USA-Mexico: GGG-Tata show hits Las Vegas ahead of Gold Cup final

Any game between the USA and Mexico is a special one.

Long before Gregg Berhalter and Gerardo Martino took over as coaches of the USA and Mexico in 2019, the rivalry featured intense matches often marked by heated exchanges.

But rarely has a match between the two teams sparked the pre-game barbs like those that flew on Saturday ahead of Sunday final's Gold Cup final in Las Vegas.

Mind you, their remarks were mostly directed at the officiating and how they perceive it to have been lacking.

The Gold Cup final will be the third USA-Mexico final of the GGG-Tata era. Each team has won one game -- Mexico 1-0 in the 2019 Gold Cup in Chicago and the USA 3-2 in overtime in the 2021 Concacaf Nations League final in Denver.

Both games had their moments. In the Gold Cup final, Andres Guardado put his hands around Weston McKennie's neck during one incident. In the Nations League final, Hector Herrera grabbed McKennie by the neck during another confrontation.

"I don't know what it is," McKennie, who has the dead-pan delivery of a good comedian, said afterwards, "but they seem to like to grab my neck."

Berhalter's issue is with the officiating. And his focus was on what happened in Thursday's Gold Cup semifinal, where Mexico beat Canada, 2-1, on a late goal. The match was marred by mass confrontations involving players from the two teams. In one of them, Luis Rodriguez was seen grabbing Canadian Mark-Anthony Kaye's neck.

The U.S. coach took the unusual step of calling out the officiating before taking questions at his pre-game press conference.

"We're preparing the guys for a very difficult game, a very combative game," Berhalter said on Saturday. "I think it's worth mentioning that we want it to be a physical game, we want it to be a tough contested game, the same way as Mexico want the same thing. But we also want it to be fair, and that's the referee's role in this game: to manage the game in a fair way.

"I've seen numerous times when the players from Mexico are grabbing a player's necks and facial areas, and that has no place in the game. We can't have that and, again, we want our guys to battle, we want both teams to battle, we want it to be physical, but you know that has no place in the game. When I saw the semifinal, I didn't think the referee did a good job of managing that at all and they need to get ahead of that. There can't be any hands to the neck or to the face."

Berhalter and Martino go back to MLS, where they coached Eastern Conference rivals Columbus and Atlanta United in 2017 and 2018, and they have mutual respect for each other -- "If I have half the career he's had as a coach, I'd be happy," said Berhalter of Martino -- but Martino would not let slide Berhalter's remarks about how referees should discipline his players.

Martino pointed to Berhalter's gestures made at Honduran Selvin Brown, the fourth official in the USA-Qatar semifinal, after Gyasi Zardes scored late in the match as behavior that needed to be addressed.

"The referee will do the best he can," Martino said about Sunday's final. "In the USA-Qatar game, I think the referee also wasn't able to handle those moments, especially with the coach's reaction to the U.S. goal against the fourth official."

(Berhalter apologized for his actions right after the game, saying his beef should have been with the match official, Costa Rican Juan Gabriel Calderon.)

Martino's sensitivity about punishment for sideline displays might stem from the fact that he was red carded in overtime of the Nations League final for putting his arm around John Pitti while the Panamanian referee looked at his monitor at midfield before awarding a penalty kick that Christian Pulisic converted for the winning goal.

The pressure is entirely on Martino ahead the final, and it's because Mexico lost to the USA in the Nations League final. El Tri is the favorite on Sunday, just as it was in June. It is even more heavily favored because most of the USA's top players are preparing for their new club seasons in Europe. (Most, not all, of Mexico's stars will play on Sunday.)

"We'll play against the United States and against the players that their coach included for this Gold Cup," Martino said on Saturday. "The reasoning for those picked isn't relevant to us. We are facing the United States in another final and we seek to win."

12 comments about "USA-Mexico: GGG-Tata show hits Las Vegas ahead of Gold Cup final".
  1. R2 Dad, August 1, 2021 at 3:02 a.m.

    Could it be that both El Tri and the USA have come to realize the shortcomings of permissive CONCACAF  officiating? Naw, this is just posturing.

  2. Santiago 1314, August 1, 2021 at 8:14 a.m.

    "Let's Get Ready to RUMBLE.!!!"
    USA, USA, USA.!!!
    $500K On The Line.!!!
    "Eye of the Tiger" and every other Cliche you can Think of.
    "JUST WIN BABY WIN.!!!!"

  3. beautiful game replied, August 1, 2021 at 1:52 p.m.

    Why point fingers at players for crossing the line? They cross the line line because the referee(s) enable them.  

  4. Nico Caraballo, August 1, 2021 at 1:14 p.m.

    So Tata is about the whataboutism when pointing at Berhalter's behavior, but can't deal with talk about his guys physically grabbing someone by the neck in a threatening manner. Then the player who gets grabbed is the-hole if they were to respond by knocking HH, Guardado, or anyone else out for crossing the line! Whatever! There better be some red cards for that behavior tonight if it happens! I want to see a great, spirited, and physical battle tonight... But cut the shenanigans and keep it to playing soccer... 

  5. Billy Logan, August 1, 2021 at 2:25 p.m.

    I'm in the in crowd. I know Coach Martino's nickname is Tata. 
    I'm in the out crowd. Idk what GGG is. What is GGG?

  6. Santiago 1314 replied, August 1, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.


  7. Billy Logan replied, August 1, 2021 at 7:28 p.m.

    Okay thanks, Santiago 1314. So, Berhalter's nickname is a whole 2 letters shorter than his first name - and two syllables longer. Nickname fail.

    Looking forward to a great game!

  8. Santiago 1314 replied, August 2, 2021 at 12:46 a.m.

    It's really Ggg Pephalterklopp ... Much Easier to type the Ggg

  9. Kent James, August 1, 2021 at 4:39 p.m.

    I am not a fan of physical intimidation or off the ball activities.  I hope both teams come to play soccer (though given the heated pre-game rhetoric, that seems unlikely).  Since Mexico has the more talented team, it may benefit the US to have this game get ugly.  I hope it doesn't.  Would I take an ugly win where we distract the Mexican team over a foul free loss to Mexico...good question!  Of course if Mexico makes it ugly, I would have no problem with an ugly win, but I hope that is not our game plan.

    What I fear is that we will come out all macho and physical, and the Mexicans will go down anytime anybody touches them.  

    This will be one of the most challenging games to referee on the planet.  I hope the CR (and his crew) has a good game.  I hope he is able to distinguish between contact that people use to create fouls and actuall fouls, and I hope he calls the latter (and ignores the former).  He should call it pretty tightly or it will get out of hand.  

    Given they've got (mostly) their A team, and we've got (at best) a B team, our guys better bring their A game.

  10. Wooden Ships replied, August 1, 2021 at 7:25 p.m.

    Good stuff Kent. 

  11. frank schoon, August 3, 2021 at 9:08 a.m.

    I find it sickening for a coach(Berhalter) to come up with the statement, "Well ,I think it is worth mentioning that I want it to be a physical game....". Yes , you employ this strategy, when you have "sh*tkickers ,who outsize, outrun and outmuscle you,  playing against a more technical and talented ball handling team,it benefits the lesser team.

    This is what I find to be the major problem in US soccer. Trust me, having played for so many years in the US in an environment where 'technique' is weakest part of the game, the attitude of having to play and rely upon physical part of the game is omnipresent. I remember one coach who threatened to bring his 'choppers' in.  I find a parallel if the coach is/was not a good player himself, who didn't have the technical finesse, or played in the backline ,defense ,which so many have been, view the game more combatively

    I didn't shy away as a player from a tough game. Even as a player, if I find my direct opponent wants to intimidate me, I come right back and work on him psychologically, saying, after I nutmegged him, "you want to see that again, or if he loses the ball on the dribble, "dribble much!"

    Likewise even as coach , I tell my players, 'you have to be tough out there', you can't be a 'wussy'. But my major emphasis as a coach is to tell my players to play a good technical game and know what to before you get the ball and after. I'm not looking for players who want to beat their chest like a gorilla and scream, 'we're going to kick your ass'. During halftime, my talks consists 90% on  technically and tactically of what went wrong and spend time on anything else

    Yes, ofcourse teams can win by playing physical but we can't be relying on the notion it is 'win, win or else. That won't get you anywhere as a coach if you want to develop the team and improve. You need a measurement of success. If you want as a coach to only win and not worry about longer run aspects of improving the players along with developing them but JUST WIN!!!! 

     As a coach, I want to win but doing so with a purpose of trying to improve the level of quality and improving the players. I can't be satisfied by having just a winning season, I want a creation out there that you can talk about. I get more satisfaction in seeing coaches who at one time weren't interested in my players but now want to steal them...

                               NEXT POST....

  12. frank schoon, August 3, 2021 at 9:59 a.m.

    Just look at our women's team, note their success in WINNING games in the past and now look at them....WHAT IS HAPPENING? is what everyone is saying. Am I surprised to what is currently happening? Of course not, this is why I have always been negative on the development of the women's team, for I knew that WINNING of itself does not solve or answer the underlying technical and tactical problems they had, all along. EMPHASIS ON JUST WINNING DOES NOT SOLVE THE WOMEN'S PROBLEM...IT IS MORE LONG RUN IN NATURE....

    Here is one the major criticisms of the women's failure...TOO OLD!!! not enough YOUNG TALENT filling in. I mean , REALLY ???, SERIOUSLY ???. What a 'brainfart' comment/criticism is that? It is not a question of too old or too young but what best combination of OLD and YOUNG(ER) fits to make the best team.

    Even if you have the youngest team, that has no baring on how well it plays, for it depends upon where you place them in relation to how it can best benefit their teammate's run of play. Santiago had quoted me on of my comments on the previous Swedish game before our 3-0 blow out...I had mentioned that Horan ended up playing sort of a semi-wing although she's not a wing and noone played in front of her and noone made runs from behind. What happened ,as a result, is that Horan showed all her NEGATIVE qualities, she has no speed or quickness in 1v1 open field type of situations, left ISOLATED. Her strength, playing combinational soccer with players surrrounding her, was totally illiminated. REGARDLESS if one's strengths are reduced, it doesn't matter the age of the player.....Your 11 best players doesn't make the best team....Soccer is about making the players on the field use their total strength 100%, it has nothing to do with too old or too young...

    A GOOD COACH NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO FORCE THE OPPONENTS TO EMPLOY THEIR NEGATIVE QUALITIES. In other words, force a player receive the ball with his back facing downfield, if that's his weakness or force or force a long pass in the air to a player who's not good in the air, etc...

    It is the same SIMPLISTIC  comments made about "total soccer", which is everyone can play any position....NO THEY DON'T!!! Players can only play another position, if they're capable. For example, you don't expect a #6 to show up as a wing in the opponent' third like HORAN did. The attack has to be well thought out and tie-in to the relation to the player's strength ,when out of position. strengths....

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