With an almost full strength of El Tri, the American youths somehow pulled off the impossible for a second trophy of the summer
The kids did it.
It was not supposed to be the end of the American men’s team. This Gold Cup race was on “gathering information”, on the development of the next generation. Winning was in some ways initially secondary to learning.
But the US has both succeeded. Weakened grid? Inexperienced players? Does not matter. The Stars and Stripes are officially the kings of CONCACAF these days.
If it was not clear after the American A team took full strength in Mexico in the Nations League in June, it is now after a USMNT team full of veterans and rising stars took down almost a full strength El Tri. Thanks to a last-ditch goal after a hard 120 minutes, the USMNT’s youngsters once again reigned supreme.
This team played without Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Gio Reyna. But it did have Miles Robinson, whose incredible winner in the 117th minute in the second half of the downtime etched him forever in USMNT. It had Kellyn Acosta, whose performance Man-of-the-Match would even make N’Golo Kante blush.
It still has Matt Turner, Matthew Hoppe, Gyasi Zardes, George Bello and many others who paved the way in the USMNT’s most incredible Gold Cup race.
Kudos to head coach Gregg Berhalter, who believed the kids were ready to go against each other with the best that El Tri could offer. And praise to the players that they proved him right and proved that the American player pool is deeper and more talented than ever before.
What a night it was not in Las Vegas, even though a few on the field are too young to embrace Sin City. What an evening, what an action, what a moment.
The clash between Sunday night between the USA and Mexico was very different from the final of their Nations League in June.
It did not have quite the same spice, the same corporeality, the same chaos. It did not start with the fireworks of an early goal or the unpredictability of several team-wide fights.
But in the end, it had a lot of excitement, and in the end, it had the same result.
The USA will thank Robinson for that, because the goal of the defender of Atlanta United in the 117th minute proves everything they need. An incredible ball from Acosta, an even better header from Robinson. That was the moment this match and this tournament were defined for a USMNT who just did not quite understand what it was all about.
This is a team that probably should have been here, but probably should not have done. They skipped several games on the skin of their teeth, but Mexico was supposed to be a bridge too far. But they continued to fight, and even if they did not emerge victorious from the battle, they proved that they were equal to Mexico at night.
As the match progressed, it became clear that this match would be there for both teams. The two sides exchanged chance for chance, without one of the two teams being able to turn the chance into the goal that changes.
Paul Arriola was at the end of several of the chances, with his first kick-off in the 26th minute. He got an even better chance in the 74th minute, when his shot from inside two meters was miraculously saved by Alfredo Talavera.
Not to mention, Mexico had a lot of their own looks, with USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner frustrating many of them with a different star performance.
The chance missed aside, Sunday’s game in general was planned for both drivers. Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s team retained an overwhelming majority of the ball possession and controlled the game in general. However, Berhalter’s USMNT team went for the rope-a-dope and said strong defensively while trying to take advantage of a shaky backline in Mexico.
And finally, the duel plan and wasted opportunities yielded extra time. And that extra time again brought a classic end to another classic rivalry.
This gives Berhalter’s USMNT program a second signing moment in a few months. It gives these young players another building block in the future and it gives everyone involved in this program even more confidence in qualifying for the World Cup.
It’s been a few years since the USMNT had a moment like this. From the depths of that night in Trinidad and Tobago to the highs and lows of reconstruction that followed, it’s been too long since the US had reason to feel so good.
And they have every reason to. With two very different teams with two very different groups of players, the USA won 2-0 against Mexico. Do another Cero.
It was another great night for the Kings of CONCACAF. And if this evening was an indication, it might be the first of many.