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U.S., Mexico meet in Gold Cup final

Americans try to defend their Gold Cup title at home, where they thrive against CONCACAF teams.

July 26, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Stuart Holden can hold his head high.

So can Giovani Dos Santos.

If any two players have emerged from soccer's 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup with their reputations enhanced, it is the Houston Dynamo's feisty midfielder and Tottenham Hotspur's elusive winger.

Today, at Giants Stadium in New Jersey, they will face each other when the U.S. and Mexico meet in the tournament final at noon.

Mexico, because of the greater experience its players, might have a slight edge, but it's not worth risking even the smallest of wagers.

The U.S., after all, is the defending champion and is 38-4-6 all time in Gold Cup play. It has also outscored its opponents by a better than 3-1 margin in the 10 editions of the 18-year-old event.

On top of that, there is the U.S. record on its own playing fields. It has not lost at home to a team from the North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region since 2001, a stretch of 58 games.

That might have changed during this event, especially with U.S. Coach Bob Bradley electing to field essentially a second-string team after the usual starters had taken part in the Confederations Cup in South Africa.

But the backups showed their worth.

It fell to Holden, for example, to wear the No. 10 jersey of all-time U.S. scoring leader Landon Donovan. He fit it well, scoring two goals and creating three others as the American team went 4-0-1 heading into today's final.

"Any time I'm on the field I want to do well," Holden told reporters after the U.S. had beaten Honduras in the semifinals in Chicago on Thursday night. "I'm competitive. The guys around me are doing a good job of finishing. It's been an all-round effort since the first game."

Holden, 24 next Saturday, was born in Scotland and played at Clemson. He has been impressive for four seasons with two-time MLS champion Houston, and has benefited from having Dynamo Coach Dominic Kinnear as a mentor.

Kinnear, a former U.S. international, molded him into a player who made the U.S. team for last year's Beijing Olympics.

Bradley has praised the midfielder.

"Stuart is a player who has been on the verge of getting into our team for a while," he said. "The timing of this tournament was good for him. . . .

"I think he's taken advantage of it."

Mexico, meanwhile, has seen the 20-year-old Dos Santos, a former under-17 world champion, start to come into his own.

In a 4-0 quarterfinal victory over Haiti, he scored one goal and set up two others.

Having been taken to overtime and then penalty kicks by Costa Rica in the semifinals, fatigue could be a factor for Mexico, which also was tied by Panama on its way to the final, but goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said the players are ready.

"Since we started the Gold Cup, this is without a doubt the game that we wanted," he said. "Now we have it in front of us. It will be a difficult match, but I believe in our team."

The U.S. has outscored its Gold Cup opponents, 12-3, so Ochoa will have to be as sharp as he was against Costa Rica. Mexico Coach Javier Aguirre has warned his players about the U.S. strengths.

"The U.S. is very organized all the time and lives off the errors of opponents, set plays and balls in the air," Aguirre said. "We have to keep up with the pace of the game. We can't give anything away to the Americans."

Today's winner will be the first to win the Gold Cup five times.


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