Mexico won their record seventh CONCACAF Gold Cup Sunday night defeating Jamaica 3-1 in Philadelphia. The game didn’t seem to follow the theme of the rest of the Gold Cup, in that it was actually well played and, at least according to these eyes, properly officiated.
After many people questioned whether Mexico even deserved to be playing in the final following two very controversial wins in the quarter and semi finals, El Tri produced their most complete display of the tournament. After a strong start by the Jamaicans, Mexico settled down and took control of the match, thoroughly and deservedly earning the final scoreline.
More importantly, their win sets up the match everyone–especially CONCACAF–has been looking for–a one game playoff between Mexico and the United States for the right to represent the region at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.
CONCACAF has structured the last two Gold Cup’s to give the highest chance of having a Mexico-USA final but failed to get it. Now they have their dream matchup which will take place October 10th in the United States with Pasadena’s Rose Bowl the rumored venue.
So what can we expect from this one game playoff?
A hell of a game
Make no mistake this one should be great as both teams know exactly how important this game can be. While the Confederations Cup isn’t exactly taken seriously by the bigger teams around the world, both CONCACAF nations know how valuable competitive games against some of the worlds top teams can be.
If the game is in fact at the Rose Bowl, it should set up for a tremendous atmosphere. The 2011 Gold Cup Final between Mexico and the United States was held there, and while it was technically a ‘home’ game for the U.S., the fan support was strongly in Mexico’s favor. Four years later the support for U.S. Soccer has grown tremendously, but you still can’t change the demographics of the region. While the crowd won’t be as dominated by Mexico, it will still likely be a pro-Mexico crowd, which should set up for a great scene.
Meaningful friendlies in September
One of the worst parts about being a U.S. Soccer fan is that outside of World Cup Qualifying matches you rarely get to see the U.S. play with their full first team in friendlies during September and October. Due to the MLS playoffs or playoff races, traditionally U.S. managers have respected the MLS season for friendlies and let MLS players stay with their clubs for the important matches, calling in mostly European based players and younger guys for the friendlies.
That won’t be the case this year as the U.S. has already booked friendlies against Peru and Brazil in September. With the one-game playoff and a poor Gold Cup performance fresh on everyone’s mind, the U.S. will want to get as much time as they can to figure out who their best XI players are and what formation best suits them. They won’t be taking these friendlies lightly and that’s a good thing for us fans.
Another game of Brad Friedel yelling at us
It’s no secret that pretty much every network that covers soccer in this country does it better than FOX, but it’s unbelievable how oblivious FOX is to how much Brad Friedel is yelling. Every single time something happens Friedel is there yelling into his microphone over-modulating the audio. Does FOX have a sound guy? Does he not know to turn Friedel’s mic down a bit so this doesn’t happen? Does FOX even care?
As for John Strong, I’m not a fan of his. I don’t think he’s particularly bad and he fully deserves to be the lead MLS announcer for FOX, but I don’t like him as the lead announcer for the USMNT. For some reason there’s this belief out there by some people in the media, and apparently FOX, that the USMNT needs an American calling all their games. I’m not opposed to this, but I also don’t think it should be forced if it isn’t there. There’s nothing wrong with having someone like Ian Darke or Jon Champions calling the games for American fans. But if FOX does want an American, the guy they should be looking at is JP Dellacamera, who wouldn’t you know already happens to be working for FOX.
It’s just amazing how bad the team of John Strong and Brad Friedel is, though, and after having them forced on me for the Women’s World Cup and the Gold Cup, I’m pretty happy that the #SummerOfSoccer is coming to an end and they could exit my life. For soccer fans, trading up from the Strong-Friedel partnership to NBC’s Premier League team of Arlo White and Lee Dixon or Graeme Le Saux is like going from riding a bike to driving a Lexus. The Premier League season can’t get here soon enough.
A United States Win
Oh right, back the actual game on the field. Right now the opinion on U.S. Soccer couldn’t be lower and Mexico looked really good against Jamaica, but that doesn’t change the fact that the United States will win the playoff game. At the end of the day, the U.S. is still a really good team and under Jurgen Klinsmann they’ve played their best when the lights shine brightest.
As for Mexico, they had the final against Jamaica and the 6-0 defeat of Cuba recently but other than that the last time they played a good game was in last year’s World Cup. The truth is they shouldn’t have made the final and just because they played a good game against Jamaica doesn’t change that. The bottom line is over the past two years they really haven’t played well at all, and that’s a trend that I see continuing.
The U.S. will be getting Tim Howard back in goal and as of now, the only thing they should be worried about is making sure none of their top players are injured and have to miss the playoff.