2011 Gold Cup: Previewing the Final
It was four short years ago that Benny Feilhaber did this giving the United States the Gold Cup championship. Still fresh on the mind of American and Mexican soccer fans alike is what happened at the Gold Cup in 2009, with Mexico beating an American "B-Team" 5-0.
Well, Saturday night at 9 PM ET, the winner of the last five Gold Cups will face off, with another title on the line. Here is how they stack up against each other.
How They Got Here
The United States finished play in Group C as the second place team. They beat Canada (2-0) and Guadeloupe (1-0) while losing their first ever Gold Cup group play game to Panama (2-1). The United States then beat Jamaica (2-0) in the quarterfinals before exacting revenge on Panama (1-0) to reach the final in Pasadena.
The Yanks played largely uninspired soccer in group play seemingly going through the motions and still advancing. Jozy Altidore, who is now injured, provided the goal that ultimately saw the Americans through in the group stage.
The U.S. then shuffled the lineup a little going to a 5-4-1 formation and starting Alejandro Bedoya in place of Landon Donovan. Donovan came off of the bench in both the quarter and semifinals, making an impact on the game and setting up Clint Dempsey for the goal that would win the game against Panama.
The Americans have seemingly solidified their back line with Steve Cherundolo and Eric Lichaj pushing up the wings and providing dangerous crosses, and captain Carlos Bocanegra anchoring the middle with Clarence Goodson (who is masterful in the air.) Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones have been finding a good mix of attack and defense at the midfield position while Clint Dempsey has been as dangerous as ever.
Mexico cruised through Group A play with a goal differential of +13 while beating up on El Salvador (5-0), Cuba (5-0) and Costa Rica (4-1). El Tri is undoubtedly the most talented team in this CONCACAF Gold Cup, but they'll have to be in peak form to take down the Yanks.
In the quarterfinals, Guatemala struck first against the Mexican national team going up 1-0 only to see Mexico score two goals to win the matchup. El Tri then played Honduras to a tie before tacking on not one, but two goals en route to the final.
The Mexican attack is led by Chicharito (who some think will make the difference) of Manchester United and Giovani Dos Santos, who spent much of last year on loan from Tottenham. Although starting Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa is one of five Mexican national team players suspended, his replacement, Alfredo Talavera, has stepped up with El Tri allowing only two goals in Gold Cup play.
How They Stack Up
With what is deemed a very important trip to the Confederations Cup on the line, this rivalry game will be at heights rarely seen. Both Mexico's and the United States' defense has been solid throughout the Cup with Mexico's back four being rarely tested. However, the Americans must feel a little more confident with Tim Howard in goal seeing as Alfredo Tevez had only one CAP before this Gold Cup competition.
The midfield battle will be interesting to see, but simply because of technical ability I lean towards giving Mexico the edge. Andres Guardado has an ankle injury leaving his status in the Mexican midfield in question, and the U.S. fans must be wondering if they'll see Donovan start over either Bedoya or Sacha Kljestan. Donovan has the experience and play-making ability (especially in the counterattack) that the United States will need if they are to keep Mexico honest.
In the forward slot, the United States are greatly outmatched. Chicharito has loads of talent and class, scoring 20 goals in all competitions with Manchester United. Juan Agudelo, who is expected to get the call up front for the Yanks, is young, talented and energetic, but spends his days playing for the New York Red Bulls and not scoring too prolifically. That said, if the United States defense stays tight and moves together, they can hope to contain Chicharito and count on Timmy if he ever slips through the cracks.
With the game in the United States, that helps the U.S. side a little bit, but nobody will be surprised when the crowd is still pro-Mexico. However, this is a rivalry game and anything can happen, such as this. I expect nothing but a very close game and wouldn't be surprised to see either Mexico or the U.S. win a game 1-0 or 2-1.
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