Tata Martino’s side is one match away from lifting the Gold Cup. Who will the manager start in the midfield and on the right wing?
It all comes down to this.
Mexico is yet to lose in the Tata Martino era, and while the manager says a loss would be just a bump in the grand plan toward the 2022 World Cup, Sunday night’s Gold Cup final is not the game he wants to lose first. We’ve seen a typical XI emerge during the Gold Cup, but he does have a couple of decisions to make – particularly on the right-hand side of his team.
As we do before Mexico game each game, Goal has three projections for how El Tri may look from the opening whistle against the United States. Curious about the U.S.? Click here to see the potential XI. Click back an hour before the game to see what the managers have decided to put on the field.
Most likely XI
There are two major doubts in Martino’s XI: Right interior midfield and right winger. Jonathan dos Santos and Carlos Rodriguez have been switching off in the midfield spot during most of the Gold Cup, and Martino clearly likes what he sees from both players. However, look for Dos Santos to get the nod. He’s simply a more experienced player than the 22-year-old Rayados player and also went back-to-back, starting against Haiti after starting against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.
On the right wing, Uriel Antuna may win the starting role back from Roberto Alvarado. Alvarado hasn’t locked in this tournament, struggling to make a difference in the knockout rounds. Antuna was the hot hand coming in, having scored four goals in the group stages, and his speed may be what Martino wants to see against the Americans.
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Elsewhere, Guillermo Ochoa in goal is as much of a lock as you can get on this team. So too is Jesus Gallardo playing at left back. With Hector Moreno and Carlos Salcedo healthy, look for them to be the starting center-back pairing with Nestor Araujo staying on the bench. Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez is Martino’s first choice at right back.
In the midfield, it’s a big day for Edson Alvarez, who will be the lone holding midfielder. Andres Guardado will wear the captain band and help him when dropping back from the left.
In attack, Raul Jimenez has started every game up top and is looking to score again to become the tournament’s top scorer. Now fit, Rodolfo Pizarro should go on the left hand side, floating into the middle to create for Jimenez at times.
Switch in the midfield
Dos Santos cramped up in the quarterfinal, but he should be good to go for this game. Even if healthy, Martino may like the precise passing Rodriguez can bring. He entered both the Costa Rica and Haiti games as a substitute and helped with the possession portion of the game. It wouldn’t be a shocking decision to see him get the start Sunday night.
Keeping something in reserve
This team would be unchanged from the semifinal against Haiti.
Uriel Antuna’s chief weapon is his speed, and that speed can be useful on the bench. We saw Martino turn to the LA Galaxy attacker in the 68th minute of the semifinal as he looked to stretch a tired Haitian back line and create chances in the attack. Alvarado could get the start once again, with Antuna kept in reserve to provide that special spark off the bench if needed.