Just a couple of months after meeting in the final of the soccer Gold Cup, United States and Mexico clash again in a friendly matchup at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on Friday (8:30PM ET, live on FS1 / Univisión).
It was Mexico who came out on top on that occasion. Jonathan Dos Santos’ 73rd-minute strike was enough to separate the sides and get Gerardo Martino’s time as Mexico head coach off to a perfect start with the country’s eighth Gold Cup triumph.
Gregg Berhalter therefore had to settle for a runners up performance in his own first major tournament as head coach of the USMNT. He is trying to introduce an approach that is more possession-based than the traditional national team style, and while the Gold Cup provided some promising signs, there is clearly still much to be worked on and refined.
The U.S. created the better chances of the first half of the final, with Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore both unable to find the back of the net after getting in behind the Mexico defence. Martino made some tactical adjustments at half-time, and Team USA thereafter found it much harder to get the ball moving forward. With Mexico now in the ascendency, some neat combination play was finished off by a precise shot from Dos Santos for the victory.
Berhalter was the man chosen to lead USA into the 2022 soccer World Cup cycle after their shock failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the first time they had failed to do so since 1986. He has a clear idea of how he wants his team to play and they did appear to improve as the Gold Cup went on, which is clearly a positive sign for what lies ahead.
His squad for Friday’s game and another friendly against Uruguay next week features 15 of the players who made up his Gold Cup selection. There is also the return of veterans such as Brad Guzan and Alfredo Morales. In addition, two members of the team who reached the quarter-final of the Under-20 World Cup earlier this year get a place, namely Sergino Dest of Ajax and the FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal.
“We are continuing to build on the core of this group,” Berhalter said upon announcing his squad for the fixtures. “We felt like the Gold Cup was a good step forward for the team, but we still need to continue to improve.”
Any analysis of the United States’ performance in the final of that competition should certainly be filtered through the fact that the Mexico side they came up against was not an entirely full-strength one. For one reason or another, Martino was unable or chose not to call upon national-team regulars Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera, Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernandez, Jesus Corona and Miguel Layun.
Five of those (minus Vela) are back in the squad for this international break, alongside some of the younger players who impressed in their stead during the Gold Cup. These include Uriel Antuna, the Manchester City-owned player currently on loan at LA Galaxy in MLS. His Galaxy teammate Dos Santos and Marco Fabian of the Philadelphia Union represent the rest of the US-based contingent.
Mexico didn’t always sparkle at the Gold Cup, but Martino, winner of league titles in three different countries (including the United States with Atlanta United) and a three-time Copa America finalist with Paraguay and Argentina, carries an unbeaten 10-match record into Friday’s fixture and next week’s encounter with his native Argentina. His balance to date is eight wins in 90 minutes, one win in 120 minutes and one win on penalties.
It is a record that is likely to continue through this match against the USMNT. With some of his more experienced and talented players back in the group, Martino has a side that at this stage of the cycle looks stronger than the United States both individually and collectively. Although the habitual wholesale substitutions in the second halves of these friendly fixtures can often alter the dynamic, Mexico are still the most likely winners.
Our Preview’s USMNT vs Mexico Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
Our one advised bet with the U.S. sports gambling sites might not be patriotic, but hopefully it can be profitable: