Forget about an instant classic. The 2021 Gold Cup final between the USA and Mexico could turn into a classic beatdown if the gap in the rosters manifests itself on the field at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
While the U.S. national team’s roster does not feature many of the regulars based in Europe, Mexico’s roster is close to a full team outside of key players involved with Mexico’s Olympic side in Tokyo. But this U.S. side has still managed to find a way to win matches during this Gold Cup, relying on defense (one goal allowed), great goalkeeping by Matt Turner and generally scrapping its way through tough knockout round matches against Jamaica and Qatar. Despite its stronger squad, Mexico started the tournament slow and struggled to get by Canada in the semis.
But when these two archrivals come together, the script usually goes out the window, as we saw in June’s Nations League final, when the USA mounted an epic comeback to shock El Tri and hoist the trophy. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter is hoping for some of those same vibes from his young, underdog side in Vegas.
This will be the 71st all-time match between the two national teams (36-20-15 edge for Mexico) and they’re meeting in the Gold Cup final for the second straight tournament and seventh final overall. It hasn’t gone so well for the Americans in those previous six finals: five losses and only one win, in 2007.
How to watch USA vs. Mexico Gold Cup Final
- Date: Sunday, August 1, 2021
- Time: 9 p.m. ET
- TV Channel: FS1
- Spanish-language TV: TUDN, Univision
- Streaming: fuboTV, Fox Sports app, TUDN app
- In Canada: OneSoccer.ca
The Gold Cup final from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will be broadcast on FS1 (English) and Univision and TUDN (Spanish). All three networks can be streamed on fuboTV (free 7-day trial).
OneSoccer.ca will carry the CONCACAF regional championship in Canada.
USA vs. Mexico projected lineups
With Mexico using three forwards positioned high up the field, this is probably the game that Gregg Berhalter goes back to the three-man center back system to provide appropriate cover for new center back James Sands, who can be exposed if isolated in one-on-one situations. The question is who would fill the right center back position, but regular right back Reggie Cannon would seem like the only option.
The other big debate on the U.S. side is the starting forward: Gyasi Zardes (below) has been exceptional off the bench, but he’s probably shown enough to deserve a start in a big match over Daryl Dike based on tournament performances.
On the Mexico side, the only real doubts revolve around center back and central midfield positions. Tata Martino should opt for central defender Nestor Araujo over Carlos Salcedo, given the latter can be prone to a mistake or red card. The last thing Mexico wants to do is to give the USA any advantage. Also, Martino will have to decide between Jonathan Dos Santos or Erick Gutierrez in midfield, alongside central midfield fixtures Hector Herrera and Edson Alvarez. Dos Santos started the last two matches against Canada and Honduras.
USA projected starting lineup (3-5-2, left to right): 1-Matt Turner-GK — 12-Miles Robinson, 16-James Sands, 2-Reggie Cannon — 3-Sam Vines, 17-Sebastian Lletget, 23-Kellyn Acosta, 10-Cristian Roldan, 20-Shaq Moore — 13-Matthew Hoppe, 9-Gyasi Zardes
USA projected substitutes: 18-Sean Johnson-GK, 22-Brad Guzan-GK, 4-Donovan Pines, 21-George Bello, 24-Henry Kessler, 14-Jackson Yueill, 19-Eryk Williamson, 6-Gianluca Busio, 7-Paul Arriola, 8-Nicholas Gioacchini, 11-Daryl Dike, 15-Jonathan Lewis
Mexico projected starting lineup (4-3-3, left to right): 1-Alfredo Talavera-GK — 23-Jesus Gallardo, 15-Hector Moreno, 2-Nestor Araujo, 21-Luis Rodriguez — 14-Erick Gutierrez, 4-Edson Alvarez, 16-Hector Herrera — 10-Orbelin Pineda, 11-Rogelio Funes Mori, 17-Jesus “Tecatito” Corona
Mexico projected subs: 12-Rodolfo Cota-GK, 20-Jonathan Orozco-GK, 3-Carlos Salcedo, 5-Osvaldo Rodriguez, 8-Kevin Alvarez, 19-Gilberto Sepulveda, 6-Jonathan Dos Santos, 7-Erick Sanchez, 13-Alan Cervantes, 24-Rodolfo Pizarro, 18-Efrain Alvarez, 9-Alan Pulido
Gold Cup Final: Odds and prediction
Mexico’s roster should give it the clear edge on the field, but a shorthanded Canada side still pushed El Tri to the brink in the semifinals, nearly taking the game to extra time until a Hector Herrera game-winning goal deep in stoppage time. The best-case scenario for the USMNT is that it can have a similar game to that Canadian side, but the balance still tips in Mexico’s favor when it comes to players on the field who can decide the game.
El Tri will also have plenty of extra motivation for this match: The Mexicans are defending their Gold Cup title and are out for revenge for the Nations League final in June, when the USA claimed that trophy in a dramatic, come-from-behind victory. The passing of Jonathan Dos Santos’s father this week also brought the team together in an emotional way, as witnessed against Canada on Thursday. On top of all that, Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is expected to have a large pro-Mexico crowd.
Setting aside the emotional factors, the fact is that the USA struggled for 60 minutes against Qatar and it had its challenges against both Canada and Jamaica in the matches before that. Grit and scrappiness kept them in all three games, but it can only take you so far when you’re facing the best team in the tournament. A Mexico win may be the conventional pick, but it’s also really hard to picture a different scenario playing out unless things really do go haywire.
Prediction: Mexico 2, USA 0
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
- USA to win (90 mins): +250
- USA to win Gold Cup: +125
- Draw (90 mins): +215
- Mexico to win (90 mins): +130
- Mexico to win Gold Cup: -155
- Mexico total team goals over 1.5 goals: +140
- Mexico win and over 1.5 goals: +210
- Mexico win and under 1.5 goals: +575
- Mexico -0.5 Asian Handicap: +130