The US Men's National Soccer Team takes on Mexico tonight at 8:30 on Fox Soccer channel in the finals of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. It is the fourth straight year the US has reached the finals and the fifth time they will meet Mexico. The two nations have split the last two Gold Cup Finals.
Mexico enters the game as the clear favorites and may very well be fielding their best team ever with the arguably the best attacking force this tournament has ever seen. El Tri, as they are know, has dominated Gold Cup play so far with 18 goals from five matches. The United States' attack hasn't been nearly as prolific, but they have been very stout at the the back, allowing just two goals in their five matches. Something will certainly have to give tonight as both teams face what will be by far their biggest test.
"Both teams will be tight, but as the game goes, it’ll loosen up," said US keeper Tim Howard. "But it’s going to be a hell of an afternoon, man, and we’re looking forward to it."
Landon Donovan, who probably has more big performances against Mexico than any player anywhere, says that this years' Gold Cup feels bigger than in years' passed.
"This Gold Cup, for some reason, has felt more special than in years past," he said. "I don’t know if it’s the coverage, if it’s that it’s just grown over time, but it feels a lot more special. When you see the number of people that attended the games, the number of people that are just aware of it — it’s going to be a real special event tomorrow."
This years' Gold Cup is for more than just regional bragging rights. The winner will be the CONCACAF representative in the Confederations Cup in Brazil, the year prior to the World Cup. The US won that berth prior to South Africa and many of the players attributed their success at the World Cup to the experience they had in South Africa, playing in the actual World Cup stadiums.
Carlos Salcido, the Mexican left back who is also Clint Dempsey's teammate at Fulham, says he thinks his team deserves the Confederations Cup berth.
"We haven’t lost a game and hopefully we’ll close out this Gold Cup," he said. "We have worked well and I think the team deserves it, but it’s the final and you’ve got to leave everything [on the pitch]. his time around we’re going up against the United States, but we’ve got to win the cup, win that ticket to the Confederations. I think the group deserves it."
While the game will be played on US soil at the 90,000 seat Rose Bowl, it will be a largely pro Mexican crowd on hand to witness what they expect to be the start of years of CONCACAF dominance. With young players like Giovani Dos Santos, Andrés Guardado and of course, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez they have good reason to believe it. This certainly does look like a golden era of Mexican football. However, they will be facing an American squad full of veterans with ample international experience and years of playing top flight European soccer. They won't be intimated and won't feel over-matched by the Mexicans, as many other regional teams are.
It should be a fun match between two big rivals who are both clearly the class of this tournament.