“It feels like there’s no better game to play in the world than a final against Mexico.”
Those are the words of longtime U.S. men’s national team midfielder Michael Bradley ahead of Sunday’s 2019 Gold Cup final (9 p.m. ET) between the USMNT and Mexico.
“From the second that we walked off the field [after the semifinal] in Nashville, every single guy understood what was coming,” Bradley went on to say. “Whether you’ve played in this game or you haven’t, a U.S-Mexico final speaks for itself.”
That just about sums it up.
Sunday will mark the first meeting between Gregg Berhalter and Gerardo “Tata” Martino in the fishbowl that is U.S.-Mexico. Each head coach took charge at the start of 2019, making their first tournament at the helm a successful one thus far. That could all change by starting out with a defeat in their U.S.-Mexico debut, though Berhalter is already intimately familiar with the rivalry from his playing days, including the Americans’ famous 2002 World Cup round-of-16 triumph in Jeonju, South Korea.
Prior to conceding to Jamaica in the 69th minute of the two sides’ semifinal on Wednesday, the Yanks hadn’t conceded a goal all tournament — 14-0 through their first 429 minutes. It’s been a tougher slog at the other end of the field of late, however. After scoring 10 goals amid relatively disappointing performances against Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago in their first two group games, Berhalter’s side was only able to grind out 1-0 victories over each of Panama and Curacao. The USMNT appears to have saved its best performances for last, though. Christian Pulisic scored twice against Jamaica and Weston McKennie added the other goal in what was easily his best outing in the red, white and blue.
Sunday will be the sixth time the USMNT and Mexico have met in the Gold Cup final, with Mexico holding a commanding advantage in trophy deciders: four wins (1993, 1998, 2009 and 2011) to just one defeat (2007).