Today was a contrast of United States national soccer programs.
In France, the USWNT won back-to-back World Cup titles, defeating Netherlands 2-0. The game was a testament to the absurd wealth of talent the USWNT program has at its disposal. Yes, they play with heart and unmatched charisma. At the end of the day though, they just have better players than everyone else.
That’s not necessarily the case with the USMNT.
As discussed in our preview post of the Gold Cup Final against Mexico, some think El Tri have a positional advantage at each line-up spot over the Americans.
At a minimum, Christian Pulisc showed that’s definitely not the case tonight. However, despite a spirited and gutty effort, the USMNT simply couldn’t overcome the talent disparity against Mexico, losing the Gold Cup Final 1-0.
Both teams had big chances early
This game saw both sides create big chances early on.
Christian Pulisic, who often looked like the best player on the field, and Jonathan dos Santos both had near misses in the opening minutes.
Jozy Altidore, who earned the start over beleaguered striker Gyasi Zardes, will rue a missed opportunity in the 8th minute. Altidore received a headed pass from Paul Arriola that left him with a clear shot to put the US ahead. He muffed it off his right foot, sending the shot wide.
Almost immediately thereafter, Raúl Jiménez’s header was denied by US keeper Zack Steffen.
VERY physical, open, hyper-charged play continued until the half. The US and Mexico went into the tunnels tied 0-0.
Scoring opportunities continued, Mexico converted one of theirs
The second verse was same as the first, as both sides came out physical.
Mexico was lucky not to earn a red card, as Jozy Altidore was cheap-shotted in the 47th minute.
Big scoring chances continued as well. The US almost took the lead in the 51st minute. Christian Pulisic delivered a corner that Jordan Morris headed from close range. Morris beat Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, but Jesus Guardado was perfectly positioned to head the ball away before it crossed the line. It was a brilliant and ultimately game-changing block.
Mexico broke through in the 79th minute as Jonathan dos Santos finished a dirty little flick from Jiménez.
The US dug in and fought to create more chances until the very end. Ultimately, the dos Santos goal was the difference in the game.
USMNT can build on this
Two things were clear from this match:
- The US doesn’t have the quality of talent to match Mexico just yet. Outside of Pulisic and Weston McKennie, there’s a striking talent and tactical disparity.
- However, if they can play with this level of intensity moving forward, they will gut out some surprising wins.
This is not a game the US should leave discouraged. They fought hard and were a bit unlucky not to convert. It was their best overall display of the tournament, even though it ended in a loss.
The US can — and should — build on this.