July 7, 2019 presented a rare confluence of futbol championship events. In the morning (US time), the 2019 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and the Netherlands took place in France. In the afternoon, the Copa America final featured host country Brazil versus Peru. In the evening, the U.S. men’s team faced off against Mexico in the Gold Cup final in Chicago. The U.S. women’s team rightfully considered themselves disrespected by the North and South American soccer federations for scheduling their finals on the same day the World Cup came to a conclusion. Nonetheless, it was a great day to be a soccer fan.
2019 WORLD CUP FINAL:
The United States cruised through the group stage scoring an astounding 18 goals while giving up none. The Netherlands didn’t have it quite so easy in their group, but still came away with three convincing wins. The American found tougher games in the knockout rounds, but won by a 2-1 score in each round–the Round of 16, the Quarterfinals, and the Semifinals–on their way to the finals. The Dutch gave up a goal in their 2-1 Round of 16 win, but threw shutouts in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals. This was only the second World Cup that the Netherlands had qualified for, but they served notice of their abilities by winning the European championship two years ago.
From the start, the U.S. dominated the game. They continually pushed the attack, fired shots, and earned corners as the game was largely played in the final third. The Dutch showed resilience on their back line though and turned away attack after attack by the Americans. For the first time in the tournament, the U.S. failed to score in the first 15 minutes of the game and the game was still scoreless at the half.
The American lethal front line of Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Tobin Heath continued their relentless assault into the second half and earned a penalty kick 15 minutes in when a Dutch defender kicked too high in an attempt to prevent Morgan from receiving a pass inside the box. Rapinoe buried the penalty kick as she has done all tournament. The Dutch defense seemed rattled at that point and less than 10 minutes later, that discombobulation cost them. U.S. midfielder Rose Lavelle took a pass near the mid-line, dribbled straight down the center of the field, made a simple juke move at the top of the box that turned the defender the wrong way and then rocketed a left-footer past the goalie into the right corner of the goal. Even with the two goal lead, the U.S. continued to press the attack, something many squads fail to do when they build a lead. The Dutch got their best chances as time ran down, but could not convert.
The 2-0 win gave the U.S. their fourth World Cup title–their second in a row–two more than any other national squad. Rapinoe won both the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards. With the emergence of the 24-year-old Lavelle, who won the Bronze Ball award, the future of the U.S. team continues to look very bright. Much of the Dutch squad will still be in their primes in four years, so look for them to be a force at the 2023 World Cup.
Given the American womens’ dominance at the highest levels, it is high time that the U.S. soccer federation paid the women the same as the men. The womens’ team scores better results, draws bigger crowds, and gets better TV ratings. It’s time they get PAID!
2019 COPA AMERICA FINAL:
In a rarity, the Copa America final matched two teams that came out of the same group. In the group stage, Brazil punished Peru 5-0, but La Blanquirroja managed to advance out of the groups with a tie against Venezuela and a win over Bolivia. Peru then won Quarterfinals and Semifinals games against Uruguay (penalty kicks) and Chile, respectively, that they really had no business winning, but for a stout defense that turned away numerous shots and making the most of the few chances their offense received. Seleção fought through some minor bumps in the road, notably a tie against Venezuela in the group and a penalty kick win against Paraguay in the Quarterfinals, two national squads that Brazil should have dominated. In a hard fought game, Brazil turned away Argentina 2-0 in the Semifinals, disappointing Leo Messi on the world stage yet again.
in the Final the Peruvians surprisingly came out swinging at the start, repeatedly pushing into the Brazilian box, but could not finish. At the 15-minute mark, a Brazilian run down the right sideline produced a long cross into the box where Peru’s defense had collapsed inward, leaving Everton alone on the back side. He ran onto the cross and rammed home the first goal of the game. Just before half-time, Paulo Guerrero delivered the equalizer for Peru on a penalty kick after a pass in the box bounced off the arm of a falling Brazilian defender. Minutes later, in extra time, Peru’s defense again failed, leaving Gabriel Jesus with too much space at the top of the box which he converted into a 2-1 halftime lead for Brazil.
Brazil continued to dominate the ball in the second half, but neither team was able to get much in the way of shots on goal. However, as Jesus tooketh, he also gaveth away, doing Peru a favor and earning his second yellow card of the game by delivering an elbow to the back of an opposing player’s head while jumping for a high ball. Brazil had to play a man down for the final 20 and Peru nearly tied it up again on a long shot by Edison Flores. However, Brazil maintained its attack and got an insurance goal on a questionably earned penalty kick just before extra time. With the 3-1 victory, Brazil won its first Copa America championship since 2007.
2019 GOLD CUP FINAL:
Mexico and the United States have long dominated the CONCACAF Gold Cup with 7 and 6 championships, respectively. Canada is the only other national squad to have won a Gold Cup. So it came as no surprise that El Tri and the Americans found themselves facing off in yet another Gold Cup Final. Both squads rumbled through their groups without much problem scoring many goals in the process. For the U.S., always known for their conservative game, this attacking approach was refreshing. Both team faced tougher games in the knockout rounds, but survived to reach the championship game.
The Americans did not abandon Coach Gregg Berhalter’s attacking style, creating two great early opportunities for Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore that could not be converted. The Mexicans played a more patient passing approach, but the stiff U.S. back line prevented any troubling penetrations in the final third. At the end of the half, the stats say Mexico had more possession and shots, but the U.S. clearly created the more dangerous opportunities, though they were unable to finish them.
An early corner in the 2nd half nearly put the Americans on the board. A header off the Pulisic corner was saved by a defender’s header on the goal line at the near post. A follow-up shot went off a defender’s back. As the half progressed though, Mexico’s attack kept building, earning corners and putting shots on goal. Momentum had clearly shifted and the Mexicans finally cashed in on a push up the middle where Raul Jimenez put through a beautiful back heel pass to Jonathan dos Santos at the top of the box. Dos Santos then placed a left-footer into the top left corner of the net that U.S. goalie Zach Steffen could only watch. The United States staged a furious rally in the final 20 minutes, but despite some great opportunities, they could not find the equalizer.
The Americans should feel good about their showing in this tournament. They still need to find a Clint Dempsey-like finisher, but the attacking style suits the make-up of the team. Budding stars like Pulisic, Weston McKinnie, and Reggie Cannon, all 20 or 21 years old portends a bright future for the USMNT. Mexico’s bend but don’t break approach survived this time, but many of their attackers are 25 and under, so they will get better with experience too. Hopefully both squads continue to get better so that CONCACAF can put forward a better presence at the World Cup.