Surprise! It's U.S. vs. Mexico again
In a tournament that screamed for a new champion, the status quo won out. The U.S. and Mexico once again are facing each other in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, and for the second consecutive time, the two hated rivals will battle it out for regional supremacy.
Such a matchup is great for fans of both nations, as U.S.-Mexico duels tend to be pulse-pounding affairs. But the supposed parity that exists in this region is a myth. The impending arrival of teams like Honduras and Costa Rica was false advertising. CONCACAF is still the U.S., Mexico and everyone else.
That won't detract from the game, though. While Sunday's final (3 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Univisión) won't feature some of the players who have made this rivalry great -- American stars
Not the short-term future but one in the far-off distance. The short-term future -- Aug. 12 in Mexico City -- will see familiar faces back on the field in World Cup qualifying. On that day, American Gold Cup standouts
This match, however, doesn't speak well of CONCACAF. There were plenty of opportunities for an upstart nation to make a run at the title. Canada looked strong in the first round but faltered badly in its quarterfinal match against Honduras. El Salvador had a strong opening match against Costa Rica but didn't even get out of the group stage. Honduras and Costa Rica were big busts in the semifinals.
Mexico still has a large obstacle to overcome. Even though this is an inexperienced U.S. squad, El Tri hasn't done well against any U.S. teams on American soil since 1999. Young U.S. squads took out their Mexican counterparts in 2000, '04 and '07.
The winner of this final, however, could get a psychological boost ahead of the crucial August date. A Mexico win could give even more faith that its struggles are a thing of the past and the second half of qualifying could see a sleeping giant awaken. A U.S. victory could give the Americans an even greater mental edge on their southern neighbors, and the U.S. needs as much help as possible in that department heading to the Azteca.
Club América has been a hapless team since the Clausura '07 season. Not coincidentally, that was
Players are aware of the necessity to change things. As the Mexican league kicks off the Apertura '09 season on Friday, América captain
When asked what needed to change, Pardo made a simple reply: "Everything," he told SI.com by phone.
Perhaps it's that sense of urgency that has led to strong preseason efforts. América tied Inter Milan 1-1 last Saturday at Stanford Stadium and beat AC Milan 2-1 on Wednesday in Atlanta in the ongoing World Football Challenge. And while those results ultimately will matter little, América's efforts against some of Europe's elite speak well for the club.
"We've had a great preseason and have trained well," Pardo said. "Last season, we did have some good things, but also had some negatives."
What it may come down to for América is an overhaul. While the roster and manager remain relatively the same, things must be different from the start.
"We have to change our attitude," Pardo said. "We need to be a team that is more competitive, a team that fights, that runs, that works hard. That's what the public wants to see."
Even though all these players, as you say, are millionaires and starters on their clubs, there are some surprising and strong elements from this squad.
That's a good point, Jim. Outside of the region, nobody will care that the U.S. took a team of youth and inexperience to the Gold Cup. Results speak volumes abroad, and a loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final could take some of the luster off the Confederations Cup performance to those outside of the region. However, the U.S. is showing that the depth is quite strong and that