Sunday’s Gold Cup final features plenty of tantalizing individuals match-ups that will ultimately determine which Concacaf power lifts the trophy
The 2019 Gold Cup final will be the ultimate test for two teams in the early stages of new eras, with several young players ready to make their mark on Concacaf’s biggest rivalry.
Christian Pulisic and Guillermo Ochoa are some of the bigger names who will look to grab the headlines, but the it will be others involved in the game’s best match-ups who could ultimately determine the winner of the latest installment of the USA-Mexico grudge match.
There are some match-ups that each team will look to exploit, with Mexico’s Rodolfo Pizarro looking to go after young U.S. defender Reggie Cannon, and Uriel Antuna looking to use his speed against Tim Ream. Conversely, Christian Pulisic will look to invade the space in front of the Mexico defense while Jordan Morris tries to force Jesus Gallardo to defend.
What are the actual top individual match-ups to watch in Sunday’s Gold Cup final? Here are five to watch:
Gregg Berhalter vs. Tata Martino
No, you won’t see either coach suiting up, but these two have plenty of history and will look to tap into that history to try and get an edge on each other.
Martino’s Atlanta United sides won most of the meetings against Berhalter’s Crew, but Berhalter scored bragging rights by defeating Martino’s side in the only knockout match they played. The Crew won that match-up by attacking early and often, and it’s a safe bet Berhalter will not have the Americans sit back and defend to start the match.
Martino is also familiar with Berhalter’s style, and he has the wingers to make things difficult for the U.S. defense. The big question is how will Martino adjust his setup, and lineup, to try and deal with Pulisic?
Weston McKennie vs. Edson Alvarez
Mexico tends to get by with having Alvarez operate as the lone defensive midfielder, but how will he and El Tri adjust to having to deal with both Pulisic and McKennie operating as dual 10s?
Mexico may have no choice but to start Jonathan dos Santos and have him play a deeper role, but even if El Tri does that, Mexico must still contend with McKennie’s surging runs into the final third, and his ever-improving passing. If Alvarez doesn’t keep close tabs on McKennie the Schalke midfielder could have a big day.
Aaron Long vs. Raul Jimenez
The Mexico attack has stagnated in its past two matches, and we’ve seen Jimenez starved for service. El Tri should find chances against a U.S. side that isn’t going to sit back and bunker, but Jimenez will also have to deal with Long, who is in the midst of an outstanding tournament.
If Long can handle marking Jimenez by himself, that will free up Matt Miazga (or Walker Zimmerman) to help with Rodolfo Pizarro on the wing, but if Jimenez has success shaking free from Long’s air-tight one-on-one defending, it will be a long night for the Americans.
Michael Bradley vs. Andres Guardado
Leave it to the two midfield veterans to be involved in one of the game’s most important battles. Guardado will look to make Bradley work defensively, while also not allowing Bradley to dictate tempo by pulling the strings when the Americans have the ball.
Martino is sure to take advantage of the fact Bradley often finds himself alone in front of the defense, so look for Guardado to have some help flooding the area in front of the U.S. defense. That will either expose Bradley’s defensive liability, or force the Americans to provide more help from McKennie dropping deeper, which would then cut into McKennie’s ability to attack.
Jozy Altidore vs. Hector Moreno
These two veterans know each other well, so there’s no secrets here. Altidore’s hold-up play makes him such a threat at the top of the U.S. attack, which will mean that Carlos Salcedo will have to help Moreno by keeping tabs on the inevitable runs U.S. attackers will make off Altidore.
Something else Moreno and Salcedo have to deal with is Pulisic, who has shown a good understanding with Altidore, and has the passing eye to spring the big forward if Mexico’s defenders fall asleep. Moreno is a veteran though, and has the strength to stay with Altidore on set pieces.
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