Tag Archives: Mexico

Gold Cup 2011: The Final – Mexico vs. USMNT

This is the final that everyone expected, and virtually everyone wanted to see.  While the road to the Rose Bowl hasn’t been simple for either team (see the US loss to Panama in the group stage, or Mexico’s narrow extra-time victory over Honduras in the semifinal); was their really any doubt that the continent’s two juggernauts would be vying for the regional title?  Since the Gold Cup began in 1991, either the US (4 wins, 3 runner-up finishes) or Mexico (5 wins, 1 runner-up) has won all but one of the titles – Canada won in 2000.

With the region’s two premier teams playing for the title, the game has gotten a lot of attention in the national media.  This morning, ESPN had Alexi Lalas on SportsCenter discussing the match.  The Worldwide Leader couldn’t resist mentioning that the US has lost just once to Mexico on US soil since 2000, though that one loss was a 5-0 drilling in the 2009 Gold Cup final, though this blog post by Scott French of ESPN Los Angeles should make some USMNT fans feel better.  According to French, the US has outscored El Tri 21-8 in matches outside of Estadio Azteca since 2000.  Throw the 5-0 beating out, and the difference jumps to 21-3 in 12 matches!

Player/Position Comparison: 

Tim Howard gives the USMNT the edge in goal.

Goalkeeper – The easiest comparison of the bunch.  Tim Howard, as mentioned before is one of the best in the world.  He’s at the top of his game and a true difference maker.  Take a look at this save (about 2o seconds into the video) against Jamaica to see what I’m talking about.  Alfredo Talavera, however, has Guillermo Ochoa and his failed doping test to thank for his spot in the starting XI.  Advantage: USMNT

Defense – Bob Bradley seems to have found his starting back 4 with Steve CherundoloClarence GoodsonCarlos Bocanegra and Eric Lichaj all playing well in the past 3 games.  Lichaj and Cherundolo have been dangerous moving forward, though they will have to defend much more against Mexico than they have in previous matches.  The US back line has not conceded a goal since the loss to Panama but will certainly be tested against Mexico.  El Tri’s back 4 of Rafa Marquez, Héctor Moreno, Efrain Juarez and Carlos Salcido have conceded just 2 goals the entire tournament, though they have yet to be truly tested.  Advantage: Push

Midfield – Mexico plays with a classic four man midfield.  Two central midfielders (Gerardo Torrado and Israel Castro) and two wingers (Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera.  Barrera has played well in the Gold Cup, scoring 1 goal and assisting on 3 others.  Guardado may not start due to an ankle injury. If Guardado can’t go, Giovani Dos Santos would likely slot into his spot.  Expect Bob Bradley to start a five man midfield, as this formation has worked in the last two games.  While Landon Donovan hasn’t started the last two games, he HAS to be on the field.  He’s a big game player for the US and has played well against Mexico in the past.  Michael BradleyJermaine Jones,  Clint Dempsey and Alejandro Bedoya should keep their spots in the lineup.  Dempsey has been extremely good, and Bedoya has transferred his fine form with Örebro to the USMNT.  Though the US has played well, Mexico is better from a technical standpoint.  (slight) Advantage: Mexico

Chicharito has been on fire this year. Will the USMNT be able to keep him of the scoresheet?

Forward – Though the goalkeeper comparison is one-sided, this is the area of the field where the difference between the two teams is most apparent.  Javier Hernandez has been a revelation this season.  Chicharito scored 20 goals for Manchester United in 45 appearances and has netted another 10 goals in 8 appearances for El Tri.  Seven of those goals have come in the Gold Cup.  With Jozy Altidore out with a hamstring injury, the US will likely start 18-year-old Juan Agudelo up top.  Agudelo has shown flashes, but he’s no match for Hernandez.  Advantage: Mexico

Prediction – While Mexico holds the advantage from an individual talent perspective, the US is greater than the sum of its parts.  In addition to the team mentality that permeates the USMNT camp, the US team believes it can beat Mexico.  No matter how partisan the crowd, and in Southern California it will likely be extremely pro-Mexico, the USMNT has proven time and again that it has the mentality necessary to defeat its southern rivals.  Score: USMNT 2 – Mexico 1. 

France’s Flame Out and Other Musings

Siphiwe Tshabalala (L) has been South Africa's danger man

Wow!  Just wow!  When France goes down, they do it with panache.  Their 2010 World Cup campaign is eerily similar to their 2002 flame out.   During that World Cup. France lost to an African team (Senegal), drew with Uruguay and lost to Denmark.  The only wrinkle this time is instead of losing to a European team, they lost to a North American team.  Unfortunately for the continent of Africa and the host nation, South Africa was not able to duplicate Senegal’s improbable qualification for the knockout round.  On their way to a 2-1 loss, Sidney Govou, Florent Malouda, Patrice Evra and Eric Abidal were all dropped from the starting line-up.  This sends a signal that these players must have been the main troublemakers in the French camp.   Raymond Domenech continued with his odd line-up choices starting Djibril Cisse over Thierry Henry (if you happen to click the link and look at Henry’s bio, he looks a bit forlorn in the picture, perhaps he knew what was coming for France).  I understand that Henry is getting a little old in terms of international soccer (he’s 32), but doesn’t he present a better option up top than Djibril Cisse?  It will be interesting to see how France rebounds under the leadership of Laurent Blanc with Euro 2012 qualifying starting in September.

In other news from the France-South Africa game – Siphiwe Tshabalala, who plays in South Africa with Kaizer Chiefs, had another great game.  He assisted on South Africa’s first goal with a great corner and was consistently dangerous from his midfield spot.  Steven Pienaar received most of the attention in the lead up to the World Cup, and rightfully so.  Pienaar plays for Everton in the EPL (4 goals and 3 assists this past season) and was much more of a known commodity.   Tshabalala (who has my favorite name at the World Cup) was a relative unknown outside of South Africa.  After his performance a European team will come calling for his services.  He was South Africa’s most dangerous player all tournament and ultimately the star of the tournament for Bafana Bafana.  It’s a shame that South Africa didn’t advance from their group, becoming the first host country ever to not advance.

As of now, we know that Mexico and Uruguay have advanced.  Uruguay finished first in group A and will likely avoid a round of 16 match with Argentina.  Mexico will likely play Argentina, who should finish atop group B.  This would be the 2nd consecutive World Cup that Argentina and Mexico have met in the round of 16.  The next set of matches starts soon, off to enjoy more soccer.