CHICAGO — Mexico is still the king of Concacaf.
El Tri beat the United States men’s national team 1-0 in the Gold Cup final at a sold out Soldier Field in Chicago on Sunday. Jonathan dos Santos converted on a layoff from Raúl Jiménez to score the game’s only goal in the 73rd minute.
It was Mexico’s eighth Gold Cup, the most of any country. The U.S. has six titles. Mexico has won four of the past six Gold Cups.
Dos Santos had the first chance of the match for Mexico with a shot that Zack Steffen comfortably saved in the opening minute. Then the Americans had good looks from Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore inside the first 10 minutes. Pulisic’s effort was saved, while Altidore missed wide.
“It was an intense game,” Altidore said. “I thought both teams got after it in the beginning. I thought we played well in the first half, especially putting pressure on them. We just couldn’t put our chances away tonight. We had some good chances. We had some good run of play, but it just didn’t fall for us.”
Mexico established control in midfield throughout the first half, but wasn’t able to significantly pressure Steffen.
In the second half, the U.S. had the first big chance. Jordan Morris was free for a header off a Christian Pulisic corner in the 51st minute. Morris’ header was blocked off the line by Andres Guardado.
After that, it was all Mexico before Dos Santos finally got the breakthrough. Mexico had 58 percent possession in the match and 63 percent for the second half.
“The beginning of the second half they made a few adjustments,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We dropped a little bit deeper, couldn’t quite find the first pass to get out in certain moments. Obviously then, you get a little bit tired and they start to gain some momentum. It culminates with them getting the goal.”
The Gold Cup marked the first competitive matches since the team was knocked out of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The U.S. didn’t get a significant breakthrough in coach Gregg Berhalter’s first competitive matches in charge, but did get a look at the new squad against the premier team in Concacaf.
Berhalter noted the young team made growth over the course of the month long tournament. Still, it wasn’t enough to knock off Mexico.
“We’re close, but we weren’t there tonight,” Berhalter said. “We need to score a goal in the first half. We need to put more pressure on them to keep creating those chances. I think as you saw as the match went on they gained control of it and got the winning goal.”
He noted the difference was the Americans’ calmness and composure. It was the first competitive U.S.-Mexico game for six of the Americans’ starters. The Soldier Field crowd was predominantly Mexican fans.
“We knew it was going to be a big event,” Berhalter said. “We knew it was going to be a semi-hostile crowd and I think what I’d say is the calmness is what we lacked. Mexico certainly had it. They played well, particularly in the second half. Overall, I’m proud of the guys. I’m proud of the development this month.”
Jiménez won the award for best player in the tournament. Guillermo Ochoa won best goalkeeper.