America would have its second chance at an international championship as the USA took on Mexico in the Copa Oro final at the House that Cutler Built in Chicago, Illinois. The stage was set for Gregg Berhalter to face off against a familiar foe as Tata Martino led El Tri into the final.
Going into the game the story around the USMNT, who was undefeated in the tournament with 15 goals scored, one allowed, and five wins was something between - “this seems OK, the team is putting it together without some big players and there’s been some progress here even with a struggler or two” to “MLS is a conspiracy and nobody who coached there should lead a national team but if Tata was in charge the team would be better.” Coming out of it, the story would be that the US showed some progress during the tournament, but there are probably a lot of justifiable concerns involving the manager and players as that progress wasn’t validated by a trophy after 90 minutes.
In the end, the chances were there for the US and the team just couldn’t exploit them. The first half was wide open and it looked like the Americans had a solid handle on the match and were even getting the better of their opponents. At the half, Mexico made an adjustment to put more pressure on the US, starving Christian Pulisic of touches. Without their main playmaker things fell apart for the Stars and Stripes in the second 45. Meanwhile, a goal for Jonathan dos Santos was enough and Mexico won the first Former MLS Manager Concacaf Gold Cup Derby.
Gifs of missed chances, fights, and a goal for Mexico that finally exposed a lot of the problems that had been discussed, but not really exploited by opponents until now
The match began with both teams ignited at full speed. Mexico came out strong with the US handling their push toward goal, meanwhile in the attack Christian Pulisic forced Memo Ochoa into a save early with Jozy Altidore missing on connecting with a bicycle kick and moments later being sent through for a one v. one that he pushed wide of Memo’s goal after temporary transforming into Cody Parkey.
Mexico would have their chances too, as Andres Guardado was played through on a late run through the box, but a miracle save from Paul Arriola did just enough to deflect the shot over the bar.
¡¡Finalmente, responde México!! Guardado la tuvo y la mandó a volar por encima de la arquería.— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) July 8, 2019
México 0-0 Estados Unidos
Disfruta de #TuCopaOro EN VIVO https://t.co/A6D3U7jNk2 pic.twitter.com/mRs85oDd8t
Then things got chippy.
Then things got weird.
That was followed by a player who wasn’t on the original 23 man roster dribbling through two Mexico players and making a 40 yard run with the ball at his feet when Reggie Cannon pushed forward in the 37th minute. Sadly, his effort would go unrewarded as the las estrellas y rayados couldn’t find the final ball to set up a shot.
The teams kept trading kinda good chances that didn’t quite come off. First was MLS midfielder Jonathan dos Santos sending a blistering shot that had goooooooooooolllllllllllll written all over it, until it didn’t.
Then Christian Pulisic tried to copy American Legend Michael Bradley by chipping Ochoa.
Basically the first half should have been sponsored by Chiquita and Ferrari, because it was bananas and it was fast. The US largely kept Mexico from building possession and managed to push forward effectively and looked dangerousish and at times were even threatening. Meanwhile, Mexico had a few opportunities to score, but similarly could not find a breakthrough.
The second half would begin with things getting chippy again just to go ahead and set the tone for the next 45.
I would not do that again if I was Andres Guardado, apparenly he didn’t kill McKennie so wasn’t shown a card.
Meanwhile, los trece rayados had put Mexico on their heels. After a nice run, Paul Arriola put a cross into the box that was cleared before it could be shot at goal by Jordan Morris. Then a goal line save by Andres Guardado kept the score at nil-nil. As the half progressed, the cracks in the US began showing. Michael Bradley had struggled to do much defending or midfielding or good passing in the first half and Mexico began to exploit it in the second as their press began to materialize more effectively. The result was fewer touches for Pulisic and less danger from the Americans.
In the 60th minute the US would make a change with Jordan Morris coming off for Cristian Roldan and a few minutes later
Jay Cutler would come off for Rex Grossman Altidore would come off for Gyasi Zardes as the TFC man’s hamstring was only 60 minutes match fit.
The change would come as the tricolor continued to grab hold of the game. Through the 63ish-68ish minute Mexico would create three good chances and it seemed like a matter of time before this happened.
¡¡GOOOOOOOOOLAAAAAZOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! ¡¡GOOOOOOOOOLAAAAAZOOOOOOO!!!— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) July 8, 2019
¡¡GOOOOOOOOOLAAAAAZOOOOOOOOO DE JONAAAA CON GRAN PASE DE TAQUITO DE RAÚL!!
México 1-0 Estados Unidos pic.twitter.com/cdcLHTlUO6
And by that I mean Pizarro making a run that Bradley couldn’t keep up with (because wow he looked SO SLOW this entire match - like, very, very slow) and Tim Ream couldn’t close down while absolutely nobody managed to track dos Santos.
Down a goal (because Mexico scored in case he didn’t notice) Berhalter brought in
Tyler Boyd no wait sorry Jonathan Lewis hold on, wait, WHAT REALLY?
DANIEL LOVITZ - DOWN BY A GOAL, LEFT BACK DANIEL LOVITZ ENTERED THE GAME WITH THE LAST SUB - WHAT OMAR GONZALEZ WASN’T WARMED UP YET OR SOMETHING?
to help Mexico see out the game.
Somehow the gambit didn’t work and Lovitz’s lone contribution to the box score was a foul. Mexico would see out the game and emerge as Copa Oro champions.
Overall it was a sort of replay from the Tata-Berhalter MLS days. The ole Crew vs. Atlanta games had the same kind of madcap energy that this one did with Berhalter’s possession style not quite able to keep with or overcome Atlanta’s press and push in transition chaos style (the playoffs not withstanding when Atlanta should have won but Zack Steffen stood on his head). This is the first time that the US was beaten in an official competition under Berhalter and while this is a process and this is a secondish choice roster, the game was there for the taking. When the US wasn’t able to convert their chances, Mexico, also playing their B team, won as Berhalter was out-coached by the former manager of Paraguay, Newell’s Old Boys, Barcelona, Argentina, and Atlanta United.