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Pulisic named Best Young Player at 2019 Gold Cup, but USA lose to Mexico in final

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Good effort, but not quite enough

For just a little over a half, the US Men’s National Team seemed to have the upper hand against Mexico. Then, something changed and the US were firmly on the back foot. Eventually, they were unable to cope with the pressure. Raúl Jiménez controlled a ball in the area, laid it off to Jonathan dos Santos, and he produced a precise lofted finish over the goalkeeper, which just kissed the underside of the bar in that most classic way.

The US tried to mount a response, but it consisted of little else than a series of corners and aimless lofted balls into the area. Christian Pulisic took most of the set pieces, and delivered them generally into dangerous areas — Matt Miazga, who did okay against Jiménez but less okay when drawn out wide, put at least two headers wide — but the Americans had run out of energy and ideas well before then. To his credit, Pulisic was still trying, isolated as he may have been for much of the second-half, at one point even producing a run that had every hallmark of a certain Eden Hazard — that outside of the foot turn and acceleration through a gauntlet of players, only getting stopped by a foul, a rather familiar sight over the past seven seasons.

Pulisic and the US had a much better first half, and the Chelsea man probably should’ve opened the scoring early when he shrugged off a defender after a bit of great link-up with the center forward, but unfortunately he could not quite lift the ball over the occasionally world-class Memo Ochoa’s leg.

Altidore then wasted an even more glorious chance, which was Mexico’s cue to wake up and make the first-half a bit more of an even contest. Early on in the second half, one of Pulisic’s excellent corners was met by Jordan Morris, but his powerful header was cleared off the line, and that was the closest the USA would come to scoring.

It’s a bit unfortunate that Pulisic could not quite repeat his match-winning performance from the semifinal, but considering that Mexico tailored their defensive gameplan precisely towards stopping him, he still managed to make himself heard. In the end, Mexico won by putting pressure on the US defence rather than having to shut down Pulisic, who was often the team’s only viable outlet only to find himself surrounded by multiple markers.

Surrounded by better teammates instead, and not made the team’s only quality attacking option will certainly help.

After the game, he was named the tournament’s Best Young Player.

Pulisic was reportedly considering joining up with Chelsea without much delay, though it’s not inconceivable that he would take a few days off to rest and recover a bit from the Gold Cup. It’s not like he needs to shake off any rust.