Out at the Rose Bowl today, things were already starting to hum. While the people of Pasadena were still out on the golf course or out for a jog, it was harder to get around with news vans and taco trucks covering every available inch. The makeshift stages and shanty food stalls were all set for tomorrow's tailgate. There was a line of people outside of ticket box, waiting to see if any extra tickets would be released.
The game has been sold out since the participants were announced. Supporters of Mexico are sure to be there in droves, outnumbering the supporters of the host country. Not that the United States won't have Outlaws in their corner. The most important part, is that some 80,000 people are going to show up, all wanting to see a great soccer match.
They certainly have the right teams involved to give them such a match. Mexico boasts the almost unbelievable skill of Chicharito. Javier Hernandez, since joining the Mexican national team in 2009, has scored 21 goals in 28 appearances. He's scored seven of those goals in this tournament alone. Far and away the Golden Boot of the tournament, his closest competitor is also on the Mexican team Aldo De Negris with 4 goals. Mexico finished their group with a goal differential of +13.
The United States has had a much more pedestrian road to the final. Stars Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey both left the team at one point to attend their respective sister's weddings, and somehow that came to define the US team. They were going to take this tournament seriously, just not right away. Panama managed a 2-1 victory over the US and won the group, the first time in the modern Gold Cup that the United States hasn't won their group.
However the team has turned it on when it counted most. Clint Dempsey has managed three goals from his midfield position, and Landon Donovan assisted on his third goal which proved the game winner in the semi-final. And those two along with all-world goalkeeper Tim Howard are the same nucleus that defeated Mexico 2-1 in the 2007 Gold Cup final.
However the only attacker to score for the US, Jozy Altidore, is out for the rest of the tournament with an injured hamstring. The silver lining to this is that space was cleared for Freddy Adu to make his comeback in the semi-final. It was Adu's forward pass that led to Donovan's cross. He could be a surprise contributor off the bench for the US.
Mexico has gotten 13 goals from their attackers this tournament. If the US is going to pull off the victory, the back five will have to be flawless. Possibly even more important, the star studded midfield is going to need to hold possession and keep the ball out of Mexico's attacking zone.