 85/15 split at best for Mexico/US support…so wherever you are sitting, you might want to bring a green shirt to put on just in case things get testy.
I’m in 3-L. Assuming that SE corner is where most US fans will be — those sections were part of the “USAfan” and “Stand” ticket sales from US soccer. Hopefully SA and AO will be tailgating on that east side (“bus parking”) and/or on the golf course.
Correct. The opponent dictates strategy. Mexico will look to make every possession count, and they will expect to get some space to work in the middle third as we keep organized behind the ball. Mexico’s aptitude on the counter attack will influence us as well. We will look to stay compact and will likely try a lot of planned movements where we appear to be working the ball slowly and then play a long pass and hope for a transition play.
Because of this, I think we will take the defensive posture and let Mexico be the aggressor in control of possession. If we deny the space to Gio, Barrera, and Guardado to pick out each other and get service in to Chicharo we can exploit them in transition, which is what I feel Bradley considers our best chance to nip a goal and park the bus. If we attack in possession, expect lots of short passes around the back to set up the diagonal loft to open up space for crosses, and don’t expect to see Bradley or Jones getting involved in the attack in advanced positions.
They certainly don’t “love” him, but there is a level of respect that he has earned because of his international career. Many of the Mexican supporters I interact with consider him a good player, but a mentally soft one who can be taken out of a game easily. They also love to point out his modeling photos and failed attempt at cultivating a suave persona (not unlike his compatriot Beasley).
Mexico has its share of brutish supporters too. US players get pelted with trash whenever they take a throw in or corner kick. There is some measure of bitterness toward “gringos” but by and large Mexican supporters want the US to become a stronger rival, so they respect our players who play at a high level.