Faced with an El Tri almost at full power, the young Americans did the impossible for a second trophy of the summer
It wasn’t meant to be the end for the United States Men’s National Team. This Gold Cup race was all about “collecting information”, developing the next generation. Winning, in some ways, was initially secondary to learning.
But the United States has succeeded in both. Weakened list? Inexperienced players? No matter. The Stars and Stripes are officially the kings of CONCACAF these days.
If that wasn’t clear after the U.S. A-Team beat a full-fledged Mexico in June in the Nations League, it’s now after a USMNT team laden with second-place veterans. chain and rising stars shot down what was almost an El Tri at full power. Thanks to a last breathless goal after 120 relentless minutes, the youngsters of the USMNT once again reigned supreme.
This team played without Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna. But there was Miles Robinson, whose incredible 117th minute winner in the second half of the stoppage time has etched him forever in USMNT tradition. There was Kellyn Acosta, whose man-of-the-match performance would make even N’Golo Kante blush.
There were Matt Turner, Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, George Bello and many more who paved the way for what may just be the most incredible USMNT Gold Cup race to date.
Kudos to head coach Gregg Berhalter, who believed the kids were ready to take on the best of El Tri. And kudos to these players for proving him right and for proving that the pool of American players is richer and more talented than ever.
What a night it has been in Las Vegas, even though many of those on the court are too young to embrace Sin City. What a night, what a performance, what a moment.
Sunday night’s clash between the United States and Mexico was very different from their Nations League final in June.
It wasn’t quite half the same spice, same physicality, same chaos. It didn’t start with the fireworks of a first goal or the unpredictability of several squad-wide brawls.
But, at the end, there was all the excitement and, at the end, it had the same result.
The United States will thank Robinson for that, as the Atlanta United defender’s 117th-minute goal proved everything they needed. An incredible ball from Acosta, an even better header from Robinson. That’s when this game and tournament was set for a USMNT who just didn’t quite understand what they were preparing for.
It’s a team that probably should have been here but probably shouldn’t have. They escaped several games by the skin of their teeth, but Mexico was meant to be a bridge too far. But they fought and while they didn’t come out victorious, they proved they were completely equal in Mexico that night.
As the match progressed it became clear that this match would be there for both teams. The two teams traded luck after chance, neither team being able to turn that chance into a decisive goal.
Paul Arriola was on the end of several of those occasions, with his first pile-up on the post in the 26th minute. He had an even better opportunity in the 74th minute, when his two-yard shot was miraculously saved by Alfredo Talavera.
Not to be outdone, Mexico had their own look, with USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner outwitting many of them with another star performance.
Opportunities missed aside, Sunday’s game overall went as planned for both managers. Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s side retained a large majority of possession and generally controlled the game. Berhalter’s USMNT team, however, went dope, saying strong defensively while trying to take advantage of a faltering Mexican backline.
And, in the end, those dueling game plans and wasted opportunities produced extra time. And that extra time produced another classic end to another classic rivalry match.
This gives Berhalter’s USMNT program a second signing moment in a matter of months. This gives these young players another cornerstone for the future and it gives even more confidence to everyone involved in this program ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.
It has been several years since the USMNT has known such a moment. From the depths of that night in Trinidad and Tobago to the ups and downs of the reconstruction that followed, it has been too long since the United States had a reason to feel so good.
And they have every reason to do so. With two very different teams and two very different groups of players, the United States went 2-0 against Mexico. Back a Cero again.
It was another night of well-being for the CONCACAF Kings. And, if tonight was any indication, it might just be the first in a long series.