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Special Saturday Edition: U.S. Women vs. Netherlands in World Cup final; U.S. men vs. Mexico in Gold Cup final

World Cup Preview: U.S. takes aim at second straight title

Can the Netherlands knock off the U.S. in Sunday’s World Cup final? Of course, they can. Will they? Of course, they won’t.

This isn’t exactly a “do you believe in miracles” match-up when the U.S. hockey team knocked off Russia in a semifinal Olympic hockey game in Lake Placid, N.Y. in 1980. It’s not even close. Netherlands has a quality side, and while it’s their first time in a World Cup final, it’s not shocking to find them here. They are the eighth different country to play in a final and the fourth European nation after an impressive win over Sweden in the semifinal.

The win over Sweden was the Netherlands 12th consecutive win at a major tournament, after claiming the European Championship in 2017.

But the United States came into the tournament as the favorite and there hasn’t been anything along the way to change that point of view. If anything, the U.S. side has proven to be a few steps better than the best – including France and England. The U.S. had a tough road to the championship match and look primed to repeat as World Cup champions.

Even without Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. should dominate this final. Christen Press stepped in against England and played a fantastic match for the red, white and blue. Rose Lavelle also had an excellent semifinal before coming off the pitch with an injury. Still, the depth of the U.S. side should help ease the pain if Lavelle can’t go (she says she will be ready).

The U.S. has the depth to replace Rapinoe and Lavelle. But does the Netherlands have the depth to replace their best player Lieke Martens? The FIFA player of the year in 2017, Martens has struggled to stay fit in this World Cup and didn’t play the second half against Sweden. “As a player you always want to play in one of the biggest games of your career and this is one of the biggest ones,” Martens said. “I am hopefully going to play.”

It won’t take a miracle to knock off the U.S. But it would take a huge effort, a few breaks and a mistake or two from the American side to keep the U.S. from another World Cup title.

Prediction: 4-0 USA!

So, what has to go wrong for the Americans to lose?

Gold Cup Preview: Berhalter calls Mexico “vulnerable”

Gregg Berhalter began his press conference after his U.S. team defeated Jamaica in a Gold Cup semifinal talking about Mexico. The USMNT coach started off by praising Sunday’s opponent, calling them a quality side with talented players, but you could hear the “but” was coming. And it didn’t take him long to get to the point and point out that Mexico is vulnerable.

Without stars such as Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Hector Herrera among others, the US men’s national team will face a “different” Mexico side on Sunday in the Concacaf Gold Cup final (9 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN) in the first meeting at this stage between the neighboring countries since 2011.  “We’ve already started watching [Mexico], the last couple days,” Berhalter said. “It’s a good team, quality players, a good team concept, with a lot of intensity that they play with, and they can hurt teams. Having said that, they’re also vulnerable, and we’ll plan to hurt them as well.”

Some in Berhalter’s younger core of American players got their taste of the US-Mexico fixture at Nissan Stadium in September. That friendly was a 1-0 US victory. This time, the USMNT are entering the region’s biggest rivalry thanks partly to Christian Pulisic’s brace against Jamaica.

“These are the games I look forward to most,” Pulisic said. “Mexico-USA in the final of the Gold Cup, there’s not much better. This is what I dream about.”

Prediction: U.S. 2, Mexico 1

Can the U.S. beat a “vulnerable” Mexico side – and if so, how?

LET’S TALK: OK, now you’ve read what’s on my mind…what are your thoughts on the above or any other “football” happenings?

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