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Mexico is king of CONCACAF for another two years and there’s no second guessing this time. After beating a US “B” team in the 2009 final, El Tri demolished the best the US had to offer in an entertaining 4-2 final Saturday. With the tournament over let’s take a look at where some teams go from here and some thoughts on who impressed and who has work to do heading into World Cup qualifying.
Saturday night LA was draped in green as Mexico dominated the US 4-2 to claim the Gold Cup finale. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead early the US looked to have a magic touch. But Mexico, sensing weakness on the Yanks left side, unleashed their dangerous set of attackers and made the US pay scoring four unanswered on their way to the Cup and a spot in the 2013 Confederations Cup tournament.
In 24 hours we’ll know how the latest edition of CONCACAF’s best rivalry went down as another US-Mexico Gold Cup finale is upon us. With previews and analysis filling the internet there’s a number of issues and storylines being written about. Here I will provide some of the more interesting ones along with some keys to Saturday’s finale and my prediction.
OK CONCACAF and Gold Cup coordinators you can exhale. It looked rocky at times but all your worry was for nothing. The dream final is set for Saturday and after Wednesday’s matches the US and Mexico look to be a more of an even talent level than anyone would have predicted a week ago.
With the Gold Cup semifinals taking place in Houston I got the chance to get some notes from the teams during their press and training day Tuesday. The general consensus was that the teams all respect each other and feel the competition level is the highest it’s been in the tournament for quite some time. Here are some notes on each team from the day ahead of the final four.
For the second time this weekend a Gold Cup quarterfinal was decided in penalty kicks. This time it was Panama who came out on top 5-3 after they played El Salvador to a 120 minute 1-1 draw. The match had everything you could ask for in a match; theatrics, late goals, physicality, red cards and then the suspense at the end. It even had a stadium full of angry El Salvadorian fans who couldn’t believe their team blew a late 1-0 lead.
There were a number of questions facing the U.S. heading into their Gold Cup quarterfinal against Jamaica. A regional power that was considered by some to be an underdog, the U.S. entered the match as a team struggling to finish and without their best player Landon Donovan in the starting lineup. Yet the Yanks took advantage of their strength in midfield, dominating possession and controlling the flow of the match. Adding a few finishes in the second half, and benefiting from a questionable red card, the U.S. put on their best performance of the Gold Cup and advanced to the semifinals to be played in Houston Wednesday night.
On the day of the U.S.’ Gold Cup quarterfinal against Jamaica it’s seems like ages since the 2010 World Cup. Despite a tough extra time elimination at the hands of Ghana, the U.S. soccer program was riding high coming home from South Africa. Then the plane touched down and reality set in. A lackluster year and three underwhelming Gold Cup group stage games later and the U.S. are facing a tough opponent in a match that they’re not a favorite in. With Jamaica standing in the way of a semi-final berth, Bob Bradley’s U.S. squad will have to fight a team that’s more athletic and in better form.
We now know one of Wednesday’s semi-final matchups. After two hotly contested matches Mexico and Honduras survived the first round of the Gold Cup knockout stages and will meet Wednesday in Houston for a spot in the finale.
It looks like the El Tri's Gold Cup doping issue has reached a conclusion. Days after the five players were given clean test results from a June 10 sample FIFA has ruled that Mexico can replace the five players they removed from the squad. After the reported failed tests on June 9 the Mexican squad has played with just 18 players – now 17 with Ricardo Osorio leaving due to illness – for much of the tournament. It’s not clear who they will bring in or when they will join the Mexican squad - which is preparing in New Jersey for their quarterfinal match with Guatemala.
Sunday’s quarterfinal matches show just how imprecise predictions can be. Teams that were considered to be favorites in the Gold Cup coming in are now underdogs and an unlikely group winner looks to continue a good run. So while Saturday features tournament favorite Mexico and a clash between Costa Rica and Honduras, Sunday offers a bit of role reversal for those involved.
United States stars Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan have been excused from Friday and Saturday training to attend separate weddings. The pair will be back to play in Sunday's quarterfinal match against Jamaica. While the U.S. will briefly miss two of their most valuable players, Mexico is still sorting out the fate of five players who failed May drug test. The five were in Los Angeles to receive the results of a second drug test - given June 10 - which came back negative. The question is where does the investigation go from here and could they be back for Saturday's match with Guatemala.