For the first time since Giovani dos Santos’ golazo over Tim Howard in 2011, the Mexico National Team and the United States will face off in a Gold Cup Final as both CONCACAF giants clash at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. Here are three things to watch for from Sunday’s title-defining game.
What kind of set-up will the United States come out with? It is no mystery that Mexico have had their difficulties through the course of the last few games, but part of the reason could have been the way the opposing teams have set up to try and beat the Mexico National Team.
In theory, the United States is different, as in they will be more willing to take risks, but we have seen it time and time again where in the past they have resorted to overly defensive tactics against Mexico rather than their typical style of play.
Of course, let’s face it, Mexico are technically a notch above everybody else in CONCACAF, so coach Gregg Berhalter has every right to be overly cautious. But by the same token, the United States is the best team Mexico have faced in this tournament. Gerardo “Tata” Martino also has his reasons to exercise caution, especially considering how dangerous Costa Rica and Haiti looked on the counter.
Stopping Pulisic Martino had plenty of praise towards Christian Pulisic when it came to his pre-game press conference. According to El Tri’s manager, Pulisic is one of the big emerging talents in world football. Whether you choose to believe that or not is up to you, but perhaps it is time Mexico fans admit that at the very least Pulisic is one of the brightest young players the United States has had in...practically ever.
What makes Pulisic special is his ability to disrupt opposing defenses, and when you consider that throughout this tournament Mexico have struggled defending opposing players in transition with lesser talent than Pulisic, El Tri will have to find a way to isolate him and shut him down. Otherwise, Pulisic might be the key for a United States victory.
Can Mexico’s midfield regain their momentum? While we know what we can expect from somebody like Rodolfo Pizarro and Raul Jimenez, the key of this game might lie in the midfield. One of Mexico’s defining traits under Gerardo Martino has been their interchange of positions and their play in between lines. However, in the last two games, Mexico’s interior midfielders have failed to live up to expectations.
With Jonathan dos Santos questionable, the onus could be on what Carlos Rodriguez and Andres Guardado could do to create passing avenues for Mexico’s attackers. If Mexico’s midfield stagnates like it did against Costa Rica and Haiti, this could potentially lead to a lot of silly giveaways and dangerous counterattacks for Pulisic and Co.
As demonstrated on the lead-up to this tournament, Mexico’s play can be a beautiful thing to watch when it works, but it is quite obvious by now a lot of it depends on their midfield.