FOOTBALL: U.S. men are better, but Mexico wins CONCACAF Gold Cup final by 1-0

Mexico was the clear favorite coming into the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup, competing in a confederation so weak that an imploding U.S. men’s team was the fairly clear second-best option.

The final game, played in front of 62,493 – mostly Mexican fans – at Chicago’s Soldier Field, confirmed the two facts which developed during the tournament:

● 1. Mexico is, without doubt, still the best team in CONCACAF.

● 2. The U.S. men are getting better, but still have a ways to go.

The game started under windy conditions and with plenty of physical play with a noisy crowd that favored Mexico. But the U.S. had excellent early chances from Christian Pulisic in the fifth minute and Jozy Altidore in the seventh minute, but neither got past Mexican keeper Memo Ochoa; Altidore’s shot went past, but just wide. Ochoa made an unwise move on Paul Arriola in the 31st minute coming out from his line at the corner of his goal, but Arriola just missed the shot wide, taken at a difficult angle.

Although the U.S. had the better chances, Mexico led in shots, 8-4, and possession, by 53-47% at the half.

The U.S. had more chances to start the second half, including perfectly-placed Pulisic corner that led to a Jordan Morris header in the 52nd minute that had Ochoa out of position, but was headed on the goal line by Andres Guardado.

From that point, however, Mexico had almost all of the possession and the chances. After sending shot after shot either wide or over the top of goal, a back pass in the box found Jonathan Dos Santos in the middle of the box and he sliced the ball to the corner of the net past U.S. keeper Zack Steffen for a 1-0 lead in the 73rd minute.

The U.S. pressure increased after the goal and led to three corners from Pulisic, but none resulted in a goal. There were some wild exchanges in front of the Mexican net, but the U.S. was unable to convert any of its chances.

Mexico’s dominance in the half was confirmed with a 12-6 advantage in shots (20-10 for the game) and 63% possession in the half (58-42% for the game). This wasn’t Mexico’s best team, and it was about as good as the U.S. can assemble at this point in time.

The victory gave Mexico its eighth Gold Cup win in the 15 tournaments that have been held; El Tri has beaten the U.S. in five of the six Gold Cup finals in which the two have met. Amazingly, Mexico has 12 medals (8-1-3) in the 15 Gold Cups all-time and the U.S. has 13 (6-5-2)!

Canada’s Jonathan David ended up as the top goal scorer with six, just ahead of teammate Lucas Cavallini and Mexico’s Raul Jimenez. Jimenez was named the top player and Ochoa as the best goalkeeper. Summaries:

Canada-Jamaica-U.S. ~ 15 June-7 July 2019
(Full results here)

Final Standings: 1. Mexico (5-0-1); 2. United States (5-1); 3. Haiti (4-1); 4. Jamaica (2-1-2); 5. Costa Rica (2-1-1); 6. Canada (2-2); 7. Panama (2-2); 8. Curacao (1-2-1); 9. El Salvador (1-1-1); 10. Honduras (1-2); 11. Bermuda (1-2); 12. Martinique (1-2); 13. Guyana (0-2-1); 14. Trinidad & Tobago (0-2-1); 15. Nicaragua (0-3); 16. Cuba (0-3). Semis: Mexico d. Haiti, 1-0 (extra time); U.S. d. Jamaica, 3-1. Final: Mexico d. U.S., 1-0.