After two tense semi-finals, the two nations everyone predicted to pass through are in the final stage of the tournament. Tonight, the United States and Mexico will face each other in the first edition of the CONCACAF Nations League final.
Before talking about the final, let’s see how both of these nations performed in their respective semi-finals.
Late-Minute Drama for the U.S.
The ‘Stars and Stripes’ team had a hard time getting past the low-block Honduras set for them. This was truly a thrilling game, where both teams were constantly going into the attack as soon as they recovered the ball.
The USMNT started getting flashbacks from the pre-Olympic qualifying game against Honduras earlier this year, when striker, Josh Sargent, headered the ball off the goal line. A poor attempt to clear the ball by keeper Zack Steffen nearly cost them to go behind early in the game again.
As the match progressed, Honduras would have themselves to blame for not taking the lead as clear opportunities missed by ‘Choco’ Lozano could’ve sealed the deal for Honduras. If ‘La H’ was more fortunate in front of the goal, we could’ve seen a possible blowout in the scoresheets.
The same could be said about the U.S., where Giovanni Reyna and Josh Sargent also had their moments to take the lead. But in the end, a goal in the 88th minute by Theoson Siebatcheu opened the score for the U.S. The BCS Young Boys attacker’s late header sealed the USMNT’s ticket to the final.
New Game, Same Story
Another U.S. win, but the same problem continues: problems in the defensive side. Gregg Berhalter’s back 4 continues to give him struggles as multiple defensive errors invited los Catrachos to keep attacking.
Tyler Adam’s absence in the midfield has continued to affect the U.S., as they haven’t been able to fully control the midfield. In the friendly against Switzerland, and against Honduras, the USMNT have failed to neutralize the opposing team’s attack in the middle of the park.
Despite getting a narrow win with Siebatcheu’s late-goal, the U.S. will have a lot of question marks around them.
‘Memo’ Ochoa Saves Mexico in the Penalty Shootout (Again)
The last 3 meetings between Mexico and Costa Rica in CONCACAF competitions have ended in a draw. This meetup wasn’t the exception neither.
Mexico nearly opened the score early when ‘Chucky’ Lozano’s acrobatic kick was denied by the keeper. This was the story for the rest as the match, as Mexico kept insisting, but the score just wouldn’t go in their favor.
Similarly to the last time they faced, the game between ‘El Tri’ and ‘Los Ticos’ went to penalty kicks. After both teams scored 4 out of their 5 penalty kicks, the game went to sudden death. At this stage, Mexican keeper Ochoa blocked the decisive penalty to take Mexico to the next stage (once again).
This is the third time Ochoa’s penalty save has allowed Mexico to advance, which ironically, have all been against Costa Rica.
Our Number 9?
Despite advancing to the Nations League final, ‘Tata’ Martino might still have some concerns for his squad.
Since Premier League striker Raul Jimenez got injured back in November, Mexico has been having trouble scoring goals. ‘Tata’ has tried finding alternatives fill in Jimenez’s void, but it seems as if no one can be that prolific scorer.
All eyes are on Martino after he didn’t call up ‘Chicharito’, who was the MLS player of the month in May.
Who Will Take It?
It’s hard to say which team are the favorites in this match, as both teams have struggled recently. The USMNT have continued to struggle defensively while Mexico still can’t find their temporary number 9.
There are so many questions for both teams, but their conundrums will give us a very tense game this afternoon.
The game will be played in Denver, Colorado at 6:00 PM PST.
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