The United States captured the Gold Cup against Mexico on Sunday in Las Vegas and in doing so was crowned the best team in CONCACAF. Here are three things we learned.
U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter took a gamble with a second-string team at the Gold Cup this summer, and in the end it paid off in Las Vegas as the American won the title for a seventh time in team history.
The final on Sunday evening at Allegiant Stadium featured the usual tension and passion of a USMNT match against rival Mexico. This one also featured a thrilling extra time goal that dashed the Mexicans’ hopes at a trophy.
Just two months after the U.S. downed El Tri in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League 3-2 in extra time, the Gold Cup final showed that the USMNT program has plenty of depth even when stars like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie aren’t playing.
The final capped off a summer of tournaments featuring national teams. Last month, Italy won the Euros, while Argentina captured the Copa America. All three continental competitions served as a prelude to World Cup qualifying, which will dominate the international calendar over the next year. The World Cup will be hosted by Qatar in November 2022.
Here are three things we learned from this year’s Gold Cup final.
Another close affair
Say what you will about Berhalter’s B team, but the Americans showed Mexico they have depth. The Mexicans, featuring most of their regulars for this final, created many chances but struggled to be incisive in the final third.
The United States, meanwhile, created a few scoring chances of their own. They put a scare in the Mexican backline a few times, especially in the first half when Paul Arriola had two clear attempts thwarted.
The Nations League final was decided by just one goal and this game turned out to be a very tight one as well. It was marathon evening that will go down into the record books as yet another draining U.S. versus Mexico match.
Paying the penalty
A scoreless game after 120 minutes of end-to-end action would have meant that the winner would be determined via a penalty-kick shootout. It isn’t the best way to determine a champion, but it is sometimes the only way after two teams put it all out there.
The Gold Cup final had gone to penalties on only two occasions in the tournament’s history, in 1991 and 2005, and both times the trophy had been awarded to the United States. The Americans had defeated Honduras and Panama in those games, respectively, and never their southern neighbors.
It looked as if this game would also be decided from the spot kick. But defender Miles Robinson’s towering header with three minutes left to play in extra time gave the U.S. the lead and ultimately the victory.
Mexico suffers morale meltdown
One has to wonder what happens here for manager Tata Martino and his team. The Mexicans have always dominated the region, even when the U.S. were very strong in years past. This second straight defeat in a game with a trophy on the line will certainly trigger some soul-searching.
The U.S. are Mexico’s bitter rivals, this we know, and that means this defeat stings that much more for El Tri. It is now Martino’s job to pick up the pieces and assemble a side that can qualify for Qatar 2022.
The United States defeats Mexico once again. It’s a huge morale boost for a program that was in shambles just three years ago after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. This team has wiped all that away with yet another big win against Mexico.