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Summer of Soccer Sundaystravaganaza (Part 2): USMNT vs Mexico

Sam’s Soccer Safe Space for Stoolies


Hi haters,

That pretty much says it all. Been a pretty damn funday Sunday so far.


Time for the Y-chromosomes to finish the job…


USMNT vs L Tri

Quick reminder of how things shook out:



Mexico [+130]
USA [+200]
Draw [+220]

Well, well, well. If it isn’t our age old arch-nemesis. So we meet again old friend.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way up front. USMNT has several good reasons that they could lose in the absences of guys like John Brooks, DeAndre Yedlin and Tyler Adams. On the other hand, Mexico soccer twitter has already started rolling out the wambulance breathlessly throwing out excuses – before the game has even started, mind you – for why they might lose… namely the fact that guys like Chuky Lozano, Chicarita, Miguel Layun and Hector Herrera are out injured.

Wah, wah, wah… llorar me a rio, amigos.

But the fact is that both teams will be without some key guys, and are in the midst of “transition stages” – as you would expect anytime the next World Cup cycle is about to get underway. In the end, however, that doesn’t matter. Nobody is going to remember in a couple years that the US won because of XXXXX or Mexico lost because of YYYYY… only thing that matters at this point is winning and lifting the damn trophy, and most importantly the subsequent shit-talking that that allows for. So let’s take a look at what players WILL be there and what to watch out for.

What to expect from Mexico?

L Tri has not looked like their normally dominant (inside the friendly confines of Concacaf) self in this tournament. After curb-stomping Cuba and walking through Canadia they struggled against Martinique, scraped by Costa Rica in penalty shootout and needed a highly questionable penalty to beat Haiti 1-0 in the semifinal. That is not the mark of your traditional Mexico team in the Gold Cup.

That said they have a lot of guys we have grown to know and loath. Pube Puff Ochoa is back in net, guys like Gallardo, Salcedo and Moreno will be in defense, Guardado and (Jonathan) Dos Santos in midfield, and one of the breakout stars of this past EPL season in Wolves’ Raul Jimenez will be running up top.

They are missing some of their more dynamic playmakers (eg, Lozano) but they still have plenty of talent and popped out of the womb with 60+% possessions against every US team they have ever faced. They will likely control the play with the help of a strongly pro-Mexico crowd. Whether they can turn that into legitimate scoring chances – something they have struggled mightily with of late – is the big question. The US, after all, has conceded a grand total of………. one goal al tournament.

What to expect from USA?

Here is the XI that Greggggggggg is throwing out there:


No HUGE surprises (eg, Gonzo at CB) so I guess we can be happy about that. Berhalter is continuing the tradition of throwing a dart at a dartboard to determine the captain, which I am not a huge fan of, though that said I don’t hate who it landed on this game in Weston McKennie who is going to be a force on this team for a while so might as well give him some chances to put his stamp of authority on it. THAT SAID, anytime Michael Bradley is on the field he is – for better and worse – the actual “leader” in the huddle.

Positives: I like going with Altidore over Zardes, who has consistently come up small anytime our competition got bigger. On the flipside, I was hoping to see Boyd over Morris… but if I had my choice between the two I would’ve said Altidore is the more important inclusion. He brings an element of size, experience and hold-up play that nobody else in the US player pool can match at the moment. That should We have Pulisic and McKennie in the middle to make things happen, and the speed and tenacity of Arriola and Morris on the wings should be a nice complement to both our baby playmakers AND Jozy up front. Zardes is not a hold up player and this is one of the reasons we had so little possession against Curacao (only 40% in the second half, embarrassingly). Jozy should change that dynamic for the better.


Negatives: I think that Boyd has shown a little more poise overall, and is better at making enough space for himself to get off some shots, plus Morris has proven to offer a useful spark of the bench. So that’s why I would have gone with the Kiwi-American from the jump. They have both played relatively well though so this is not a big criticism. By FAR our biggest area of concern though is the backline, which hasn’t been as “air-tight” as the stats would suggest. Steffen has had to come up with some big saves against lesser competition than Mexico, and especially Jimenez. Old boy is big and fast, and is definitely going to cause problems for Matt Miazga and Aaron Long in the middle of the field. Those two having a good game will probably dictate how this game goes. (Sidenote: I am all set on Tim Ream but we just gotta close our eyes, cross our fingers and hope that he has another unexpectedly solid 90 minutes in him.)



Before making everybody rich with a prediction for the game, it is probably worth having a quick heart to heart about what is on the line in this game. Berhalter has caught a lot of grief for some of the decisions he has made in the run-up and during this tournament. Some of it has been legitimate (eg, leaving Josh Sargent at home), others not so much (having a guy like Bradley around – especially when Adams went home injured).

The fact that the USMNT made it to the final means that Berhalter has avoided the worst-case scenario, which would have been to lose to anyone not named Mexico in the Gold Cup, and would have resulted in the calls for his head getting a LOT louder.

So what does that mean for the USMNT going forward? That depends on the results today.

Any kind of win – buys Berhalter some serious breathing room

A close loss – status quo remains, meaning there will still be a vocal minority who want him gone but most people are withholding judgment for the time being in the hopes that things (including his team selections) get more forward-thinking in the very near future.

A blowout loss – the pressure (and calls for his job) will ramp up… and rightly so considering this isn’t even an A+ Mexico team we are up against



Mexico is going to win the possession game. Gotta know that going in. To key questions:

1) Can Miazga/Long avoid the kind of silly mistakes that got us in so much trouble in the recent pre-GC loss to Venezuela. Being a Tottenham fan means I have no choice but to be an eternal optimist (the other option being to jump out of a high window), so I am hopeful that a few weeks of practicing and several live-bullet games means they have ironed out some of the wrinkles. There’s a good chance that Jimenez will make us pay in ways that other strikers we have faced did not if we make any big booboos.

2) This could be the big trademark performance from The Babyjesus against a legitimate opponent that USMNT fans are itching for. He has been the most dangerous player on the field in pretty much every game so far. Mexico is a step up in class but I have total faith he has it in him to make some magic happen… whether he will – and whether a teammate will be on the same plane of existence/thinking – remains to be seen.

This one is tough. The haters are gonna accuse me of bias. Perhaps they are right. Either way I’m going with a 1-1 draw after 90 with the US winning on penalties.



SUMMER OF SOCCER HAS BEEN GLORIOUS! The African Cup of Nations is still going on plus MLS is in full swing, so it is not like all the jogo bonito is going to dry up overnight. The next big thing though is going to be a buttload of transfer moves (as opposed to rumors) that will start hitting very soon, and before you know it the European season will hit us in the face like a ton of beautiful, orgasmic bricks. Can’t wait!


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