An epic battle pitting Gianluca Busio and the United States against Alan Pulido and Mexico saw Sporting Kansas City's 19-year-old midfielder emerge as a Concacaf Gold Cup champion.
A capacity crowd of 61,514 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas served as the festive backdrop for the 2021 Gold Cup Final, which was decided in the 117th minute when U.S. defender Miles Robinson headed home Kellyn Acosta's free kick to give the Americans an unforgettable 1-0 extra-time victory.
Busio made his sixth consecutive appearance of the tournament, entering in the 87th minute and featuring in the entirety of a thrilling, back-and-forth extra-time session. The versatile midfielder appeared in every match of the tournament, helping the U.S. MNT to its seventh Gold Cup title.
Pulido recorded his fourth Gold Cup appearance with a 15-minute cameo in the late stages. The Mexicans were tabbed as heavy favorites going into the titanic matchup, boasting a first-choice squad and a bevy of international experience, but a young American squad led by head coach Gregg Berhalter oozed the toughness and resolve of vintage U.S. MNT sides to claim a deserved win.
Following a wild 3-2 triumph over Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League Final on June 6, the U.S. bagged yet another major trophy—in extra time, no less—at the expense of their fiercest rivals.
With Sunday's momentous result, Busio has joined an elite group of Sporting players past and present who have won a Gold Cup with the U.S. while representing the club:
- Tony Meola (2002)
- Jimmy Conrad (2005)
- Josh Wolff (2005)
- Eddie Johnson (2007)
- Matt Besler (2013, 2017)
- Dom Dwyer (2017)
- Graham Zusi (2017)
- Gianluca Busio (2021)
Of the players listed above, Busio, Conrad, Wolff, Besler and Zusi all played in their respective finals. Meola, Johnson and Dwyer were unused substitutes.
Riding standout performances of goalkeeper Matt Turner, the U.S. MNT allowed just one goal over the course of six Gold Cup matches—a penalty kick against Martinique on July 15.
Busio and the Americans began their victorious tournament campaign at Children's Mercy Park, securing three successive group stage wins before claiming three straight 1-0 victories in the knockout stage against Jamaica, Qatar and Mexico.
The U.S. MNT is now 26-6-3 in 35 matches under head coach Gregg Berhalter since he took the helm in 2018.
Sunday marked the seventh time that the U.S. and Mexico have met in the Gold Cup Final, with El Tri winning five of the first six. The Americans' lone previous victory over Mexico in the Gold Cup Final came in 2007 when longtime Sporting great Benny Feilhaber bagged a sensational long-range strike to clinch a 2-1 win.
Held every two years, the Gold Cup is the regional championship for Concacaf and just like in the European Championships and Copa America, lifting the trophy brings prestige and regional supremacy.
Over the course of 16 Gold Cup tournaments, the United States has lifted the trophy seven times (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017, 2021), just behind all-time leaders Mexico with eight (1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2019). Canada is the only other tournament champion, coming away with the title in 2000.