GC Daily: Deluge can't stop the USA, (but maybe it should have?)

Brazil and the USA booked their spots in the 2024 Gold Cup final, while Mexico and Canada went home. Let's unpack the chaos.

GC Daily: Deluge can't stop the USA, (but maybe it should have?)
Vanessa Gilles (left) and Jaedyn Shaw (right) battle the rain in San Diego | Courtesy of Concacaf

Wednesday's Semifinal results:
Brazil 3-0 Mexico
USA (3) 2*-2 (1) Canada

The Snapshot

The opening semifinal of the day wasn't a classic. South American champions Brazil made light work of Mexico cruising to a three-goal win that could've easily been more from 23 attempts.

That being said, the Selecao did get a helping hand when the referee turned to VAR in the 29th minute and sent off left-back Nicki Hernandez for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity. With Mexico having to play for over an hour with 10 players, the game felt decided.

At the time of the red card, Brazil was already one goal to the good. Arthur Elias' team was dominating the early phases of the game and had pinned back El Tri to the edge of their box. It was arguably their best performance of the tourney so far.

After 20 minutes of sustained pressure, Adriana cutely netted in from close range. Antonia hit a screamer from outside the box on 32 minutes. Yasmim put the icing on the cake with a back-heel just after halftime. Pure joga bonito.

In the second semifinal, despite what the scoreboard says, common sense was in fact the real loser.

A sudden torrential downpour, right before kickoff in San Diego, should've prevented the game from starting. Instead, one of the worst quality and more dangerous halves of football you will ever see took place. The pitch was drenched and not fit for purpose.

Players on both teams, splished, splashed and flailed their way through the semifinal. At one point Trinity Rodman was literally tackled by a rogue puddle. It was wet nonsense.

Jaedyn Shaw opened the scoring thanks to a delicate touch from another sopping puddle in the Canada box. Much to the chagrin of Vanessa Gilles, who played the unfortunate back pass across the aqua plain.

Jordyn Huitema then sent the game to extra-time when she got an aerial mismatch on Emily Fox right before the end of normal time. Just what we needed, more play on this stupid silly soaked pitch.

Sophia Smith thought she had won it in extra-time, but in the 122nd minute Alyssa Naeher caught Gilles square in the jaw and the ref duly pointed to the spot. Adriana Leon converted, forcing a shootout.

Despite a truly chaotic end to the match, Naeher put her errors behind her and went full hero mode. She saved three almost identically struck Canadian penalties in the shootout, in addition to stepping up and converting one herself too.

“The real loser is the Gold Cup"

Joke's on us. Mexico did in fact not lose today, we actually lost. Long-distance goals will not be the same without El Tri.

Sticking up for the exciting brand of football that his team brought to the tournament, Mexico head coach Pedro Lopez delivered this iconic line in the wake of El Tri's exit: “The real loser is the Gold Cup because Mexico is leaving."

The entertainers of the 2024 W Gold Cup have absolutely left a legacy on the tournament and on fans both in Mexico and the United States. There are significant gains to build on from their performances.

There was the turgid expectation of the Argentina draw, the relentless freedom of the D.R. victory, the intensity of the historic USA win, the chaos of overcoming Paraguay and now the boxing out by Brazil.

Courtesy of the Mexico national team

"I think that the future of the Mexican women's team is going to be up from here," Lopez stated. "I am not satisfied with beating the United States once. I think we have potential for more. I think that in a normal match, in which there are not so many circumstances against us, we can beat Brazil.

"And I think that this tournament, on the one hand, has given us confidence within, for the team. But on the other hand I think that also on the outside, for the people who have been watching us, it has also been exciting and has given a lot of confidence. And the most beautiful thing in football is that, it is to excite the spectators, it is to get excited about a team, it is to engage people who enjoy this team. And we have seen that we are able to generate that."

Despite its 50/50 nature, the Spaniard kept his opinions on the red card to Hernandez to a minimum. While he did refer to the red card as "strange" – he also said that he "couldn't judge" the call and wanted to "respect" it.

Overall it has been a whirlwind tournament for Mexico. With emotions running the full gamut.

This may be the end of the road at this tournament but it feels like the beginning of what this group will go on to achieve. A valuable lesson to stash away and hold onto. Stars peaking through a night sky from afar.

Why so Concacaf?

Man, the Gold Cup has objectively put so much fantastic footy out there and at the same time cannot shake off the madness. USA v Canada was an all-time Concacafian psychedelic experience.

The conditions were unsafe. And at the very least, the first half should not have taken place when it did.

"Probably not," USA caretaker coach Twila Kilgore responded when asked about whether the game should've kicked off.

Both the USA and Canada had to adjust their tactics, avoiding passing on the ground and passing backward. The two sides finished with 43% and 40% pass completion respectively.

"I would say being able to adjust to any sort of conditions is always a part of it. And it takes a certain mentality to do that. And you know, we did that today and we're not going to shy away from celebrating that because it's not easy," she added.

Overcoming the elements to win is one thing. Being on the wrong side of a result in a comedic downpour is a bitter feeling.

"It's obvious that the game was unplayable," Canada coach Bev Priestman said. "What I feel most concerned about is you know, the players. We put in a lot of work in a game plan and within minute one, it's thrown out the window and you play the game that's in front of you."

After ignoring calls to stop the match from kicking off, referee Katia Garcia stopped play in the third minute to seemingly check with the match commissioner as to whether she should stop the match.

Garcia then picked up the ball and tossed it on the grass to see if it would bounce and roll several times. All the while, she signaled to someone on the sideline (potentially the match commissioner or match coordinator or fourth official) about whether the pitch passed the test.

At halftime, Concacaf released a statement saying that the decision to halt play fell on the referee. Moments later, former referee Christina Unkel said that responsibility rests with the Concacaf match commissioner, who will be notified by the referee.

No one was seemingly taking accountability or identifying the right protocol.

To see many of the best players in the world thrashing about on a pitch that wasn't fit to safely host them was both incredibly fun and concerning. We got a lot of memes, some great photos but football was the loser. Thankfully no one was hurt.

To make matters even more chaotic, there was a fairly obvious penalty for Canada thta was not awarded in the second half when Tierna Davidson clipped Jess Fleming late in the box.

Right before the penalty shootout, Canada also made an illegal substitute when they pulled out Gilles for Shelina Zadorsky. We were hearing that if Priestman's team had won, the shootout would not have counted. Concacaf quickly came out and clarified that the substitution in question was in fact legal because it was a concussion sub.

This game contained almost every bit of footy and climate drama, as well as litigation, that you could ever imagine.

By the time proceedings finished it was well past 1:00am on the U.S. Eastern timezone. An unforgettable night of footy. For the right reasons, and the wrong reasons.