It goes without saying that matchups between the US men's national team and Mexico like Sunday's Concacaf Nations League Final between the arch-rivals in Denver (9 pm ET | CBS Sports Network,TUDN, Paramount+) are always high-pressure contests for both teams.
But who will bear the brunt of the expectations come Sunday? ESPN analysts Herculez Gomez and Mauricio Pedroza put that topic to debate on the latest episode of Fútbol Americas, with Gomez contending that it's El Tri that will be feeling most of the pressure, even taking into account that the US have heightened expectations in their own right with an increasingly talented pool of young players emerging within the program.
"I understand why people are going to say this US men's national team for the first time in a long time, there's so much talent. So much talent," Gomez said. "You've got players playing in the biggest clubs in the world, the biggest leagues. One of your players [Christian Pulisic] just won the Champions League. Two of your players were in the Champions League final.
"But it's Mexico. This US men's national team is poised for what is the future. I don't think anybody expects anything of them today. Mexico is today. You have to win today because of their culture, the whole country will be paralyzed anytime the Mexican national team plays. They will be scrutinized, they will be judged, they will be analyzed, they will be put under a microscope. And these players can't go far enough. Doesn't matter if it's in Europe, if they lose a game they're supposed to win they will hear about it, they will be hounded. The pressure is immense for them."
While the raw talent level for the Yanks might be at an all-time high, Gomez noted that it's a group that remains young and inexperienced. With more games and high-stakes moments under their belt, Gomez said he can see a time where the USMNT will have the pressure on its shoulder in games like this.
That time, Gomez contends, just hasn't arrived yet.
"I think the pressure's been put on Gregg Berhalter and the federation," Gomez said. "I don't know about the team because the team's still very young, they still haven't had those marquees games or wins that I've spoken about. But if you look at the year, the 13 months that was lost with an interim coach, it took 13 months to find a coach. Gregg Berhalter or a different coach, whoever, could have been using that time to get these players experience in his system with his DNA, his way.
"Look, nobody expected a pandemic here, nobody expected this. But it does feel like there's been so much time lost. Until these players get realistic tournaments under their belt, you can't have that pressure. So pressure should be expected, but not like Mexico, not at all. That's cultural."