Pizarro leads the way in Mexico's Gold Cup triumph
Following a worrisome start to the Gold Cup final, Mexico surged back in an inspired second-half performance that carried them to their first championship under new manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino. Thanks to a lone goal from Jonathan dos Santos in the 73rd minute, El Tri narrowly squeezed past their CONCACAF rivals to steal the 2019 Gold Cup title with a 1-0 win.
Here are the lessons and takeaways from Sunday night's championship game for Mexico in Chicago.
The resurgence after halftime was a joy to watch. Desperate to take the lead, Mexico looked dynamic and exciting in the second half. Dos Santos and Rodolfo Pizarro proved to be game-changers with their aggressive runs and playmaking that helped wake up the CONCACAF giants.
That goal from dos Santos, which was a thing of beauty that also involved Raul Jimenez and Pizarro, will likely go down as one of the goals of the tournament.
All that said, we can't ignore the clear issues either. Mexico was defensively shaky throughout the match and regularly appeared to be a step behind a pacey opposition player like Christian Pulisic. El Tri should also feel lucky that the Americans were quite forgiving in the final third. The USMNT failed to capitalize on a handful of easy opportunities that never found the back of the net.
Manager rating (out of 10)
8 -- A job well done from Martino. The manager's 4-3-3 formation gradually began to look more and more dangerous as the game progressed. Following the halftime break, Martino's decision to switch Pizarro and Uriel Antuna on the wings also proved to be decisive in the victory for Mexico.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Guillermo Ochoa, 7 -- Ochoa needed some help from Andres Guardado at one point from a goal-line clearance, but the goalkeeper nonetheless had an impressive game in net. The veteran finished the tournament with two consecutive shut-outs.
DF Luis Rodriguez, 5 -- A decent end to the game will do little to compensate for his passing errors in the first 60-70 minutes. "Chaka" ruined a number of plays going forward through his inaccurate crossing and distribution. The fullback was also a defensive liability.
DF Carlos Salcedo, 6 -- Salcedo had a fairly average evening. The Tigres player, who at times failed to communicate with his fellow defenders, did do a good job of connecting numerous passes going forward.
DF Hector Moreno, 4 -- Is Moreno fully fit? Since returning from injury, the veteran has emerged as a weak link in Mexico's backline. Pulisic and Jozy Altidore had no issues outrunning or outmuscling the central defender.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 7 -- Like usual, Gallardo tends to quietly do well for Mexico on the left flank. The hard-working fullback was vital in both the defense and attack through his headers and overlapping runs.
MF Jonathan dos Santos, 8 -- Dos Santos was fantastic to watch. The LA Galaxy player looked like one of the more clever players on the pitch with his ability to move the ball diagonally and also switch the field. His game-winning goal was the icing on the cake.
MF Edson Alvarez, 7 -- Another solid match from Alvarez. The 21-year-old defensive midfielder ran the middle of the pitch and also wasn't afraid to assert his presence aggressively when needed.
MF Andres Guardado, 7 -- His shots on target needed some work, but Guardado was a significant figure in the build-up of many of Mexico's plays. The captain remains an irreplaceable member of the roster. We also can't overlook his goal-line clearance either.
FW Uriel Antuna, 5 -- Not much to say about Antuna. The breakout star of the tournament lofted poorly timed crosses and stumbled against the American defense. An unexciting finish to an otherwise successful Gold Cup tournament.
FW Raul Jimenez, 6 -- Assist aside, Jimenez squandered opportunity after opportunity for Mexico in front of net. The striker still has much to prove before solidifying a place as the go-to starter over Javier Hernandez.
FW Rodolfo Pizarro, 9 -- No player on the field showed the same kind of hunger or drive as Pizarro. The risk-taking winger was a catalyst in the attack that constantly complicated things for the USMNT defense. A role in the lone goal is also undoubtedly worth mentioning.
FW Carlos Rodriguez, N/A -- Substituted in for Pizarro in the 81st minute.
FW Roberto Alvarado, N/A -- Substituted in for Antuna in the 86th minute.
MF Diego Reyes, N/A -- Substituted in for Guardado in the 89th minute.