In a rivalry that has grown to become the most fierce in the Northern Hemisphere, heavyweights Mexico and the United States will duke it out before a raging and colorful crowd in massive Allegiant Stadium, adjacent to Las Vegas’ infamous Strip. And until they meet again, the triumphant winner will take away both bragging rights and the gleaming 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Tournament Trophy.
The two teams are coming off of an emotional and often nose-to-nose bout in the Concacaf Nations League Final that was held at Denver’s NFL Empower Field on June 6th.
An amped American side won 3-2 in extra time behind a Christian Pulisic game-winning goal in conjunction with a world-class penalty kick save from late substitute, Real Colorado soccer club alumni and steady goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath. Soon thereafter, the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) stood proud on the awards ceremony stage and lifted the inaugural Concacaf Nations League Trophy.
In many ways, the Gold Cup final will most likely pick up where that Nations League finale concluded. Hopefully, there will be just as much spirit, competitive play, and far less of the ugly that was evident both in the stands and on the pitch.
During his pre-match media conference, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter said, “We want it to be a physical game, we want it to be a tough, contested game, the same way as Mexico. But we also want it to be fair. The referees’ role in this game is to manage the game in a fair way. I’ve seen numerous times when the players from Mexico have grabbed players’ neck, facial areas. That has no place in the game.”
The Yank’s skipper continued, “My only concern was, when there are these melees, when there are these confrontations between the two teams, that players keep their hands off of each other. I don’t like seeing hands on our players’ necks, and we’re not going to stand for that, and the referee has to get control of that.”
One major factor is the experience difference between the U.S. team that faced Mexico in the Mile High City and the group that is playing in the Gold Cup Tournament. Only four players have carried over from the Nations League Final to this tournament: Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta, plus Reggie Cannon, Sebastian Lletget, and Jackson Yueill.
This younger U.S. team should not be underestimated. They are self-confident and brimming with potential. Coming into this championship match, they are 5-0. They have scored 10 times and much to the credit of a dogged defense and goalkeeper Matt Turner’s impeccable play, they yielded none.
Thursday night’s starting XI against Qatar had an average age of 23 years, 284 days. Gyasi Zardes, who scored the winning goal against a valiant Qatar team, reflected on the positive of what he sees in this team. “This is an extremely young group, and guys have gotten now five games, we’re going to get six games, and that makes a big difference in terms of understanding international soccer... so we feel like we’re in a good spot with that,” the striker said.
The USMNT is 20-36-15 all-time vs. El Tri but hold a 15-9-6 edge since 2000. Mexico is the defending Gold Cup champion and has won the tournament a record eight times.
Fasten your seat beats — this match will be a race until the final three whistles.
USMNT Starting XI
How to Watch
Match Date/Time: Sunday, August 1 at 7 p.m. MT
Venue: Allegiant Stadium — Las Vegas, Nevada
TV Information: FS1, Univision, and TUDN
2021 GOLD CUP: USMNT ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)
DEFENDERS (8): 21-George Bello (Atlanta United; 2/0), 2-Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 21/1), 24-Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 0/0), 20-Shaq Moore (Tenerife/ESP; 10/1), 4-Donovan Pines (D.C. United; 2/0), 12-Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 8/2), 16-James Sands (New York City FC; 5/0), 3-Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 7/1)
MIDFIELDERS (6): 23-Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 36/2), 6-Gianluca Busio (Sporting Kansas City; 5/0), 17-Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 27/7), 10-Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 23/0), 19-Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers; 3/0), 14-Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)
FORWARDS (6): 7-Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 37/8), 11-Daryl Dike (Orlando City; 8/3), 8-Nicholas Gioacchini (Caen/FRA; 5/3), 13-Matthew Hoppe (Schalke/GER; 4/1), 15-Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 8/2), 9-Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 61/14)