Head coach Bob Bradley has done it again.
Much like his struggles in the Confederations Cup in 2009, the embattled Bradley has led the U.S. team back from being down, but not out, by advancing to another Final.
In that 2009 Final in South Africa, the U.S. had a 2-0 lead at halftime, only to concede three-unanswered goals to lose to champions Brazil.
For the Yanks' sake, they should do everything in their power to prevent a repeat of that result when they face Mexico at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night in the Gold Cup Final.
Southern California has a large Mexican population, so Pasadena won't exactly be home field advantage for the Yanks. The U.S. would be lucky if one-third of the stadium is supporting the red, white, and blue.
Here's how the game breaks down:
Mexico has had a better tournament so far, but that doesn't necessarily mean much. The U.S. has steadily improved from their poor showings against Panama and Guadeloupe, and Mexico is coming off an overtime victory over lowly Honduras in the semi-finals. Also, El Tri lost five of their players after testing positive for drugs.
This is the second most intense rivalry in the Western Hemisphere, as only Brazil-Argentina generate more animosity for one another, so both teams will have inspired efforts.
For the U.S., goalkeeper has been a traditional strong point, while it's been a traditional weakness for Mexico. This year is no different, as Tim Howard is superior to Alfredo Talavera, the backup to suspended starter Memo Ochoa.
Howard has been steady throughout the tournament, and Talavera has actually risen to the occasion.
The U.S. had to move Carlos Bocanegra to central defender as Tim Ream and Oguchi Onyewu have had their struggles. Jay DeMerit is sorely missed, but the U.S. has received positive contributions from Clarence Goodson. Meanwhile, Steve Cherundolo and Eric Lichaj have over-achieved in the tournament, which has been a pleasant surprise.
However, Mexico's defense has been exceptional. El Tri has only given up two goals in the tournament, and Hector Moreno of Espanyol and veteran Rafael Marquez have been exceptional in central defense, while Efrain Juarez and Carlos Salcido are solid on the flanks, and good at attacking.
The big question going into the Final will be if Landon Donovan starts. The best player on the team has yet to crack the starting 11, and his presence is key to the U.S. victory. Assuming Donovan starts, the U.S. midfield is quite formidable. Defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones has shown a great deal of progress, while Michael Bradley remains the best young starter for the Yanks, with his tremendous poise and sharp passing. Clint Dempsey has not been at his best in the tournament, but the Fulham attacker and Donovan are the best outfield players on the team. Off the bench, Maurice Edu probably deserves to start.
Mexico's midfield is strong, as well, even with the loss of Deportivo La Coruna star Andres Guardado. Pablo Barrera and Giovani dos Santos have made up for the loss, but the central midfield hasn't been quite as effective as it needs to be. It has created opportunities, but against weak competition, and Gerardo Torrado will need to make sure he can find the forwards against a tight U.S. defensive midfield. Israel Castro is a capable midfielder, as well, but El Tri needs creativity out him.
After losing Charlie Davies, and without Edson Buddle and Eddie Johnson, the U.S turned to young Jozy Altidore, who hurt his hamstring in the tournament. The U.S. has scored only seven goals with this makeshift frontline and are relying on Juan Agudelo and Alejandro Bedoya. They have performed well, but they are not legitimate weapons.
Mexico, on the other hand, have one of the most exciting forwards in the world in Javier El Chicharito Hernandez. The Manchester United striker is a threat every time he touches the ball, and his partner, inexperienced Aldo de Nigris, has proven his worth, as well. Mexico has scored 18 goals in the tournament, and have two players of contrasting styles for the U.S. to deal with.
PREDICTION: The crowd will be overwhelmingly pro-Mexico, and the U.S will need to get lucky to score on a tough Mexican defense. Meanwhile, Mexico's attack is so strong that the U.S. must get a great performance from Cherundolo in the counter attack to keep the U.S. in the game.
SCORE PREDICTION: Mexico 1, USA 0