Friday, June 24, 2011

Gold Cup Final: The Preview

After making their way through the opening rounds, both Mexico and the United States have exercised their god given right to contest the Gold Cup final; sometimes you wonder whether it wouldn't just make more sense to start with this match, and skip all the hubbub in between...

Why Mexico Will Win:

The Little Pea- In an international tournament, possessing an inform striker is an absolute must. The competition only lasts a couple of weeks, so if you can keep your best player hot for that period of time, well, you'll probably find yourself in the final. Since finishing off the season at Manchester United, Chicharito has been in fine form for the national team, scoring a tournament leading seven goals; the too often shaky US defense will have their hands filled with him. His pace, movement, and ability to finish could be the difference in Saturday's game, any lack of concentration by the US back line will certainly be punished.

Ideas- In stark contrast to the United States, Mexico are a team vibrant in possession, filled with creativity and attacking ideas. Players like Barrera, Guardado, Dos Santos and Hernandez are all capable of producing something out of nothing, finding the telling touch or pass. When Mexico go forward, there are always options available for the man on the ball, the Mexicans have great players out wide, not to mention the threat of Chicharito through the middle. On the other hand, the US are slow and stodgy when they get possession, often lacking fluency and endeavor; that will have to be changed if they are to out think the Mexicans in attack.

Why The United States Will Win-

Adu- As far as incredible renaissances go, Adu's was fairly impressive. Coming on for his first national team appearance in years, the one time star youngster made an instant impact on the United States' match against Panama, playing a terrific cross field ball to Landon Donovan in the build up to the winning goal. His skill and pace down the wing caused the Panamanians all sorts of problems, and I have no doubt that Mexican left back Carlos Salcido will be fearing the sight of him.

Super Sub Landon- I'm really, really interested by the role that Landon Donovan has taken on in the United States' last two Gold Cup outings. Instead of playing in his normal starting capacity, Donovan was deployed as a second half substitute, and a very effective one too. He added attacking impetus after coming on in both the States' knockout games, even claiming an assist in the semi against Panama. However, a question mark still remains over his ability to contribute from the start of the game, he was absolutely shocking in all three of the US' group matches. I have no doubt that Donovan will play some roll against Mexico, and if he maintains his place on the bench then he could play a big role in the latter stages of the game, maybe even in extra time. For the US, to have a player with the pace and creativity of Donovan fresh for the final stages of a game is a real luxury, one they should take advantage of, by keeping him in reserve for the final half hour.

The Verdict/Prediction- The entire tournament has been building up to it, the other rounds merely fanfare, meant to keep us occupied before this inevitable finale. Even at their most dire, the United States still looked odds on favorites to progress, and Mexico, even as they entered extra time, were always set for a place in the  final.

Mexico enter the game as favorites, their goal heavy performances in the group stage insure that, and even in the slightly tougher knockout rounds they have still looked more convincing than the US. Key to the States' progression has been the identification of a first choice partnership in central defense, the error prone Tim Ream has been consigned to the bench, as the Bocanegra-Goodson axis has rose to prominence.

If Goodson and Bocanegra can stop Chicharito, they will be well on their way to stopping Mexico, but even silencing the Pea doesn't guarantee victory. As mentioned above, players like Barrera, Dos Santos and in particular Guardado are all capable of knicking a goal, there is no question that Mexico have many more match winner than the United States.

Up front, Agudelo is set to plow a lone furrow for the United States, his lack of experience could be tested by a wily Mexican defense, one anchored by Agudelo's New York Red Bulls teammate Rafael Marquez and partner Hector Moreno. There is no doubt that Saturday's final represents the biggest test of Agudelo's fledgling career, and the way he reacts to it could go someway to deciding the United States' attacking fortunes.

I'm going to tip Mexico to win this match, they are a more talented outfit than the United States, and in Chicharito Hernandez they have arguably the World's form player.

Prediction: Mexico 3-1 USA


  1. Poor Freddy. He plays well in the final 25 minutes against a team well outside the FIFA top 50 and here we are again: Unfair the extent that an Eredivisie champ and Premier League starter is going to "fear the sight him."

    Really, man? Give the kid a break.

  2. Perhaps I do exaggerate a bit when I say that Salcido would "fear the sight of him," but certainly, he is a more menacing option in attack then the mediocre Sacha Klejstan. Whether or not the expectations on him from the beginning were fair, there is no doubting his natural talent, he is good enough to cause Mexico the sort of problems that no other member of the US Mens National Team could.