Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gold Cup Finals Set - USA vs Mexico

It took 120 minutes, but Mexico prevailed over a tough Honduras squad 2-0 to set up the 3rd straight Gold Cup Final between the United States and Mexico. After two scoreless halves of soccer, Mexico wasted little time in the extra periods getting a pair of goals off corner kicks in the 92nd and 98th minute as they won their 5th straight match in the Gold Cup. Pablo Barrera connected with Aldo de Nigris for a header to break the scoreless tie and then found Chicharito for his tournament-best 7th goal of the tournament as the Mexicans advance to the Championship Match. Mexico has outscored their opponents 18-2 over their first 5 matches with Chicharito and De Nigris combining for 11 scores. Chicharito's 7 goals are the second most in Gold Cup history behind only his fellow countryman Luis Roberto Alves, 'Zaguinho', who scored 11 times during the 1993 Gold Cup, including 7 in ONE GAME against Martinique.

So now Mexico and the United States are set to meet once more. The two nations have won 9 of a possible 10 Gold Cup titles, missing out only in 2000 when Canada won the title after the U.S. lost in penalty kicks to Colombia and Mexico got beaten by Canada on a golden goal in the 92nd minute. Over the years, the two sides have met 5 times with Mexico winning 3 of those matches.

1991 Semis - USA 2 Mexico 0
1993 Finals - Mexico 4 USA 0
1998 Finals - Mexico 1 USA 0
2007 Finals - USA 2 Mexico 1
2009 Finals - Mexico 5 USA 0

All 5 goals that Mexico scored in the 2009 Final came in the 56th minute or later as El Tri showed just how explosive they can be. The win also gave Mexico a leg up over the U.S. in terms of titles with Mexico now having 5 to the U.S.'s 4.

It will be interesting to see what the United States does in the finals with regards to how they line up as they've gone the past two games with Landon Donovan coming off of the bench. While youngsters Sacha Klejstan and Alejandro Bedoya have been great additions to the U.S.A. lineup, it will be difficult to replace the experience that Donovan brings to the table. That being said, the only way these young guys will get experience is by playing in high-steaks games such as this one. You also have to take into account the fact that the United States has turned in its two best games of the tournament with Donovan coming on as a sub, a role he has been able to make huge contributions in setting up goals in both games. So we'll see what Bob Bradley does as they attempt to slow down the juggernaut that is Mexico and bring the title back to the United States. Championship game is set for Saturday night at 9 Eastern.

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