Stop me if you've heard this before... the United States and Mexico will face each other once again with a soccer championship on the line. That'll be the case again this weekend as Team USA will face "El Tri" for the Concacaf Nations League Finals title. This will be the 71st meeting between these regional foes, and the eighth game with a trophy at stake. These powerhouses of North American soccer played each other in the 2019 Gold Cup Final, with Mexico emerging victorious.
Both teams had to win tough semifinal matchups Thursday night in order to get here. The U.S. was locked in a stalemate with Honduras until an 89th-minute goal from Jordan Siebatcheu finally put Team USA on the board. The defense held tough the rest of the way for a 1-0 win. Mexico needed penalty kicks to defeat Costa Rica (5-4), as both teams spent 90 minutes locked in a scoreless defensive battle.
With this year's Gold Cup fast approaching, both teams are looking for bragging rights heading into that tournament. When this game kicks off on Sunday night, we could be seeing a potential preview of this year's Gold Cup final. This year's Concacaf Nations League Finals tournament was originally slated to take last summer but was postponed due to the pandemic. Prepare for another hard-fought game between Concacaf's two best teams.
Concacaf Nations League Finals: the United States vs. Mexico
When: Sunday, June 6 at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Empower Field at Mile High (Denver)
TV: CBS Sports Network/Univision
Three Things to Watch
1. Both teams have brought the offense in this tournament
The U.S. and Mexico have combined for 29 goals so far. Team USA scored 15 goals in Group A, with 11 of them coming against Cuba, and the other four coming against Canada. That's in addition to the game-winning goal against Honduras Thursday night. Altogether the United States has outscored their last 13 overall opponents 31-9.
"El Tri" also has had plenty of success finding the back of the net, as evidenced by the 13 goals they've scored in this tournament. In Group B play they dropped seven on Bermuda and six on Panama. They also converted five of six penalty kick attempts against Costa Rica in the semis. They've outscored their last 13 overall opponents 27-9.
2. Both teams can also play defense
For as good as both teams have been in front of opposing nets, they've also been strong on the back end. Mexico has only given up three goals in this tournament and held Costa Rica to 4-of-6 on penalties in Thursday night's semifinal. Mexico hasn't given up more than two goals in a single game since losing a 2019 friendly to Argentina (4-0). They've held five of their last nine opponents scoreless.
Team USA has also posted some strong showings on defense in recent games. They held Honduras scoreless in the semis while allowing just three goals to Canada during Nations League Finals group play. The last time Team USA gave up more than two goals in a single game was actually against Mexico in a friendly back in September 2019 (lost 3-0). The United States has shut out seven of their last 12 opponents.
3. Players to watch
Team USA forward Jordan Morris has scored four times in this tournament, which ties him for fifth in Nations League Finals play. Fellow forwards Weston McKinnie and Josh Sargent have contributed three goals each. Christian Pulisic, Gyasi Zardes, and Aaron Long (one goal each) have been the other scorers for the U.S, along with Jordan Siebatcheu. Brad Guzan and Zach Steffan have split time net for Team USA, and they've combined for 13 saves in this tournament.
Mexico striker Jose Juan Macias leads his team with three goals while Uriel Antuna and Raul Jimenez are right behind him with two each. Mexico has had a healthy and more importantly, successful, rotation of goalkeepers in this tournament. Guillermo Ochoa, Raul Gudino, Hugo Gonzalez, and Rodolfo Cota have collectively posted 10 saves in Nations League Finals play. There are enough players from both teams to field an all-star squad.
Mexico has a 36-19-15 edge in the all-time series against the United States. El Tri is 6-1 in championship matches against the Americans, and they've gone 4-1-1 in their last six overall contests with Team USA (outscored them 9-5 in those matchups). The United States last defeated Mexico in a friendly back in September 2018. Team USA continues to show improvement and progression, but Mexico still has the advantage.
Prediction: Mexico 4, United States 3
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.