BEVERLY HILLS, June 07, (THEWILL) – The present squad of the United States men’s national team has begun reaping the rewards of operating a good youth programme and having some of their brightest stars feature in the biggest sides across Europe’s elite football leagues. This fact was obvious in their participation in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League.
The USMNT emerged champions of the maiden edition after earning a 3-2 win in extra time over Mexico on Sunday in Denver in a hard-fought match that tested the resilience and focus of the blend of youth and experience in the team after the tone of the match was set early on when Jesus Corona put Mexico ahead after just 63 seconds.
Fresh off the excitement of winning the UEFA Champions League with his English Premier League club Chelsea, Christian Pulisic, was the poster child of calm nerves as he maintained his composure to score the winner from the penalty spot in the 114th minute of extra time.
It was from an infringement that the referee initially waved off, before subsequently awarding as penalty after determining that Carlos Salcedo had indeed fouled Pulisic in the Mexico box. Tata Martino, the Mexico coach tried to intervene during the review and put his arms around the referee to earn his marching orders with a red card.
There was one more twist before the final whistle when the Mexicans had a chance to equalise in stoppage time with a penalty awarded to them but the substitute homegrown goalkeeper, Ethan Horvath, who replaced Zack Steffen in the 69th minute, earned his stripes with a diving save to deny Andres Guardado, and cap off an excellent performance to win it for the US.
The win was the first for the USMNT over their rival neighbours since September 2018 coming after losing four of their six previous meetings against El Tri of Mexico.
The good use of set pieces gave the US an advantage in the final, and 22-year-old Juventus central midfielder Weston McKennie was clinical in his goal from a set piece that levelled the scores at 2-all. Gregg Berhalter, the coach will be pleased that his players fought their way back after falling behind early as it provides a lot of optimism for the future.
One of their future games could see the USMNT meet Mexico again as both sides turn their focus toward the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which kicks off next month, especially if they both come through their groups on top, which is a very real possibility. While the USMNT is in Group B with Martinique and Canada, Mexico are drawn in Group A with El Salvador and Curacao.
With the stars of Europe’s biggest clubs like Chelsea’s Pulisic, Juve’s McKennie, Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, Barcelona’s Sergino Dest, all pulling their weight for the USMNT, there is no wisdom betting against them winning again.