The United States completed a two trophy sweep against Mexico, winning another final this Summer after a 1-0 victory in the 2021 Gold Cup. An inexperienced and supposedly undermatched U.S. squad put together an incredible tournament run, culminating with a gritty extra time victory.
After the match, U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter spoke about how impressive it was to win both trophies: "I'm so excited for the players, it's all about them. After Nations League, to turn around again and win is a great accomplishment."
Mexico largely dominated most stretches of the game, although the U.S. was well organized defensively in order to prevent any meaningful chances. While the Americans did not generate much going forward, they did their best with the opportunities they had, as a late Miles Robinson goal was enough to deliver the Gold Cup trophy.
The first half featured Mexico with most of the possession and chances as they passed circles around a U.S. midfield that was happy to sit back and absorb pressure. It was clear that Berhalter wanted his team to stay compact in order to limit Mexico's chances in the final third and then take advantage on the counterattack when possible.
Berhalter's approach helped the U.S. withstand seven shots on goal in the first half, although none of those shots were overly concerning for goalkeeper Matt Turner. The focus on counterattacking also led to the best scoring chance of the first half, as Paul Arriola hit the post in the 27th minute after a Mexico turnover.
The game was intense coming out of halftime, as both sides traded opportunities in front of goal. While each team had meaningful chances, the touch in the final third was off, resulting in several should-be goals gone wasted.
As the teams settled into the second half, the U.S. started to be the better side. They were able to control possession and create better shots, a move that was facilitated by several substitutions. Shaq Moore and Sam Vines swapped out the two fullbacks, which allowed the Americans to have more energy on the wings. This extra effort resulted in several good moments of combination play which nearly paid off with a goal.
Near the end of regulation, the U.S. started to run out of energy as the more experienced Mexico side continued to knock on the door. Despite the shift, the Mexicans were unable to put the finishing touches together, leading to a scoreless 90 minutes.
In extra time, Mexico continued to bombard the U.S although they were unable to flip the scoring script. A pedestrian second half of extra time was upended when American substitute Nicholas Gioacchini was fouled on a counterattack. The ensuing free kick was swung in by Kellyn Acosta, and Robinson outran the Mexican backline to get on the end of it, heading home the winner in the 117th minute. The largely pro-Mexico crowd was left stunned as the U.S. benched was emptied in celebration.
From there, the last couple of minutes were a formality as the U.S. saw out the rest of the match on their way to walking out of Las Vegas as champions. Despite being out-shot and out-possessed, the Americans were arguably the better team during important moments in the match. The young squad was considered to have less talent than the experienced side Mexican coach Tata Martino brought to the tournament, but the U.S. should be considered as talented or more after that match. They held Mexico scoreless, controlled the game when it mattered most, and did a better job at capitalizing on their chances.
Robinson talked about some of the overall lessons from the tournament after the game: "We proved that the United States is a country that has to be taken seriously. We really stuck together as a family."
Looking forward, both countries will begin World Cup qualifying in a month. The U.S. heads to El Salvador, looking to start off on the right foot in their quest to make it back to the World Cup after missing out in 2018. Given the two trophies they won this Summer, their chances of making it to Qatar are trending upwards.