Before I get into my US/Mexico Gold Cup Final (9PM/Fox Soccer) thoughts I need to state something for the record. How in the world does Major League Soccer, the professional soccer league of record in this country, schedule games during the final of the most important tournament in the region?
As Matt P. and I were discussing it took MLS forever to release their schedule. How did they not take into account the likelihood that the US would face its biggest rival in the Gold Cup Final? For a league desperate to connect with and retain soccer fans in this country scheduling games for tonight is a stroke of pure unadulterated idiocy.
Ok, now that that's out of my system I can go ahead and talk about the actual game
Mexico comes into the game having outscored their opponents 18-2 over the course of the tournament. By comparison the US has outscored their opponents 8-2. Chicharito, who lit it up in his first season in the English Premier League, has dominated the tournament, scoring seven goals for Mexico.
Putting those numbers aside for a moment an argument could be made that these two teams have been headed in opposite directions since the tournament got underway. The US started off incredibly slow - squeaking past Guadeloupe and then losing to Panama. Since then the US has steadily improved.
What's been the difference? Well, in my opinion the US fortunes started to change as soon as Bob Bradley replaced Tim Ream in the lineup. Carlos Bocanegra moved to the spot Ream vacated in the middle. Eric Lichaj then stepped into the left back spot. The US has not conceded a goal since making the change - keeping a clean sheet over the last three games.
Mexico, after breezing through he group stage, struggled to get past Guatemala. They then needed overtime to beat Honduras in the semifinal.
Don't get me wrong, Mexico is deservedly favored to win tonight. The Rose Bowl will be filled 70%-80% with Mexican fans. However, I can't imagine a rivalry game like this will result in a lopsided affair.
These two teams know each other too well for that to happen. If the US has any advantage it's between the sticks with Tim Howard along with the physical play provided in the center of the midfield with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones.
This will be the first game all tournament where the US is not expected to win. It will also likely be the first game where the opposing team will not simply sit back and give the US time on the ball.
El Tri will undoubtedly have chances. It's up to the US to recapture the success they had in the Confederations Cup and the World Cup in transition.
Landon Donovan, who presumably will start tonight, is going to need to be a monster on the flanks. The recipe is the same as always for the US. If Howard, Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and Michael Bradley play well they'll have a chance to win.