The U.S. men’s football national team faced Mexico for the second time in a month in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final on Sunday night and emerged victorious to be crowned champions.
BACK TO BACK VICTORIES
The regional rivals faced each other earlier on June 6 in the inaugural Nations League final in which the United States had managed to subdue Mexico after extra time in what was a thrilling match.
Facing a completely different set of more experience Mexican players, the United States team was able to keep the game in the balance up to 117th minute in the extra time when Miles Robinson headed home the go-ahead goal, which eventually became the match-winner.
With less than three minutes remaining, the Mexican team was unable to counter as they might have liked and faced a defeat in the Allegiant Stadium in Nevada, U.S.A.
SEVENTH TITLE FOR THE USA
With the World Cup qualifiers looming around the corner, winning the regional championship would be a great boost for the United States and something to work on for the El Tri so that they can perform better in the Qatar World Cup next year.
Both sides created a number of chances, with goalkeepers Matt Turner and Alfredo Talavera playing their part in that, but it came down to an extra-time set-piece that decided the fate of the night, with Kellyn Acosta’s service picking out Robinson for the trophy-winning header from inside the box.
The Gold Cup title is the U.S.’s seventh, which is one less than Mexico’s all-time record of eight championship wins. The only other team to win the trophy is Canada, who won it two decades ago in 2000. The United States had defeated teams like Jamaica, Qatar, and Mexico to be crowned champions.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter had made four changes to the team’s starting lineup from the team that started vs. Jamaica and Qatar in the previous two rounds, with Reggie Cannon, George Bello, Eryk Williamson, and Zardes coming in to replace Shaq Moore, Sam Vines, Gianluca Busio and Daryl Dike.
You might be interested to know more about Hany Mukhtar.
ENTERTAINING FIRST HALF
The U.S. had a nervy moment in the first couple of minutes of the game, with goalkeeper Turner taking a heavy touch on a back pass and then scrambling to get the ball to safety while narrowly avoiding a penalty for tripping the opponent forward Rogelio Funes Mori.
It was a cold reminiscent of what happened in the Nations League final, earlier in June, when Mexico scored in the second minute of the game credit to some shoddy U.S. play in the back.
Mexico was dominant for the earlier stages of the game, with their penalty claim being denied by the VAR (the technology that was being used for the first time in the competition). Later in the 19th minute, the U.S. goalkeeper was able to save a header from a corner kick by Herrera.
A moment of breakthrough came for the United States on the 26th minute when Sebastian Lletget pounced on a loose ball by the El Tri at the back and fed Paul Arriola, who had a chance to beat goalie Talavera but put his shot off the outside of the post.
An exciting first half came to a conclusion as Mexico had to make a forced substitution of Hector Moreno due to an injury in the 44th minute.
Both sides wasted some good opportunities in the opening five minutes of the second half. Lletget got his feet wrong after being played through in the first minute, while Orbelin Pineda canned his chance from the center of the box wide of the goal after doing all the hard work and evading Robinson.
You might be interested to know more about Francisco Trincao.
A NERVY SECOND HALF
In later stages of the game, the United States was able to pressurize Mexico’s defense when in the 69th minute, Salcedo gave away possession for Arriola, who quickly laid it off for Hoppe. The Schalke forward’s long-range shot was destined for goal, but Nestor Araujo was able to get his head on it to put it out of play before the Mexican goalkeeper could be tested.
Talavera, the Mexican goalie, made a sensational save off a U.S. free kick in the 74th minute. Acosta’s curling ball found Zardes in the area, and after a feeble first touch, Arriola had the ball fall to him on foot, only for the Mexican goalkeeper to surprisingly save the shot with his back while cutting off the angle at the post.
There was much drama from the outside interference as well when a fan jumping on the field of play forced Mexico to stop the play while they were in possession in the United States final third, in the 90th minute of the game, forcing the game into extra time.
EXTRA TIME DECIDER
A feeble first half of the extra time saw half a chance being created from both the teams, but it was the United States who came with the breakthrough in the closing stages of the game before it was set to head for the penalities.
In the 117th minute, Gioacchini earned a free-kick, and Acosta curled in perfect service for Robinson, who headed the ball into the net past the Mexican goalkeeper, virtually securing the seventh CONCACAF title for the United States.