Arch-rivals USA and Mexico Collide in CONCACAF Gold Cup Final

2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final
United States vs Mexico
Saturday, June 25, 2011, 9:00 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Soccer, Univision
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
Odds to win game: Mexico -155 / USA +120
Total: over 2 -140 / under 2 +110
Three way Line: USA +195 / Mexico +130 / Draw +225 (regulation and injury time only, does not include overtime or shootout.)

Landon Donovan and the US soccer team take on arch-rival Mexico in the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Mexico is a significant favorite.

National politics aside, these two sides just don’t like each other. Every time the USA and Mexico meet up on the soccer pitch, it is c0ntentious. The fact that it is for the North American Championship just adds fuel to the fire. These two teams have combined to win 9 of the 10 CONCACAF Gold Cups ever contested and are meeting in the finals for the 3rd straight time. The US won 2-1 in 2007 but Mexico crushed them 5-0 in 2009. Mexico has won this tournament 5 times and the USA have won it 4 times.

The United States and Mexico are far and away the best teams in the region. They always make the final group for qualifying for the World Cup, which means they have to play a home and home series. To give you an idea of how much these teams hate each other, Mexico always schedules their home game at Stadio Azteca in Mexico City. Mexico has never lost to the United States at home due to the altitude and air pollution of Mexico City. The United States has offered to play their home game in warm weather cities in the Southwest with large Hispanic populations such as Los Angeles, Dallas or Houston if Mexico would move their game from Azteca. The Mexican soccer federation refuses that offer each time. So the United States schedules their game in such frigid locales as Columbus, Ohio or Boston in February. The US is 9-2-1 in their last 12 home games against Mexico.

Though this game will be played on American soil, it will be almost like a home game for the Mexicans. The game will be played in the sold out Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Of the more than 90,000 fans expected for the game, it is estimated that 70-80 percent of the crowd will be cheering for Mexico.

Both of these teams have had some difficulties to overcome in getting to this point. At the beginning of the tournament Mexico has 5 players suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, including starting goalkeeper Memo Ochoa. The Mexican Federation said the positive tests were due to the players ingesting tainted meat. All players passed their back-up tests, so that could be true, but they are still out for today’s championship game. Mexico romped through the group stage outscoring Cuba, El Salvador, and Costa Rica by a combined score of 14-1. However Mexico has struggled so far in the knockout stage. They beat Guatemala 2-1 in the quarters. Honduras held them to a scoreless draw through regulation in the semifinals but Mexico won 2-0 in overtime. Mexico has outscored their opponents 18-2 in 5 matches in this tournament.

Meanwhile, the USA has done just enough to advance. They beat Canada 2-0 in their first game before a shocking loss to Panama 2-1 in their second game of the group stage. It was the first time the USA had ever lost a group stage game in the Gold Cup and also the first time they had ever lost to Panama. The US then had to beat lightly regarded Guadeloupe to make the quarterfinals. Despite peppering the net with 19 scoring chances, the US was only able to garner a 1-0 win. In the quarters the USA, played their best game of the tournament in a 2-0 win over Jamaica last Sunday. The United States were then able to avenge the upset to Panama as they won 1-0 in the semifinals. US Keeper Tim Howard has posted 4 shutouts in 5 games.

American Coach Bob Bradley made an adjustment to his line-up for the quarterfinals as he took superstar midfielder Landon Don0von out of the starting line-up and brought him in as a second half sub. Donovan also came off the bench in the rematch with Panama. The US is already without striker Jozy Altidore who is out with a hamstring strain. If Donovan doesn’t start, it will fall on Clint Dempsey and 18 year old Juan Agudelo (who replaced Altidore in the line-up) to create most of the offense. Dempsey has struggled to finish missing several wide open nets during the tournament. Midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones could be dangerous if given the chance.   In a great story, former next big thing Freddy Adu returned to the line-up and played significant minutes. He actually had an assist on the game winner against Panama.  The US will depend of Howard and their defenders led by Captain Carlos Bocanegra  to slow down the potent Mexico attack.

Despite only having one start in international competition, backup goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera has been brilliant in replacing the suspended Ochoa giving up only 2 goals in five games.   The Mexico attack is led by Javier Hernandez, one of the best strikers in the world, and Aldo Di Nigris who has come off the bench to score two crucial goals for Mexico. Midfielder Andres Guardado is questionable with a sprained ankle. If he can’t go Giovani dos Santos will move to the left.   On defense, Mexico really hasn’t been tested that much because the midfielders have dominated possession, but Hector Moreno, Rafa Marquez, Efrain Juarez, and Carlos Salcido are all capable of being dominant defensively.

Evertime these two teams get together it is an emotional affair. Mexico will look to dominate possession as they have throughout the tournament. The US will have to take advantage of the few chances they will get to score. I think this will be a close game and could even go into extra time or a shootout. Mexico has a little too much for the US and wins 2-1.

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