Martino: Mexico must stop Pulisic to win Gold Cup
CHICAGO -- Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino says he believes stopping U.S. forward Christian Pulisic is essential to El Tri winning the Gold Cup on Sunday at Soldier Field, with the Argentine pouring praise on the recent Chelsea signing.
"I think Christian Pulisic is one of the greatest emerging players in world football in this epoch, without doubt," Martino said in a news conference in response to a question from ESPN FC.
"He's one of the most unbalancing players I've seen in recent times. And I believe that if tomorrow we don't give him special attention, above all when we are attacking, then we won't do well. He's a player we have to give a lot of attention because he can decide a game on his own."
Defender Hector Moreno appears set to start against the United States and is well aware that Mexico will have to be concentrated in possession.
"You have to be really careful when you have the ball because if we don't lose many balls then they don't have the chance to play on the transitions," said Moreno, speaking in English. "Also, in 90 minutes you can lose some balls and [when you do] you have to really pay attention to [Pulisic's] position and not let him run and dribble, because he's really fast and he has a lot of quality."
Martino had kind words for U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, whom he knows well from his MLS days with Atlanta United.
"I've great respect for him as a person and coach," Martino said. "He's one of the best I went up against in MLS."
The Mexico manager has lost the previous three international finals in which he has been involved -- two with Argentina and one with Paraguay -- but won't be changing his attacking philosophy at a sold-out Soldier Field.
"We will be loyal to our style of play," Martino said. "What I believe is that the teams that move away from their style as the competition goes on have less chances to win. We want to respect our philosophy."
Martino said "nothing would happen" if Mexico loses against the United States, when asked if El Tri had more at stake than the Stars and Stripes, and if criticism would likely follow a Mexico defeat.
"We've never hidden the responsibility Mexico has and continues to have," Martino said. "We know that we have to keep improving and that may be the most important objective long term."
The crowd at Soldier Field is likely to be pro-Mexico, with Moreno impressed with how El Tri fans have been backing the team this summer at the Gold Cup, citing Mexico's sold-out quarterfinal and semifinal games.
"You can see the people at the hotel, how they wait for us at the training facility when we are there," he said. "[There] are so many fans from Mexico that it's amazing to play in the U.S.
"It'll be a sold-out stadium with 80 or 90% Mexican supporters so it's kind of difficult to explain, but nice to play like that. To play against the U.S. team is always amazing."
Moreno has been linked to a move to MLS club Inter Miami FC for its inaugural season in 2020, but the current Real Sociedad player didn't confirm the rumored interest.
"I've always said I'd like to play here someday," Moreno, 31, said. "I like how MLS is growing. I think they've changed the way they hire players. Before it was all players at my age right now.
"But now they're trying to bring some young players, some talented players, the competition is growing and I don't know, I still have two years left at Real Sociedad. I'm really happy there so it would be complicated right now."