Pulisic, Jimenez headline the combined USA-Mexico XI

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With Sunday's Gold Cup final set to renew the biggest rivalry in Concacaf, Goal selects the players who have been the tournament standouts

The Gold Cup final that Mexico and U.S. national team fans were hoping for is finally here, and Sunday's final will be an opportunity for players from both teams to cap the strong tournaments they have already put together.

The United States has won all five of its matches at the Gold Cup, allowing just one goal along the way while scoring a tournament-best 15. Gregg Berhalter's squad has helped ease the fears generated by two pre-Gold Cup defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela, though struggles against Curacao in the quarterfinals rekindled some of the concerns about whether the Americans have the quality to defeat Mexico in the final.

It hasn't been all smooth sailing for El Tri either, with Tata Martino's squad needing a penalty shootout to hold off Costa Rica in the quarterfinals and overtime to eliminate Haiti in the semifinals.

Despite those difficult matches, Mexico has shown the individual quality expected when the Gold Cup began, with some familiar faces shining, and some new ones impressing.

The same can be said for the USMNT, which has had some relatively new faces step up into prominent roles and enjoy breakout tournaments.

Which American and Mexican players have enjoyed the best Gold Cups so far? Here are Goal's selections for the combined USA-Mexico Gold Cup XI:

  1. Guillermo Ochoa | Mexico | Goalkeeper

    Without a doubt the El Tri No. 1, Ochoa helped Mexico to the final with a save to win a shootout against Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. Though he’s 33 years old, Ochoa hasn’t dropped a bit from his form in the 2014 World Cup and has his sights set on a third World Cup as the starter in 2022. His Gold Cup campaign indicates he’s up to it.
  2. Luis 'Chaka' Rodriguez | Mexico | Right Back

    “Chaka” may not be a perfect fullback, but he does what he needs to do in Tata Martino’s system. He gets forward to join the attack, scoring in a pre-tournament friendly and coming close in the tournament proper, and also defends well enough to avoid catastrophe. While Fernando Navarro also is available this tournament, it’s clear why Martino has stuck with Rodriguez as his first choice at right back.
  3. Aaron Long | USA | Center Back

    One of the breakout stars of the Gold Cup for the United States, Long overcame a hamstring injury suffered a month before the Gold Cup to help anchor a U.S. defense that has allowed just one goal in six matches. Long's one-on-one defensive ability, range, and attacking quality as a threat to score on set pieces make him the ideal well-rounded defender. What makes Long's emergence even more impressive is that the 26-year-old hadn't even received his first national team cap until last October.
  4. Patrick Smith

    Walker Zimmerman | USA | Center Back

    One of the surprises of the Gold Cup, Zimmerman beat out Matt Miazga for the starting role in central defense and took full advantage, providing a perfect complement to Aaron Long. His aerial prowess and increasing confidence on the ball have helped him adapt to Gregg Berhalter's system. His growth as a player at LAFC playing for Bob Bradley is clear, and the United States hasn't allowed a goal at the Gold Cup with Zimmerman on the field.

  5. Ronald Martinez

    Jesus Gallardo | Mexico | Left Back

    Converted from a winger to a left back by previous Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio, Gallardo is able to get into the attack well but has also become a quality defender. His play at the 2018 World Cup, with Rayados during a run to the Concacaf Champions League title and with El Tri at the Gold Cup is turning heads in Europe, with Atletico Madrid reportedly interested in snapping up the 24-year-old.
  6. Patrick Smith

    Michael Bradley | USA | Midfielder

    The veteran midfielder has provided vital leadership along with poise in the middle of the park for Gregg Berhalter's squad, and while he doesn't cover ground as well as he used to, his ability to read the game and control tempo has provided a counterbalance to attacking midfielders Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie. No current American player, and arguably no American player, has enjoyed as much success against Mexico as Bradley, who will look to deliver another Gold Cup title after winning the Golden Ball as Gold Cup MVP in 2017.
  7. Kirk Irwin

    Weston McKennie | USA | Midfielder

    The Schalke midfielder has flourished in a playmaking role, providing a goal-scoring threat with his well-timed runs, while also delivering dangerous passes to set up teammates. Throw in his defensive work and McKennie has become one of the USMNT's most influential players, and he will have a big part to play in Sunday's final as he tries to help break down Mexico's defense, which has looked vulnerable at the Gold Cup.
  8. Denis Poroy

    Andres Guardado | Mexico | Midfielder

    The left interior midfielder is the leader of the Mexico squad and, even after having to play the bulk of the minutes after Erick Gutierrez’s injury and carrying a knock of his own, has looked the part this summer. Able to provide defensive cover when El Tri doesn’t have the ball and arriving into the box to give the attack another option when pushing forward, Guardado does it all. If he lifts the Gold Cup for the third time, he’ll do it knowing he had a big part in earning the prize.
  9. Getty Images

    Christian Pulisic | USA | Midfielder

    The leader of the USA attack, Pulisic has shown the quality that helped lead to his record transfer to Chelsea, breaking down defenses with his speedy runs and dribbling ability, and delivering dangerous passes. His two-goal performance against Jamaica reminded us that he can also be a goal-scoring threat. He has the freedom to attack from the wing or centrally, and will be the focus of Tata Martino's plans to try and slow down the high-flying USA attack.
  10. Jayne Kamin-Oncea

    Uriel Antuna | Mexico | Winger

    The LA Galaxy attacker wasn’t even on the roster Martino wanted to name for this competition, earning his place as an injury replacement then taking advantage when others weren’t at 100 percent. His hat-trick against Cuba will be the highlight, but it’s worth noting not only that Antuna added a goal against Martinique but that he’s gotten more chances from Martino thanks to the way his speed troubles defenders on the wings. 
  11. Getty Images

    Raul Jimenez | Mexico | Striker

    Unquestionably the leader of Mexico’s attack, Jimenez has delivered in this tournament when needed. He put a shootout miss in the quarterfinals out of his mind and converted the penalty he’d won in extra time of the semifinal against Haiti. More broadly, he gives Mexico the kind of No. 9 it needs in this system, and while Martino said he doesn’t mind if his No. 9 doesn’t score, Jimenez has five goals to his name this tournament and could nab the top scorer crown with a good showing Sunday.