Sunday night, the most tumultuous Gold Cup of recent memory came to an end. The two teams in the final, Jamaica and Mexico, took two very different paths to get to Lincoln Financial Field. The Reggae Boys took the role of the tournament’s sweethearts as they fought their way past the reigning champions in the United States with a statement performance. The Mexican favorites, on the other hand, find themselves in the middle of the tournament’s controversy after their last two penalty kick-filled victories leading up to the final. Controversy aside, both teams went into Sunday’s final with every intention of winning but Mexico definitely took the role of the favorites.
The opening minutes of the match made fans think that an upset may be in the cards. The Jamaicans didn’t look phased by the aura of the Mexican team and came out flying. Despite the early push from the Jamaicans, the lack of a finishing touch meant the score remained deadlocked. The inability to capitalize on their chances came back to bite them after 30 minutes as the tournament’s best player Andres Guardado fired home a clinical first touch volley to give Mexico the lead. Guardado’s classy finish was enough to give the favorites the lead as they went into the locker rooms after the first 45 minutes. Despite the Guardado goal, Jamaica had still managed to keep themselves within striking distance of the CONCACAF giants.
The one-goal deficit quickly grew to two in the second half. A costly turnover in the middle of the field fell to Jesus Corona and the Mexican striker made no mistake in doubling his side’s lead. Corona was able to beat the remaining Jamaican opposition and place his 18-yard shot into the side netting. Mexico two, Jamaica zero. Some will argue that a two-goal lead is the most dangerous in sports. A goal for the trailing team and momentum could see them push their way into the lead. A goal for the leading team has the potential to squash what little remaining hope the opposition has, and that’s exactly what Mexico did less than 15 minutes after Corona’s strike.
The dagger came in the 61st minute and it could not have been more demoralizing for the underdog Jamaicans. A seemingly innocuous cross into the area was botched by the Jamaican centerback and the errant cross found an unmarked Oribe Peralta less than six yards from goal. A helpless Ryan Thompson was the only thing standing between the Club America striker and the net. Peralta, who had already scored four goals this tournament, put finesse aside and lazered his shot past Thompson and put the finishing touch on Mexico’s dominant performance.
The near insurmountable deficit led to an understandable frustration from the Jamaicans and the physicality of the game went up a notch. Despite the heated play in the final stage of the game, both teams left with just two yellow cards apiece. There was one bright spot for the game’s underdogs as Darren Mattlocks found the back of the net in the 80th minute to reduce the deficit to two. Mattlock’s goal was too little, too late, however, as the Mexicans closed out the match and locked up a record tenth Gold Cup title.
The 3-1 victory lacked the controversy and debate that Mexico’s quarterfinal and semifinal game provided, but when the final whistle blew, there was no doubt that they deserved that victory. As the tournament draws to a close, it will be impossible to separate El Tri’s success from the match-fixing allegations and questionable calls that followed their journey to the crown. As we wait to see whether these allegations bare any truth, Mexico sits as the best team in CONCACAF and it’ll be another two years before someone has the chance to dethrone them.