Gerardo Martino

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Preview: USMNT v. Mexico, in Gold Cup final once again

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“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.

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“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.

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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).

Follow Live: Gold Cup kicks off with Mexico and Canada in action

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The 2019 Gold Cup is here, and both Mexico and Canada are in play as the tournament kicks off at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The games mark the first round of Group A play as Canada officially kicks things off against Martinique at 7:30 p.m. ET, while Mexico takes the field at 9:30 p.m. ET.

[ LIVE: Latest Gold Cup scores ]

Canada made its way to its 11th straight Gold Cup by bulldozing the CONCACAF Nations League with a perfect 4-0-0 record and a +17 goal differential to finish atop the table along with Haiti. Martinique takes the field for its sixth Gold Cup having also recorded a 4-0-0 record in the Nations League.

Mexico, meanwhile, will see Tata Martino take charge of his first competitive match as head man of El Tri. He comes into the Gold Cup on a high, having won each of the four previous matches he has taken charge of. Mexico has high expectations for the tournament, and a big start over Cuba would set the stage.

Amid Man United links, Mexico’s Lozano ready for big move

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Mexico’s Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano is destined for big things.

His manager for the Mexican national team, Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has been talking about the PSV Eindhoven winger ahead of their friendly against Paraguay on Tuesday and has added further fuel to the fire that Chucky is heading to one of European soccer’s big boys.

Amid plenty of reports that the speedy winger could be heading to Manchester United, Martino believes Lozano, 23, is ready.

“Taking an intermediate step in Dutch football or Portuguese football, that has been traditional for Latino players,” Martino said. “I think Hirving has had an influential time in Holland and shown he can be a player who is incredibly valuable and can make the jump to the biggest clubs in Europe. It’s clear. I think from the analysis side of the player, he’s absolutely ready.”

Lozano’s breakout at the 2018 World Cup for Mexico saw him finally arrive on the world stage, but anybody who has been following his career since a teenager will know he has been destined for the top.

The former Pachuca star has now become the star man for Dutch giants PSV — he scored 17 goals in 29 league games last season, and has 15 in 24 appearances this term — and a move this summer seems almost inevitable.

Lozano was previously linked with a move to reigning Premier League champions Man City but a move to United would probably suit his strengths a lot better. If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sticks around as boss, as expected, then Lozano’s pace and direct style on the counter would definitely suit United’s style of play. He can play on both flanks and just behind a striker, and the fact he is chipping in with plenty of goals for the reigning Dutch champs proves he is maturing as the end product is now there.

Moving to the Premier League or La Liga is the next logical step for Lozano, and PSV will be compensated handsomely for buying the Mexican star in 2017. He is contracted until the summer of 2023 and would likely cost north of $60 million.

Martino angry at Corona absence from Mexico squad

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New Mexico boss Gerardo “Tata” Martino did not hold back when asked about Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s absence from the Mexico squad for the upcoming international break.

Corona pulled out of the squad due to an ankle injury he has apparently been playing through at his club side Porto. Still, Martino said he wished for Corona to travel to San Diego to meet up with the squad despite the injury as he is hoping to meet as many of the players in person and get to know them better.

“On Sunday, I spoke with him twice, once early in the morning and the other in the airport,” Martino explained to Azteca Deportes. “In the morning, I manifested the idea that even with impossibility [of playing with] the injury he had, we needed him to be with the group to get to know each other, it being the first meeting we’d have had. He didn’t have to train or play if he couldn’t, but we needed him to be here. At first he said yes and then on midday on Sunday, he called to say he’d thought about it and that his ankle wasn’t right and that he preferred not to travel.”

While Martino said that ultimately the decision was Corona’s to make, he made sure to note that “he’s [Corona’s] done something wrong” and that “he knows there will be repercussions in the future.”

“No one goes gun in hand asking them to come in and when they decide not to come we move on and keep going with the group that does want to be here,” Martino explained.

The Mexico boss also succinctly described his decision to leave LAFC striker Carlos Vela out of the squad, saying simply, “I don’t meet up [with the players] to make pacts. I had to take a decision and name the squad list and in that list I decided that Carlos shouldn’t be in.”

Just two months ago, upon officially receiving the job, Martino had described Vela as a “world class player.”

Mexico unveil Gerardo Martino as new head coach

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Mexico officially unveiled Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino as their new head coach Monday, as the Argentine coach finally arrived as El Tri’s new boss after months of rumors.

Martino, 56, announced in October that he would be leaving Atlanta United after leading them in their first two years as a franchise in Major League Soccer. He left ATL in the best way possible, delivering MLS Cup in front of a sell-out crowd of over 73,000 fans.

As for his new gig with Mexico, Martino will be working with a team which is undoubtedly the strongest in the CONCACAF region and is coming off the back of a very decent 2018 World Cup where they got out of a ‘Group of Death’ then pushed Brazil hard but fell in the Round of 16 for the seventh-straight tournament.

Juan Carlos Osorio’s rollercoaster reign ended with that defeat, and El Tri have not had a permanent coach for the past six months with Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti in charge on an interim basis.

Speaking about his appointment, Tata revealed he has a strong squad which can already implement his philosophy and he intends to spend the next few months visiting his players in Mexico and also connecting with many of the El Tri players based in Europe.

“I am thankful for this new project here with the Mexican federation. I am grateful for doing this process respectfully between Atlanta and Mexico. I thank you for being patient… What interests me most is that the team has a strong playing style. That’ll get us closer to where we want to be,” Martino said. “First thing is to visit clubs in Mexico, to connect with the coaches at the clubs… If there is time then we’ll go to Europe. If there isn’t we’ll look to talk to all of the players.”

There is no doubt that Martino was worth the wait, as the former Paraguay and Argentina manager has a wealth of experience at international level, and his resume at Barcelona and top South American clubs such as Newell’s Old Boys speaks for itself.

What he achieved at Atlanta United saw his stock rise rapidly after the tough time he endured at Barca, and the fact he is coaching Mexico instead of the U.S. men’s national team will be tough pill for a lot of USMNT fans to swallow.

Martino was reportedly ruled out of the running to become the new USMNT head coach due to the language barrier, as he does not speak English fluently.

His first two games in charge of Mexico will be on U.S. soil in March, with El Tri playing against Chile in San Diego, CA and Paraguay in Santa Clara, CA. His next big test is the 2019 Gold Cup across the U.S. this summer, as Mexico are the red-hot favorites.

Martino will soon find out that the extreme pressure of Mexico’s fans mean that he will have to deliver success right away.