The two same teams are set to face off in a very different way.
In a rematch of their epic Concacaf Nations League matchup, the U.S. and Mexico will contest the final of the 2021 Gold Cup on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 5:30 pm pacific time at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
While similarities abound between the Nations League and Gold Cup as the two countries square off for another trophy, the on-field matchup will be very different. That is because the two managers have taken two very different approaches to this tournament.
U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter elected to leave most of his best players at home, allowing them time to recover during the European off-season and acclimate themselves with their club teams ahead of the new season. That means just four Americans on the roster this Sunday were part of the 23-man Nations League team. Kellyn Acosta, Reggie Cannon, Sebastian Lleget, and Jackson Yueill are the lone repeats, with only Acosta and Lleget expected to start against Mexico.
Mexico manager Gerardo Martino took the opposite approach as he is using the Gold Cup to sharpen his team's chemistry ahead of World Cup qualifying. Over half of his roster in the final were at the Nations League in Denver, and prominent stars such as Jonathan Dos Santos, Hector Herrera, and Jesus Corona should feature prominently in the match.
The two different approaches to the tournament means that Mexico is the favorite going in, but the teams have had very different paths to the final. The young, inexperienced U.S. team has impressed with its ability to grind out results against more-experienced opponents. They have also showed that the Americans have lots of depth and are capable of putting together multiple rosters to compete against anyone in the region.
On the other hand, Mexico has not looked as sharp or dominant as they were expected to be. Given the quality and experience on their roster compared to the rest of the field, it was anticipated that the Mexicans would reach this point relatively easily. However, they started off the group stage with a 0-0 draw against a weak Trinidad & Tobago team and held on for a 1-0 win over El Salvador to narrowly win Group A. In the semifinal, Mexico's woes continued as they needed a 90+8 minute goal to escape Canada.
While neither team has won pretty, the U.S. arguably has more momentum. They also needed a late second-half goal to make it to the final, but the young team's ability to punch above its weight should instill a belief in the squad that allows them to not be scared of their opponents. Mexico's inability to finish off its opponents throughout the tournament leaves some doubt their form for the final, creating a window of opportunity for the Americans to create deja vu and walk out of this summer with two trophies in hand.