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A three-peat for the USMNT

Photo: Paul Rudderow

While many were focused on the drama brought about by their NCAA tournament brackets, the United States Men’s National Team were busy manufacturing some drama of their own down in Dallas.

The Americans squared off with rival Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday, after going the distance in a semi-final thriller with Jamaica last Thursday.

Thursday’s match saw goals by each team book-ending the 90 minute contest.

The Reggae Boyz were off and running early, as Greg Leigh lost Joe Scally’s mark and headed home a deflected cross just 47 seconds into the match. It took 90+ minutes for the USMNT to respond, with defender Miles Robinson meeting a corner with his head in the dying moments. The header ricocheted off of Jamaica’s Corey Burke, whose inability to react forced the ball into his own net, sending the game to extra time.

The extended periods were all USMNT, as the Gio Reyna and Haji Wright connected on two goals that boosted the US through to their third consecutive Nations League final. Both goals featured very nice finishes, but even more exquisite set-up play by Reyna.

Gio Reyna, Haji Wright, and Tyler Adams’s hard work as substitutes in Thursday’s win earned them spots in the starting lineup in Sunday’s final. Sergino Dest also returned to the lineup after a red card suspension received in the quarter-final victory vs. Trinidad & Tobago.

Sunday’s final had a bit more physicality ingrained in it. The USMNT battled rival Mexico hard, with much of the pitch being covered tightly, leaving little space for either team to operate. Each team’s press negated much of the opposition’s attack all night.

A full forty-five minutes passed before there was a break-through. Tyler Adams received the ball with space about 30 yards from goal, picked his head up, and unleashed a corker that beat Memo Ochoa.

It had been 475 days since Tyler Adams’s last start for the USMNT. His goal was also a curtain call on his night – playing 45 minutes or less in both the semi-final and the final upon his return from injury.

Real Betis midfielder Johnny Cardoso replaced Adams for the second half.

It took 18 minutes into the second forty-five for the US to pot another tally. Christian Pulisic deftly chipped the ball over a sliding Mexico defender and fizzed a cross low into the box. It found its way to Gio Reyna, at the top of the eighteen, who made no mistake in burying a volley to Ochoa’s right.

Dos a cero is how things would end in Dallas, with the USMNT winning their third straight CONCACAF Nations League final.

Berhalter deserves both criticism and credit

The US came out flat on Thursday vs. Jamaica, playing one of the most uninspiring halves of soccer ever under the tutelage of Gregg Berhalter. The team struggled to open up an inferior Jamaica for the first 75 minutes of the match. Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, and company did well throughout regulation to keep the US’s chances at a minimum.

The USMNT kept clawing and clawing and eventually got a stroke of luck with Corey Burke’s own goal. Their two goals in extra time were statements by players who deserved the opportunity and seized the moment.

Often criticized for his adjustments, Berhalter made impactful subs and significant alterations that made the difference in the semi-final.

Giovanni Reyna coming on for Joe Scally at the beginning of the second half afforded the USMNT some more attacking prowess. In the 63rd minute, a triple sub of Haji Wright, Ricardo Pepi, and Tyler Adams came on for Timo Weah, Folarin Balogun, and Yunus Musah respectively, making what was a 4-3-3 a 4-4-2.

Berhalter also introduced Brenden Aaronson in the 75th minute, who sparked energy into the team.

On Sunday, the USMNT showed up. They took care of business and proved they are the superior CONCACAF nation. They beat Mexico dos a cero in a hostile environment and pro-Mexico crowd down in Jerry-world.

Between the character shown by the group to come from behind against Jamaica, and their ability to continue their run of good form against El Tri, Berhalter pressed the right buttons.

For any criticism there is of Gregg Berhalter, he is at the helm for what is the most important time-period of this sport on US soil. His team will aim to make their mark in Copa America this summer, hoping to add to his four trophies as USMNT manager.

Familiar faces

Brenden Aaronson entered the semi-final vs. Jamaica in the 75th minute and was a catalyst in turning the USMNT’s fortune into gold. His feistiness helped sustain the press late into the match. His combination play with Antonee Robinson down the left began to open up the middle of the field for Gio Reyna to pick apart the Jamaica low block.

Aaronson was subbed in late in Sunday’s final to see out the 2-0 score line, but was not on long enough to make any impact.

Andre Blake and Damion Lowe both featured in Jamaica’s lineup that ended up taking third place in the tournament – defeating Panama 1-0 earlier in the day on Sunday. Both Blake and Lowe played relatively well for 90+ minutes vs. the US. The US’s quality was simply better in extra time.

If it weren’t for the unfortunate own goal header by former Union forward Corey Burke, the Reggae Boyz would have faced off vs. Mexico in the final.

Blake and Lowe, along with the six other Philadelphia Union players away on international duty, will return to Philadelphia ahead of the Philadelphia Union’s matchup vs. Minnesota United this weekend at Subaru Park.

One Comment

  1. Good weekend for Gio Reyna. Appears to be the only player we have who can unlock a low block. Bad weekend for Balogun who just hasn’t really done much in that #9 spot. Position is wide open if someone can put in a solid performance and claim it.

    Really interesting how far Mexico have fallen in the last 5 years or so. They looked totally outclassed on Sunday.

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