Following a dramatic win against a stubborn Honduras team that fans greeted with a measured and reasonable reaction that wasn’t angrily unhinged and overly emotional given the result because the team didn’t play like how @BerhalterOutAlphaChadStayHard gets his team to play in FIFA, the USA took on Mexico. El Tri, managed by Tata Martino who everyone that doesn’t like Gregg Berhalter would prefer coach the USA, struggled somehow worse than the Americans and had to beat Costa Rica in penalties to make the final.
In the end, the Americans would come out ahead in a completely off the rails game thanks to a never say die spirit, a couple of goals off of corners, a penalty converted by Christian Pulisic and another one saved by Ethan Horvath.
For the Stars and Stripes, the team lined up in a back three, it would be a fateful decision (because, spoiler, the back three was bad).
At 24 years, 206 days, tonight’s Starting XI is the youngest to represent the #USMNT in a final. #USAvMEX Lineup Notes: https://t.co/dPOgnTPwTh pic.twitter.com/gYH88Xvgs1— U.S. Soccer MNT (@USMNT) June 7, 2021
But, Berhalter made some adjustments and against an opponent willing to play a more open game and the USA had plenty of chances in what turned out to be an exciting game.
Meanwhile, El Tri played in a back three also as Tata Martino once again sought to try to get the better of Gregg Berhalter.
¡A jugar con el !— Selección Nacional (@miseleccionmx) June 7, 2021
¡Todos por la ! @Banorte_mx presenta la alineación con la que enfrentaremos a . #TuBancoTuTiempo | #MiSelecciónBanorte pic.twitter.com/XItRVVIl7u
Berhalter spoiled those hopes as Tata might be able to walk away with some moral victories, but the US stood tough after going down twice, denied Mexico when it counted, and came away with a hard fought win in a game that is a type of crucible that forges a group of individuals into a team.
The game started bad and then it turned into a rollercoaster
Mexico scored in the second minute because Mark McKenzie passed the ball to Jesus Corona in zone 14 and the forward did not miss. On the bright side, it was probably the best one-two the team has had in three games.
Mexico take the lead 62 seconds into the @CNationsLeague Final— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2021
@paramountplus & CBS Sports Network pic.twitter.com/1owqOaDjM3
As every preview before the game mentioned, a key to the game was the centerback not passing the ball to an attacker in the 6 yard box.
The US was slow to respond to the early goal and looked unnerved from the early gut punch. However, by the 20th minute the team seemed to settle and was beginning to work some promising interplay in the final third. But then Mexico scored on a corner... that was ruled offside after the most perfect invention in history VAR did its thing.
A few minutes later, the Stars and Stripes responded by scoring in the most American way possible: off of a corner.
26’—Mexico goal disallowed— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 7, 2021
27’—Gio Reyna equalizes for the USMNT
( @TUDNUSA) pic.twitter.com/vD7RhF49JX
Mexico once again almost ended up with two goals when, you’ll never guess who, Mark McKenzie got smoked by Chucky Lozano who was one v. one with Zack Steffen and someone the American keeper did enough to make the save.
BIG SAVE FROM ZACK STEFFEN pic.twitter.com/7wSaSr9GiP— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2021
The half was pretty decent for the US, the three man backline wasn’t working though and couldn’t pass effectively to the midfielders to get the ball forward. It seemed like a change dropping a centerback for a midfielder would have helped. Despite that, no subs were made at halftime. Maybe Berhalter just told the team to play better.
The two teams went punch for punch as the second half got underway but neither side looked set to pull ahead. In the 60th minute the formation change came as Tim Ream shifted to left back and Dest made way for Tim Weah. The move allowed Pulisic to play more centrally with the Lille man shifting to play wide.
Shortly after that sub, Zack Steffen came off after injuring his knee with Ethan Horvath taking over in goal in the 68th minute. At the same time, Sargent made way for Jordan Siebatcheu and Mexico switched Corona and leftback Carlos Rodriguez for Henry Martin and Luis Romo.
The game would continue being exciting but neither team found a breakthrough until Tata Martino subbed on Diego Llanez who fired a shot through the legs of three American defenders and past Horvath.
Diego Lainez, super sub— Planet Fútbol (@si_soccer) June 7, 2021
(via @TUDNUSA) pic.twitter.com/S1Eabvgr82
But then the USA would equalize two minutes later in the most American way possible, on a corner. This time it was scored by Weston McKennie.
Weston McKennie you beauty!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 7, 2021
With the game even at two, Tyler Adams came on for Tim Ream and Sebastian Lletget entered in place of Gio Reyna.
The game continued being fun and terrifying as Ethan Horvath had to make two huge saves to keep the game from galling into Mexico’s hands. Then there was a fight after Hector Herrera tried to kick a ball out of Horvath’s hands. The ref spent about five minutes trying to calm everyone down and once things got started back up, Horvath sent a free kick up field to be greeted by a homophobic chant. The match was briefly stopped and restarted with the final whistle blown at about the 99 minute mark.
This happened before extra time and would be only the 43rd most bonkers thing to happen in the next half hour.
Is this man alive ? pic.twitter.com/f5nPl4IwLT— Eric Wynalda (@EricWynalda) June 7, 2021
Extra time carried on as the first 90 had ended, with Mexico on the front foot getting the better of the chances. That said, Herrera should have seen a second yellow after a studs up tackle and there was a handball by a Mexico defender in the box that was given as a goal kick. The USA held on and the second 15 minute mini half featured all hell breaking loose when Christian Pulisic was fouled in the box and a penalty was given after a VAR review.
The American stepped up, hit his shot from the spot home, ripped off his shirt and ran over to tell the El Tri fans to quiet them down.
CHRISTIAN PULISIC GIVES THE @USMNT THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/WRDgXL6LXF— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2021
But then, because USA vs. Mexico, John Brooks apparently handled a ball in the box around the 200th minute or whatever and after another VAR check a penalty was awarded. Andres Guardado stepped up and... there was another shoving match... it broke up and the veteran midfielder sent his shot on frame, but AMERICAN HERO ETHAN HORVATH SAVED IT LIKE IT WAS AN INJURED BABY BALD EAGLE NAMED BENJAMIN FRANKLIN JR. THAT JUST NEEDED FREEDOM AND VICTORY TO REGAIN ITS HEALTH.
ETHAN HORVATH DENIES MEXICO A CHANCE TO EQUALIZE pic.twitter.com/N4AXjqGZ0s— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) June 7, 2021
By this time it was the 124th minute and the 4th official raised a board to indicate five additional minutes. Which, OK. There was another big chance for Mexico, more fights, stuff got thrown on the field, but after another five or six or eight minutes, the USA came out on top and was crowned champions of the Concacaf Nations League.
#Berhalter, I don’t know, something: Look, @BerhalterOutAlphaChadStayHard Berhalter might not be the right guy, but it’s still a little too early to know that. 2021 will give a much better idea of what he and the team are capable of. Experimenting with a back three and different personnel is reasonable given that he needs to see what kinds of options he has before the World Cup. He again made some adjustments, they were effective and the team came away with a win and a trophy against Mexico.
Pulisic needs to step up. Other than hitting a penalty, he’s got to step up and make a difference and be the superstar of this team.
The US players fought so hard, both in terms of play and actual fighting. McKenzie’s error was rough, but the team picked him up and got back into the match. As good as Mexico gave physically, the Stars and Stripes gave right back to them and when it mattered they came away with the win. It’s the kind of game that these young players might point to in a few years as a turning point in their