The United States Men’s National Team was wasteful in the first half and couldn’t get out of it’s own end in the second half, falling 1-0 to Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup final at Soldier Field in Chicago. The U.S. played well in the first half, having a plethora of chances. However, Mexico outplayed the Yanks in the second half, and the U.S. had no answer as El Tri piled on the pressure and dominated the possession battle, finally breaking down the door on Jonathan dos Santos’ goal off the crossbar.
Coming into the final, Gregg Berhalter opted to go with the same lineup as the team that beat Jamaica 3-1 in the semifinal. Tim Ream, Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Reggie Cannon made up the back line. Weston McKennie wore the captain’s band and partnered with Michael Bradley and Paul Arriola in the middle of the field, and Christian Pulisic, Jozy Altidore, and Jordan Morris led the forward line.
The U.S. had the first dangerous chance of the game. Altidore’s strength and Pulisic’s speed led to a one-on-one with Mexican ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Ochoa stayed up and cut down the angle, so Pulisic had no angle on his shot, and hit it right at the ‘keeper’s chest. The ball fell to Altidore, but he mishit the bicycle attempt.
Two minutes later, Altidore missed the best chance of the night. This time Ream hit a great ball over the top. Altidore made a spectacular cut move to get by Héctor Moreno, but his left-footed shot went wide of the post.
The match started to get extremely physical. The referee initially let the teams play but had to get a stronger hand in it quickly. The calls were utterly one-sided to start, and Mexico wasn’t called for a foul until the 21st minute.
Shortly after that first foul, Edson Álvarez was called for Mexico’s second foul of the game after a hard challenge on Pulisic. Luis Rodríguez then kicked the ball into Pulisic’s back, while the 20-year-old was on the ground. This prompted Altidore to come sprinting into things, but the referee stepped between the players. The U.S. was called for 17 total fouls in the match, compared to Mexico’s 10.
In the 31st minute, Arriola should have scored. The Mexican defenders stood by and watched as Ochoa waited for the ball to come into his hands. Arriola jumped on the chance, stole the ball, and sent the ball across the frame. The ball trickled right in front of the net but did not cross the line.
Mexico had a few chances in the first half. El Tri used a strong high press to force the Yanks into turnovers. Mexico got the ball into dangerous areas a handful of times, but the U.S. defended with at least five players in the box, shut down the middle of the field, and limited what Mexico was able to do.
El Tri took more shots in the first half (8-5), but both teams put two on target. Possession was slightly in favor of Mexico (53%), but both sides had chances to go ahead in the first half.
The U.S. nearly scored in the 51st minute. Pulisic sent in a perfect corner, Morris was first to the ball, climbing above everyone else. His powerful header beat Ochoa, but Andrés Guardado cleared the ball off the goal line with his head. The ball fell to McKennie, but the shot couldn’t find its way through the traffic as it hit Edson Álvarez.
Mexico had a free kick about 20 yards out after Arriola committed a brainless and lazy foul. Guardado took the shot, but the bending ball sailed over the bar. Guardado had two more chances in the next five minutes. Both came after U.S. turnovers and ensuing Mexican counters, and both shots ended up in the stands.
With Mexico controlling the game, Berhalter made two quick substitutions around the 60th minute. Cristian Roldan and Gyasi Zardes came on for Morris and Altidore, respectively. Both Morris and Altidore had chances in front of the net but could not finish. The subs did not change the game at all and the Yanks still couldn’t dispossess Mexico.
Dos Santos scored the game’s only goal in the 73rd minute. El Tri kept putting more and more pressure on the U.S. the entire half and eventually it was too much to handle. Mexico got down the field, Rodolfo Pizarro passed it across to Raul Jiménez. The ball got stuck under Jiménez’s legs, but he was able to cleverly send a backheel to dos Santos, who banged it off the crossbar into the back of the net, and the U.S. trailed for the first time in the Gold Cup.
Pulisic tried to put the team on his back in the 85th minute. He got the ball and dribbled past most of the Mexican side before getting fouled. He sent in a great cross on the free kick, but no one was able to get on the end of it.
In the 87th minute, the Yanks could have leveled it. After a failed corner, Bradley sent in a low cross, and Ochoa parried it away. The ball was bouncing around in the box before Roldan shot, but it was blocked. It was a golden chance to level the game, as the U.S. did not get another chance. The Yanks threw pressure on at the end, but with Mexico playing more defensively the Yanks couldn’t do anything on the attacking side.
After the strong second half, Mexico led in shots (20-11), shots on target (5-2), and possession (57%). It was a deserving victory for El Tri, and Mexico added to its record with its eighth Gold Cup title.