USA vs. Mexico Gold Cup Final Preview

The whole reason the Rose Bowl was selected as the site for the Gold Cup final, was in hopes USA would play Mexico.  CONCACAF got their wish.  A sold out Rosebowl (and honestly, likely a 70/30 or so Mexican crowd) will watch tonight’s USA vs. Mexico match with a lot on the line.

First, the winner is the Gold Cup champion, and has bragging rights as the top country in North and Central America and the Caribbean.  Playing in a packed stadium against a top squad is also a benefit for USA and Mexico, as the atmosphere and opponent are very similar to that of a World Cup game.  But probably most importantly, a bid to the Confederations Cup is on the line.  The Confederations cup is known as the second biggest soccer tournament to the World Cup is where USA beat Spain in 2009 and got up 2-0 before falling 3-2 in the final to Brazil.

But the ride to Pasadena was far from paved with roses.  Lets take a look at how each team got here.

MEXICO 5-0 Goals For: 18 Goals Against: 2

Game 1 Mexico 5 El Salvador 0

Chicharito nets goals 3-5 for Mexico on his way to a hat trick.  It was 0-0 at the half, but Mexico got it going quickly in the second to win in dominating fashion.

Game 2 Mexico 5 Cuba 0

Chicharito and Dos Santos net 2 goals each as Cuba gets dominated, and Mexico dominates for a second straight game.

Game 3 Mexico 4 Costa Rica 1

Costa Rica played an all out attacking game, and the Mexicans beat them at their own style, bad.  Mexico led 4-0 at half and cruised.

Game 4 Mexico 2 Guatemala 1

After a dominating group performance, the Mexicans looked unbeatable.  Then they almost got beat by a team they should have rocked.  Guatemala led 1-0 before a 48th minute goal.  Mexico got the go ahead later in the game.

Game 5 Mexico 2 Honduras 0 (ET)

Mexico again looks beatable after going 0-0 through 90 with Honduras.  But they got two goals in the first half of extra time, as Chicharito nearly sealed the tournaments Golden Boot with goal number 7.

USA 4-1 Goals For: 7 Goals Against: 2

Game 1 USA 2 Canada 0

Jozy Altidore gets the scoring started for the US, and Dempsey gets it finished as the US cruises at Ford Field

Game 2 USA 1 Panama 2

USA’s first loss in group play of Gold Cup history.  Panama gets two goals early, one on a PK.  USA gets one later with Goodsen, but too many missed chances puts the US in the L column.

Game 3 USA 1 Guadaloupe 0

Jozy nets a wonder goal early, but the US fail to net an inordinate amount of wide open looks at net.  The result gets them through, nonetheless

Game 4 USA 2 Jamaica 0

USA’s best performance of the cup so far.  Jamaica sailed through group play at 3-0 and were a popular upset pick.  Jones and Dempsey get the goals for the US.

Game 5 USA 1 Panama 0

USA controls the game, but again couldn’t break it open.  An Adu pass to Donovan who set up Dempsey netted the goal to move USA into the final with Mexico.

What To Take

A quick glance at the goal differential makes USA look like a significant under dog.  But don’t be too fooled.  USA and Mexico play a very different style of game.  When the US gets up, they tend to bunker.  Mexico will try to beat you 10-0 if they can.  It’s likely if the US got up 2 goals on El Salvador, they would have sat back, and been plenty happy with a 2-0 win.

Projected Lineups

Here is a look at our projected lineups for both squads.

USA typically runs a 4-2-2, but with Altidore hurt, expect the 4-5-1 which has worked nicely the past two games to be played again.  Dempsey will play up, like a forward, midfield hybrid in this formation

Mexico runs more of a 4-3-3, and are never afraid to attack, and for good reason.  Chichartio, Dos Santos, and De Negris are constantly on the move and will provide more than a test for the US backline

Player by Player breakdown:

Chicharito vs. Juan Agudelo:

Chicharito starts at forward for Man U.  Agudelo sits at forward for New York.  Agudelo is a nice prospect, and should be starting, but this is clear.

Advantage: Mexico

Giovani Dos Santos vs. Clint Dempsey:

Dempsey has played the best out of any US player, has three goals, and really should have atleast four this tournament. Dos Santos  is dangerous, and one of Mexico’s best scorers.  But Dempsey has him by a little

Advantage: USA

Pablo Barrera vs. Alejandro Bedoya

Bedoya has been a nice surprise this Gold Cup so far, and has been an instrumental part of turning things around.  But, Barrera is one of Mexico’s top goal scorers, and right now, Bedoya isn’t on his level.

Advantage: Mexico

Aldo De Negris vs. Michael Bradley

Despite very little playing time in club, Bradley has played decent for the US, but hasn’t provided the spark he has in the past.  De Negris has been an instant goal scorer despite not always starting.  De Negris gets the nod for game changing ability.

Advantage: Mexico

Israel Castro vs. Jermaine Jones

Jones is a newcomer to the US and has shown some promise.  He’s very strong, wins 50/50 balls, and makes opponents think twice about coming near him.  Castro has some speed, and can be dangerous, but is very turnover prone with the ball.

Advantage: USA

Gerardo Torrado vs. Landon Donovan

Donovan has been in new territory lately.  Off the bench.  But as long as he’s healthy he has to start.  He controls pace, and makes big plays with his lower stature.  Torrado is a fast player but can be prone to mental mistakes.

Advantage: USA

Carlos Salcido vs. Eric Lichaj

Lichaj has been nothing short of awesome this world cup, providing a great presence at LB and allowed Boca to play closer in.  But Salcido has been good for longer and has more experience in this rivalry.  His time with Dempsey in club is a nice bonus too.

Advantage: Mexico

Hector Moreno vs. Carlos Bocanegra

The move inside for Bocanegra has been a good one for him.  Moreno is young, but part of the U-17 that won Mexico the world cup, and plays in La Liga.

Advantage: Mexico

Rafa Marquez vs. Clarence Goodson

The tale of old vs. young.  Goodson has shown a lot of promise, and has been very good with balls in the air.  Marquez isn’t what he used to be, but what he used to be was one of the best CBs in the world.  He’s still very good.

Advantage: Mexico

Efrain Juarez vs. Steve Cherundolo

Another tale of young vs. old.  Cherundolo is arguably the best RB the US has ever produced, and still playing at a very high level.  Juarez is with Celtic and shows a lot of promise, but Cherundolo has the experience on his side.

Advantage: USA

Alfredo Talavera vs. Tim Howard

This is the biggest talent disparity at a position in this game.  Bigger than Chicharito vs. Agudelo.  Howard is a world class goalie, often labeled in the top 3.  Talavera is the Mexican backup, and hasn’t really been tested much this GC.

Advantage: USA

By my count that’s Mexico 6 USA 5.  Coincidentally, Gold Cups all time are Mexico 5 USA 4

This would mean Mexico is a slight favorite, which they probably are.  Mexico is 2.1/1 to win out right, USA is 2.6/1.   The best odds are on a draw after 90 at 2.8/1

One wildcard could be game location.  While Mexican fans will likely outnumber American fans the game is on US soil.  Mexico is 1-8-1 in their last 10 games on US soil.  Hopefully the streak continues.  but I’m going to have to go with Mexico 2 USA 1 FINAL.

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