No One Expected USMNT to win the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup
The U.S. Men’s National Team was looking ahead to this fall’s World Cup qualifying. The Gold Cup was simply a vehicle to look at the younger players, help them develop, and see what they really could do when more important games were played in a month.
No one told the young American players that they weren’t expected to beat the heavily-favored Mexicans. Sunday’s game was about learning, with the winning coming secondary. But, win they did — stunning Mexico for the second straight time and claiming the CONCACAF Gold Cup, 1-0.
Add in the win in June against Mexico in the Nation’s League final, and that’s two huge USMNT wins in two months, and both against the team’s biggest rival.
The hero of Sunday was Miles Robinson, who in just his ninth international appearance scored the game-winner in the 117th minute. Goalie Matt Turner got his fifth shutout in six Gold Cup matches, including 1-0 wins in all three knockout matches.
This is the seventh Gold Cup win for the U.S., tying Mexico’s seven wins. It’s also just the second time in seven finals against Mexico that the Americans came out on top. But perhaps this shouldn’t have been a surprise, as the U.S. is on a nine-match winning streak, and they have 14 straight games on home soil.
When the U.S. begins World Cup Qualifying in September, they play El Salvador, Canada, and Honduras in the span of six days. In order to survive that week, this team needs depth, and this win shows that they have it.
They also now have the experience in an important international tournament to help prevent the embarrassment of four years ago when the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago.
Robinson and Turner should both be locks to make the team when qualifying begins. How much they will contribute is still to be determined, but they should be on the squad. Kellyn Acosta was also excellent at center midfield, and we may see more of him in September.
U.S. Women Lose in Olympic Semifinals
The United States Women’s National Team, the defending World Cup champions, never looked quite right during these Olympics. They were destroyed by Sweden in the first game. There was the 0-0 snoozefest against Australia. They had to go to penalties to sneak past the Netherlands. And early Monday morning, their plan to win the gold medal came to an end with a 1-0 loss to Canada.
Canada registered an upset against the USWNT at odds of +425, according to the BetUS sportsbook’s Olympic odds.
The U.S. is still on the hunt for the bronze medal and will play in that match on Friday. But that is little consolation for the best team in the world that never looked all that good.
Monday’s loss was lifeless. The U.S. never found its rhythm on offense, rarely creating a scoring chance. And as much as it would be convenient to blame the loss on the injury to starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, it would be dishonest. The penalty kick given up by backup goalie Adrianna Franch wouldn’t have been saved by anyone.
This was a collective loss and one that Megan Rapinoe struggled to explain.
“Sucks. I think that’s one of the most frustrating things. We just — I don’t know. It’s not like we have a bad vibe. The group is feeling good and everything. But we just haven’t been able to find that juice that we normally do. So, just, yeah, sucks.”
No team has ever won the World Cup and then followed that up with an Olympic gold medal, and that ignominious streak will remain intact.
For Canada, the winner of the bronze medal at the last two Olympics, they will now be playing for the gold medal for the first time ever. It’s also the first time Canada has beaten its neighbor to the south since 2001, and it helps ease the pain of the 4-3 loss to the Americans in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.
In that game, the score was tied up 3-3, and the game appeared to be headed to penalty kicks when Alex Morgan scored in stoppage time to put the U.S. in the gold medal match.