6/9/21 US Men face Costa Rica 7 pm ESPN 2 fresh off Mexico win, US Ladies start 3 game series tomorrow vs Portugal 8:30 pm FS1, Carmel FC Tryouts Mon – June 14
US Men win thriller over Mexico 3-2 in OT
If you had a chance to stay up and watch the US vs Mexico game on Sunday night congrats – you saw one of the best and wildest US vs Mexico games ever. The thrilling 3-2 win in OT – the 124th minute in front of a majority Mexican crowd In Denver. The Drama was intense- 2 PKs on 2 VAR Reviews, 5 goals scored, Mexico’s Manager tossed for hugging the ref – Mexico takes the lead on a horrific giveaway by McKensie deep and then Mexico has a goal called back by VAR for offsides, then the US scores, the Mexico, then the US in the 85th minute. The drama and excitement just oozing on the screen. Finally Pulisic finally delivers late after he is taken down in the box in the 115th minute. He calmly steps up and delivers the dagger and the win for this young US team as the US wins its first game in tourney competition a game that really mattered in a long time. Is this the first for this new Golden Generation of American players raised in DA – now playing in Europe? Only time will tell – but McKinney, Reyna and Pulisic scoring the biggest goals in the biggest game of their young US careers is certainly a huge step !! Honestly one of the most exciting US vs Mexico games I have seen! The USA is back !!
Now what to expect tonight is unknown – I expect some rotation of players tonight – the big work done. I expect Dike to start up top with Musah stepping in for McKinney perhaps along with maybe Acosta in the #8 roles and Yueill back in the #6 role. I assume Adams will not play tonight. Not sure on the back line – but perhaps Ochoa in the net tonight after Horvath more than proved his worth vs Mexico. I do expect the US to try to win vs Costa Rica – we’ll see how they match up as well. Definitely worth the watch tonight at 7 pm on ESPN2!!
Aaronson DIKE Weah
Robinson/Brooks or McKensie/Zimmerman/ Cannon
The Ole Ballcoach – PLAYER RATINGS
THE STARTING LINEUP
Zack Steffen: Rating: 6.0
DeAndre Yedlin: Rating: 5.0
Mark McKenzie: Rating: 4.5
John Brooks: Rating: 7.0
Tim Ream: Rating: 4
Sergino Dest: Rating: 5.0
Kellyn Acosta: Rating: 6
Weston McKennie: Rating: 7.5
Gio Reyna: Rating: 7.5
Christian Pulisic: Rating: 7.0
Josh Sargent: Rating: 5.5
Tim Weah: Rating: 6.5
Jordan Siebatcheu: Rating: 5.5
Ethan Horvath: Rating: 9.0 (MAN OF THE MATCH)
Sebastian Lletget: Rating: 5.5
Tyler Adams: Rating: 6.0
Reggie Cannon: Rating: 5.5
US Women play Portugal Thurs, June 10 8:30 pm FS1, June 13, June 16
The games will start with the US playing Portugal at 8:30 pm ET on FS1 on Thurs June 10, followed by US vs Jamaica at 10 pm on Sunday June 13th on FS 1 and finally Wed night at 9 pm on ESPN2 vs Nigeria live from Austin. The 3 game series features most the usuals except Tobin Heath – still recovering from injury (though she is training and will be at camp) and Julie Ertz (MCL expected back for Olympics) and Mallory Pugh. The US has added the Send off Series vs Mexico in July just before the Olympics as well.
Thur, June 10
8:30 PM ET FS1 USA WNT vs Portugal,
Sun, June 13
10 PM ET, FS1 USWNT vs Jamaica ,
Wed, June 16
9 PM ET, ESPN2 USWNT vs Nigeria
DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnais, FRA), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (North Carolina Courage), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)
European Cup Starts this Friday
The European Cup kicks off the Summer of Soccer next Friday as they will play almost daily as many as 3 games a day on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC until July 7th. The games start with Turkey vs Italy in Rome as for the first time multiple nations will host the Euros with the finals in London July 7th. France come in as the favorites but defending champs Portugal, #1 Ranked Belgium, England, Germany or Spain may have something to say about that. Also this weekend the Copa America – which has been moved to Brazil– will kick off – giving us day games (9 am, noon and 3 pm) and night games (5 and 8 pm) to watch nearly every day in June.
Summer of Soccer
European Championships June 11 – July 7 ESPN
Copa America June 13 to July 10 FS1, FS2, Univision
Olympics US Ladies July 21-Aug 5 NBC
Gold Cup July 10 – Aug 1 FS1, FS2, Fox
All evaluations and tryouts will be held at Shelborne Fields. 3451 W 126th St, Carmel, IN 46032.
June 14, 2021- Players 11u and older (Birth Years 2003 to 2011)
Check-in starts 1/2 hour before tryouts.
Tryouts for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011: 5:45pm to 7:15pm
Good Luck to the 4 Carmel FC teams advancing to this weekend’s President Cup and Challenge Cup Finals games at Grand Park 2009 Gold Girls, 2010 Boys Gold, 2008 Gold Boys, 2007 Gold Boys.
2021 Alumni/College Age Soccer League
High School graduates, college students, young professionals come join our soccer league this summer!
Who can play? ages 18-30, experienced, new to the sport and anyone wanting to be active and meet new people.
When does it start/end? Mid- June through early August Where? Shelborne Soccer Fields 3451 W. 126th Street
Cost? 105.00 (no annual fee or volunteer fee apply to this league). Do I have to be a Carmel resident? There is no residency requirement for this program.
Please click here to register for this league. Registration is open now- June 12 Jerseys and socks are provided Questions please contact the office 317-846-1663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
USMNT-Mexico rivalry, post-Nations League classic: What’s next? – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC
USMNT inspired by expected, and unexpected, heroes in “classic” Nations League win – Charles Boehm MLS
USMNT’s epic Nations League triumph over Mexico provided plenty of lessons ESPNFC jeff Carlisle
Horvath and Pulisic lift the USMNT to a gutsy and signature win over Mexico
USMNT ‘golden generation’ revels in glorious, crazy win v. Mexico
USMNT wins CONCACAF Nations League in illogical extra time affair
USMNT-Mexico rivalry, post-Nations League classic: What’s next? 5hJeff Carlisle and Eric Gomez
Euro’s Start Fri-ESPN
Ranking the EURO 2020 teams
Euro 2020 stars entering red zone: How fresh are Europe’s top players? ESPNFC Bill Connelly
England ‘more determined than ever’ to take the knee in defiance of boos
Ranking the top 20 players at EURO 2020
From Kane to Benzema: Six strikers to watch at Euro 2020
Euro 2021: ranking the 50 best players you will see this summer, part one – 50-41
Buoyed by Champions League winning goal, Havertz eyes Germany
Sweden to face Euros without Ibra but still have aces up sleeve
Euro 2020 betting: Belgium and Denmark should both move on out of Group B
EURO 2020: Pragmatism the key to success in pandemic soccer
Euro 2020 Group E: Spain’s new era
GAMES ON TV
Wed, June 9
7 pm ESPN2 US Men vs Costa Rica
9 pm ESPN+ El Paso vs Indy Eleven
Thur, June 10
8:30 PM ET FS1 US Women vs Portugal
EUROS + COPA America 2021
(all times ET; coverage starts about 30 minutes before kickoff; all games also stream on ESPN+)
Friday, June 11
Group A – Turkey vs. Italy, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN, Univision, TUDN)
Saturday, June 12
Group A – Wales vs. Switzerland, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group B – Denmark vs. Finland, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group B – Belgium vs. Russia, 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Sunday, June 13
Group D – England vs. Croatia, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group C – Austria vs. North Macedonia, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group C – Netherlands vs. Ukraine, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
COPA Argentina vs Chile 5 pm FS2, Univision
COPA Paraguay vs Bolivia 8 pm FS2, Univision
USA Women vs Jamaica 10 pm (FS1)
Monday, June 14
Group D – Scotland vs. Czech Republic, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group E – Poland vs. Slovakia, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group E – Spain vs. Sweden, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
COPA Brazil vs Venezuela 7 pm FS , Unimas
COPA Colombia vs Ecuador 10 pm FS1, Univision
Tuesday, June 15
Group F – Hungary vs. Portugal, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group F – France vs. Germany, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN, Univision, TUDN)
Indy 11 vs Pittsburg Riverhounds home 8 pm TV 8 and ESPN Desportes, ESPN+
Wednesday, June 16
Group B – Finland vs. Russia, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group A – Turkey vs. Wales, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group A – Italy vs. Switzerland, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
USA Women vs Nigeria 9 pm (ESPN2)
Thursday, June 17
Group C – Ukraine vs. North Macedonia, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group B – Denmark vs. Belgium, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group C – Netherlands vs. Austria, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Copa Chile vs Bolivia 5 pm FS 1
Copa Argentina vs Uruguay 8 pm FS 1, Unimas
Friday, June 18
Group E – Sweden vs. Slovakia, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group D – Croatia vs. Czech Republic, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group D – England vs. Scotland, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
COPA Colombia vs Venezuela 7 pm FS 2
COPA Peru vs Brazil 10 pm FS2, Univision
Saturday, June 19
Group F – Hungary vs. France, 8:30 a.m. (ESPN)
Group F – Portugal vs. Germany, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN, Univ, TUDN)
Group E – Spain vs. Poland, 2:30 a.m. (ABC)
Attention INDY 11 FANS Discounted Tix: Opportunity to purchase Discount Tickets for home INDY ELEVEN ga
mes at Carroll Stadium.Please order on Link Below “Friends of Indy Eleven”https://fevo.me/indyelevenmh
Injured USWNT stars Tobin Heath, Julie Ertz ‘on schedule’ for Olympics – coach
5:36 PM E Jeff Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent
U.S women’s national team manager Vlatko Andonovski says that attacker Tobin Heath and midfielder Julie Ertz are both “on schedule” to recover from their respective injuries in time to play in the Tokyo Olympics.Heath suffered an ankle injury with club side Manchester United last January, and later sustained a knee injury during her recovery. Ertz suffered an MCL sprain in the season-opening 5-0 defeat to the Portland Thorns back on May 16. Heath is back training with the U.S. ahead of friendlies against Portugal, Jamaica and Nigeria, but isn’t on the roster for the matches.”Tobin is a little bit ahead of Julie in her progression,” said Andonovski. “She’s in camp here and training every day, and she’s medically, pretty much ready. The only thing now for Tobin is physically we’ve got to prepare her and build her stamina on the field.”Andonovski added that the U.S. team medical staff will check in on Ertz in the coming days, though he’s liked what he sees so far in terms of the player’s recovery.”We’re excited [with] where she’s at right now,” Andonovski said about Ertz. “But we’re going to have to be very careful with our approach, and make sure that she’s fully recovered before she plays a game.”That Heath isn’t on the roster for Thursday’s game, as well as subsequent friendlies against Jamaica on June 13 and versus Nigeria three days later, means by the time Andonovski names his roster he will not have seen Heath play in a match for the U.S. since last November. Andonovski said that while the circumstances are less than ideal, and “makes us think a little bit,” he likes Heath’s chances of making the squad.”If she’s 100%, or if we know that she’s going to be close to 100% by the Olympic camp, her chances to make the team are pretty good.”
The three biggest questions facing the USWNT in its upcoming friendlies
Clare Brennan Wed, June 9, 2021, 8:00 AM
ANP Sport/Getty ImagesThe United States women’s national team’s Summer Series kicks off Thursday with an international friendly against Portugal, followed by games against Jamaica and Nigeria. The Houston-based series will serve as an inflection point for the USWNT ahead of this summer’s Olympics. While certain roster spots, like back line pillars Becky Sauerbrunn and Abby Dahlkemper, feel locked in, others are still up in the air.Only 18 players will make the Olympic roster, with the series providing a final opportunity for athletes to state their case.Here are the biggest unanswered questions heading into the USWNT’s June friendlies.
Can Kristie Mewis make the team?
Kristie Mewis’s career has undergone a renaissance over the last two years. The Dash midfielder received her first national team call-up under coach Vlatko Andonovski in 2019 when the midfielder was named to a 24-player identification training camp. Mewis went on to lead the Houston Dash to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup championship, earning herself subsequent USWNT call-ups.After six years away from the team, Mewis logged her first USWNT cap with Andonovski in a November 2020 friendly against the Netherlands. Mewis put an exclamation point on her return to the pitch, scoring a goal in the game’s 70th minute, a record 2,722 days after her first goal with the national team.Welcome back! Kristie Mewis scores in her first game with @USWNT in 6 years“It was truly such a rewarding thing. I had wanted to be back on that field with that team for so long. It was definitely really special,” Mewis told JWS back in February when asked about the goal.Battling back from an ACL injury and making her triumphant return to the USWNT would’ve been an extraordinary comeback story in its own right, but Mewis has continued to shine for club and country. In the 2021 NWSL season, Mewis has appeared in four games for the Dash, netting one goal and two assists. Mewis wasn’t awarded much playing time in the national team’s April friendlies, however, making her recent NWSL dominance all the more consequential.Fighting for a spot in a stacked midfield which includes Rose Lavelle, sister Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz, Mewis has the likes of Lyon-phenom Catarina Macario and the Spirit’s Andi Sullivan to contend with. With Ertz out on injury, the Summer Series could provide Mewis the extended minutes necessary to stamp her ticket to Tokyo.
Who is the backup goalkeeper?
Alyssa Naeher has secured her role as the starting goalkeeper for the national team following a dominant 2019 World Cup performance.Andonovski’s attention now turns to Naeher’s backup. Adrianna Franch and Jane Campbell have both been called into the national team’s June camp. Franch was previously on the 2019 World Cup roster, while Campbell has been receiving consistent USWNT call-ups as of late.Both keepers have started the NWSL season strong, Franch for the Thorns and Campbell for the Dash. In her five regular-season games with Houston, Campbell has one clean sheet and a 68.4 percent successful save rate. Franch executed a notable penalty save to win the Thorns the 2021 Challenge Cup and has three clean sheets in Portland’s five regular-season games. If one or both of the keepers get minutes in the upcoming slate of friendlies, that may indicate who Andonovski is learning toward as second in line to Naeher.
What’s going on with Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath?
The term “indispensable” can be carelessly thrown around, but in the case of Julie Ertz and Tobin Heath, it’s hard to think of two more critical players. Both USWNT veterans, however, will miss the June friendlies due to injury.Heath has been off the pitch since the beginning of 2021 after incurring a knee injury while playing with Manchester United. Ertz has been missing from action after suffering an MCL injury during a May 16 Red Stars game against the Thorns.Heath seems to be a bit further along on her road to recovery and will at least participate in the USWNT June training camp. Andonovski has stated that he expects Ertz to join in the team’s send-off series in July.As the team’s holding midfielder, Ertz plays a crucial role on both sides of the ball, connecting the back line to the midfield. Outside of being one of the most dangerous players with the ball at her feet, Heath also fills an essential role in Andonovski’s high press. If Health and Ertz’s rehab timetables don’t allow for a trip to Tokyo, the door could open for rising stars like Sophia Smith, Catarina Macario or Andi Sullivan to make their Olympic debut.Tune in: USWNT vs Portugal, June 10 at 8:30 p.m. on FS1.
USA vs. Costa Rica, 2021 friendly: What to watch for
The United States Men’s National Team will take the field tomorrow for the first time as Concacaf Nations League champions. However, they will want to make sure they don’t bring a hangover onto the field as they finish out their international window with a friendly against Costa Rica. The USMNT have used this window to prepare for World Cup qualifying in the fall, and they will want to end the window with a win against a team they will certainly need to be
W (3-2) – Mexico – Concacaf Nations League Final
W (1-0) – Honduras – Concacaf Nations League Semifinals
L (1-2) – Switzerland – Friendly
W (2-1) – Northern Ireland – Friendly
W (7-0) – Trinidad and Tobago – Friendly
D (2-2) – Honduras – Concacaf Nations League 3rd Place*
D (0-0) – Mexico – Concacaf Nations League Semifinals*
L (0-1) – Mexico – Friendly
D (0-0) – Bosnia & Herzegovina – Friendly
*Lost both matches 5-4 on penalties
What To Watch For
Rotations. With the Nations League finished, expect to see a lot of rotations with players who didn’t get to play during the tournament seeing the field. This is also a chance for head coach Gregg Berhalter to evaluate how he would make this rotations should this be a World Cup qualifier to keep guys fresh but also field a solid lineup.
Emphasis on defense. The defense hasn’t had terrific outings as a whole the past 3 matches, so against the Ticos, we should expect to see the team focus on getting a clean sheet and doing so aggressively.
Who will step up? Which of the bench guys will assert themselves into this match? Sure, we can expect to see a fe of the big stars, but this will be a chance for those players not locked into the starting lineup to show that they can be dependable when their number is called.
Given some of the heavy minutes our stars have produced, Gregg Berhalter will likely look to shake it up and give minutes to other guys on the roster. Accordingly, we may see a lineup that looks like this:
Aaronson DIKE Weah
Robinson/Brooks/McKensie/Zimmerman/ Cannon The hero of the Mexico match, Ethan Horvath, gets the start at goal. Mostly as a reward, but also due to the knee injury that was suffered by Zack Steffen that prompted Horvath’s entry into the Mexico match and his heroics. The back line will still feature John Brooks, but Matt Miazga gets the nod alongside him, with Antonee Robinson and Reggie Cannon getting the start at left and right back.Tyler Adams gets the start at the 6, getting his chance to see how long he can go with his back, while Yunus Musah finally gets to appear in a match at midfield. Sebastian Lletget also gets the start at midfield to provide some work rate and allow Musah to be more creative on the attack.Up front, Brenden Aaronson gets the start at left wing, with Tim Weah in the lineup at right wing. Daryl Dike, who was not on the Nations League roster but traveled with the team to Denver, gets the start at the 9. Expect Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Sergiño Dest to get some action as 2nd half subs.
The USMNT will be motivated after their win in Nations League to finish out the window in strong fashion. It won’t be a pretty match, but they’ll do enough to secure a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica.
The USMNT’s thrilling victory over Mexico meant as much as we wanted it to
Joey GulinoMon, June 7, 2021, 2:19 AM
It’s been a long few years. The fateful October 2017 night in Trinidad stands out, when the United States men’s national team was officially eliminated from the World Cup for the first time since we started caring to field a competitive national team, but there have been plenty of other lows.A couple of them have come against Mexico, from the Gold Cup final two summers ago to one of the worst collective USMNT performances ever a few months after that.The losses sting more because it was Mexico, because it was the USMNT’s chief rival in the region. Games against El Tri are hard to win, and they mean more. Even when they don’t mean anything.That was pretty much the case for the CONCACAF Nations League final. What, exactly, was at stake this tournament? World Cup qualifying and Gold Cup positioning, both of which the USMNT and Mexico would’ve almost certainly gained anyway. It was hard to see how the competition would do much beyond further stratify the haves and have-nots in North and Central America and the Caribbean. Plus, this inaugural edition of it stretched all the way back to the fall of 2019 thanks to the pandemic.
So for as fierce as the rivalry is, you’d be excused for struggling to muster enthusiasm. Except the USMNT’s 3-2 comeback victory over Mexico in extra time was much more fun and compelling and bats*** than it had any right to be. And more importantly, fans of not only soccer but sports in general have been waiting for exhalations like this for a long time.The pandemic scrambled every sports league across the planet — not that they were really that important in its context — and major events were either delayed, canceled outright or held in zombified fashion. Fans weren’t allowed at stadiums across the globe, either, draining whatever spectacle and energy the grim reality of the situation hadn’t already eradicated.
As fans have slowly resumed packing stadiums, the returns have been partly concerning but broadly well-received. That neatly coordinates with Sunday’s crucible, with some idiots acting dangerously but most of them gassing up a game that was thrilling enough on its own merit.Everyone was tweeting about it. Everyone was lauding it. Everyone was getting mad about it. Mexico scores a minute into the game? Same old USMNT. Weston McKennie equalizes late in regular time? That’s new.
Was this a penalty that Christian Pulisic drew against Mexico? Ehhh.Did backup keeper Ethan Horvath really save Mexico’s own penalty shortly after? Yes!How was Hector Herrera not shown a red card multiple times? Don’t get us started.The tension was elevated as ever, even if the stakes were not. Both nations realized what kind of opportunity it was, and that’s one of the few credits to the Nations League. If CONCACAF and soccer’s other governing bodies are going to continue to shamelessly cash-grab, might as well set things up so its best national teams have the chance to square off more often. That’s how the USMNT and Mexico treated this game. In a vacuum, neither side had its first-choice lineup out there, but they were close. Besides, international soccer doesn’t take place in a vacuum. It’s all about how your program can pick up and put down shifting rosters and tactics during an already-packed calendar at the club level. Starting your best XI in any given match is a privilege, not an ordained right.
So both the teams and the fans lent the game weight. How much weight will it carry going forward?That’s perhaps the most important question. For one night, it was a big thing on people’s radars. It can become a bigger thing if it serves a springboard for this generation of American men’s soccer players, which has been dubbed “golden” for deserved reasons.This is the first time this group — which on Sunday included a Champions League winner, a Premier League winner, a Ligue 1 winner, and key cogs at scores of big clubs across Europe — came together to win something at the international level. Fans hope it won’t be the last, with this group hoping to qualify for the World Cup in 2022 before hosting the event (along with Mexico and Canada) in 2026.There will be other opportunities to win trophies in the interim. This triumph over Mexico, the first in a so-called “competitive” match in nearly eight years, can become iconic in U.S. soccer lore if the USMNT wants it to be.Don’t undersell that desire. It’s what made Sunday so special, when it had plenty of reasons not to be. We didn’t need to attach import. We just decided to.
Three takeaways from the USMNT’s Nations League win over Mexico
By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76 Monday, Jun 7, 2021, 11:38 AM
I’m going to borrow my own line from last weekend following the USMNT’s friendly loss to Switzerland: Friendlies are friendlies, and good teams know how to work their way through them and find good stuff to learn and take away from them, then apply them for real when the whistle blows in official competitions.
But history is littered with teams who did only part of that and were just never able to flip that switch, get out of third gear and get into “must-win” mode.
This is especially true of young teams. Veteran sides have, by definition, been there before and more often than not know where to find the switch and how to turn it on. Young teams? Well, it’s a journey.
This is a point I’ve made repeatedly over the past few years, but especially in the past week. I was not sure if this team even knew how to begin looking for the switch, and was worried they’d become somewhat complacent.
That worry was unfounded. The biggest takeaway I will have from the initial Concacaf Nations League is that this almost impossibly young US men’s national team collectively found that switch and, after a good deal of effort, figured out how to turn it on. They navigated the distance between “friendly” and “this game has stakes.”
We saw the beginnings of it in the 1-0 win over Honduras. They at least located the switch, and a few of the players on the team — most notably John Brooks — flipped it on.
“We needed this kind of game,” said US head coach Gregg Berhalter afterwards, and he has never been more correct. Without suffering through the win over the Catrachos there is no momentous, wild-as-all-hell 3-2 win over Mexico Sunday night, a game in which, after 25 minutes, the US finally, collectively found the switch and met the urgency of both the moment and their opponents.
So before you read anything that I or anyone else writes about tactics, remember the very simple foundation of what we just saw from the US is that good things happen when you play really hard, and play with confidence. If you don’t do that, you can suffer the most ignominious of defeats (cough *Couva* cough cough) no matter how weak the competition.
If you do the above and have lots of talent? If that’s the case, then great things are possible. And coming from behind twice against a veteran Mexican side that has dominated this rivalry for a decade qualifies as great.
The players knew it. You could see it in how they carried themselves even after being rocked back by an early uppercut. You could see it in their goal celebrations, and you could see it in the way they matched or exceeded Mexico’s energy not just on the field, but in the extracurriculars that are very much part of this rivalry.
I’m not going to go so far as to say nothing matters beyond achieving that level of urgency. But I will say if the US hit, as a baseline, the level of urgency we saw from minute 25 onwards Sunday night, then this group will qualify for the World Cup with ease no matter what the tactics are.
That said, the tactics did indeed help! Let’s take a quick look:
1 The shape change
There was talk of a massive formation switch from the US in the hours before the game, and when the lineups came out that seemed to be confirmed: The US would play in a 3-4-2-1. And they did, except for a lot of times when they didn’t.
The US played what Berhalter called “an adaptive shape,” one that often looked as much like an unbalanced 4-4-2 with the right back (DeAndre Yedlin) and right midfielder (Gio Reyna) pushing higher and tucking in a bit compared to the left side, where Tim Ream as a stay-at-home left back and Sergino Dest was an old-fashioned wide left midfielder.
You could see it early both in simple possession (of which there wasn’t much), as well as in regular defensive sequences:
Berhalter explained it afterwards in fine detail.“We started with a five in the back. But if you think about this shape, it was an adaptive shape. So any time they went to build with two, we would move to press with two; any time they built with three, we would move to press with three,” Berhalter said. “And then our wingbacks fluctuated between Sergino being a left midfielder and being a left wing back … and then Gio being a high winger or a right midfielder, basically.”
This is weird! We’ve seen a lot of different looks from the US before under Berhalter, but not this one. It’s a huge gamble to go with something so different in a game of this magnitude.
But I would say it worked. The front line did a good job of closing Mexico down out of the mid-block and the backline won a ton of the long-balls El Tri were forced into. The US got forward a good amount in transition, and since they were essentially playing with two up top, they almost always had numbers to put the Mexican backline under pressure and force them to scramble.
2 A game of transition
One of the things Berhalter has talked about a ton in his two-and-a-half years in charge is the concept of disorganizing the opponents without the ball. The US are going to face a lot of bunkers in Concacaf; they always have. And they’ve often struggled against those bunkers, while Mexico — who have long been more comfortable breaking teams down with the ball — have a habit of taking the smaller Concacaf sides apart.
So the coach has seen it as his mandate, from Day 1, to get the US to play better in those situations, and at times (including and especially in the most recent meeting with Mexico, a 3-0 friendly loss in which the US repeatedly tried to play through the Mexican press and couldn’t) it felt like they were doing it to their detriment. There has been a sense in certain corners of USMNT fandom that when the time came, Berhalter would instruct the team to go out on their shield instead of being a little bit more pragmatic.Those fears turned out to be unfounded. Playing more of a mid-block and using a double pivot of Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta gummed up central midfield — Mexico created almost nothing up the gut — and turned it into a game of second balls and transition momentsThe US got into a lot of good spots in those transition moments. As was the case vs. Honduras, they simply were not sharp in the final third:
El Tri, meanwhile, were forced to just repeatedly play into the channels.
There are always trade-offs in any gameplan. The US were never going to completely dominate this game, and I think Berhalter got the trade-offs correct here. Yes, Mexico were dangerous playing into those channels, but pushing Yedlin up high dulled a lot of Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s influence in the build-up, while Brooks was almost flawless in his reads and rotations to contain Hirving “Chucky” Lozano playing as a false 9.
So the gamble was to try to limit those guys and force Uriel Antuna to make plays, or force Carlos Rodriguez to win the game bursting out of central midfield.
They could not. Berhalter gambled well.
3 The adjustment
When Tim Weah came on for Dest at the hour mark I’d argue the “adaptive back five that can, and did often, look like a back four” ended up becoming an adaptive back four that can and sometimes did look like a back five. That is the nature of the game, though: formations are supposed to be liquid.
The hard-and-fast change, though, came late when Tyler Adams came on, Tim Ream came off and Acosta went to left back. That became a real 4-3-3 with Adams destroying everything through central midfield and Acosta tasked with shutting down Diego Lainez, who’d created more danger in two touches than Antuna could’ve in two hours.
The adjustment obviously came a bit too late. Lainez got on the field in the 78th minute and scored in the 79th, while Adams didn’t get onto the field until three minutes after that. But it was the right adjustment, and I would argue it gave the US a little more control over the game down the stretch and then throughout all of the extra time festivities.
If you go back and watch those final 40 minutes (50 minutes when stoppage time is factored in) you’ll see that Mexico were limited to long-range blasts or set pieces, while the US ended up becoming more and more dangerous via possession. They didn’t turn the game on its head, precisely, but they did change the way it was played — and eventually they reaped the rewards of that.
A few bullet-points:
- McKennie was a one-man wrecking crew on set pieces. Tata Martino is taking a beating for a lot of things in the Mexican press this morning, but the one they should really be going after him for is the inability to contain the US on restarts when the US lineup really only had two good targets in McKennie and Brooks.
- When the ball was live, Christian Pulisic was poor right up until he made what turned out to be the match-winning play. I kind of wonder if, now that he has this wonderful moment vs. Mexico under his belt, he’ll stop trying to recreate Maradona’s World Cup goal on every touch and become more willing to play within the framework of the game.
- Dest looked completely out of gas and I think part of Berhalter’s “adaptive shape” was a concession that Sergino is not ready to play as a true fullback in a back four against a team as good as Mexico.
- As demonstrated by the performances of Ream and Mark McKenzie, the race to be Brooks’ partner in central defense is wide open. I hope we’ll see a lot of Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman at the Gold Cup, and Chris Richards as well.
- I don’t think anyone helped himself more with regard to where he stands in the pool than Acosta, who put in a more-than-credible shift at two spots.
The US play Costa Rica on Wednesday (7 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN) in a friendly, a game added to the schedule in order to replicate the conditions of the three-game windows that are going to be a feature of the upcoming run through World Cup qualifying. Somehow harnessing the fortitude to recover from such an emotional win and summon the energy necessary to beat the Ticos, even in a friendly… well, Berhalter scheduled this game for a reason. It’s another big test, and another switch this young US team needs to flip. It’ll be fascinating to see if they can manage it once again.
Horvath and Pulisic lift the USMNT to a gutsy and signature win over Mexico
The USMNT, with its current generation of players, finally delivered a signature win under Gregg Berhalter with an epic 3-2 victory over Mexico in the final of the 2021 Nations League tournament. It was a performance that showcased grit, hard work, and determination – which are the needed traits in World Cup qualifying. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta is here with this thoughts on the game.
BY BRIAN SCIARETTA JUNE 07, 202112:25 AM
WHEN THE WHOLE concept of the CONCACAF Nations League was introduced, it generated little enthusiasm and it’s easy to understand why. In a four year cycle, this region was set to be saturated with two Gold Cups, two Nations Leagues, and an octagonal World Cup qualifying tournament. For most people, that’s just too much CONCACAF.If you were to go back in time and tell these people that one of the region’s most riveting and entertaining games in recent years would take place in the 2021 Nations League final, most would laugh. After all, how could the final of a tournament which was viewed skeptically from its onset produce a game so compelling?The answer is simply that the United States – Mexico rivalry is always capable of producing something compelling and emotional. When both teams want to beat each other and both teams are emotionally invested in the game, it doesn’t matter the stage or the trophy attached. It’s just winning for the sake of beating your archrival.On Sunday night, both the United States and Mexico were all-in and for over 120 minutes – wanted to beat each other badly. In the end, it wasn’t really about the Nations League. It was just the regions top rivals doing whatever it took to beat each other in something that was more than a friendly.
The game itself wasn’t necessarily well played by either team. The United States started off very poorly – making mistakes and conceding the opening goal in the opening minute on a series of errors from DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie, and most of all Mark McKenzie. Just like the U.S. Olympic team, the senior team was caught making a brutal mistake out of the back as opposed to making a basic clearance and regrouping when the press was intense after the errors.The United States responded in the 27th minute when Weston McKennie headed a corner kick from Christian Pulisic off the post. The ball subsequently fell to Gio Reyna who easily slotted home the equalizer to make it 1-1.The team continued to trade blows into the second half. Zack Steffen had to be removed due to a knee injury in the 69th minute. But Diego Lainez put Mexico up in the 79th minute when he exploited space left by Tim Ream and beat Horvath to the low near corner of the game. But Horvath responded making two acrobatic saves soon afterward.Weston McKennie once again responded for the United States. After having three dangerous opportunities on corner kicks earlier in this game, he skied above four defenders and beat Guillermo Ochoa inside the post with a header to make it 2-2.Extra time turned out to be wild with both teams fighting and scrapping their ways for opportunities. In the 114th minute, Pulisic was awarded a penalty on VAR after it was judged that he was taken down on the box. He promptly took the penalty himself and put the U.S. team up with an unstoppable shot into the top of the goal.he dramatics were then saved for the 120th minute when VAR confirmed a handball on Mark McKenzie. Andrews Guardado stepped up for the penalty but again Horvath was up to the task with a perfect save outstretched to his right side.Minutes later, the final whistled sounded on one of the most emotional games in this storied rivalry.Here are some thoughts.
USMNT PLAYED HARD & TOUGH
This game was very reminiscent of the old-school U.S – Mexico games where the game would often devolve from the beautiful game and into a slugfest of grit. It’s best to accept that, as much as fans sometimes want to see a classic, well-played game, it is probably always going to be a very rare occurrence when these two teams meet.But that’s okay. The most important takeaway is that this generation of players answered the call of the rivalry in this game. It’s more important and more positive that the team played so hard and so gritty than it is that they played well. If they’re as talented as a group as they showed with their clubs, they can play well.But in this game, they showed they are willing to suffer for results, stand up for each other, and not cave when things don’t go their way. While not everyone on the U.S. team played well, everyone played hard. This was reminiscent of the U.S. – Mexico games in the past that featured Donovan, Beasley, McBride, and Claudio Reyna – among many others.When the Mexican team resulted in chippy and shoving play, the U.S. team responded in a manner where they didn’t get a red card, but sent a message.This was also a game about the U.S. being able to respond.It was very easy to let the game get out of control after conceding in the first minute. But the team adjusted, kept it at 1-0, and then scored the equalizer. From then, the game was even.The U.S. team responded losing its starting keeper. Horvath conceded with his first shot but then responded making save after save.When Lainez put Mexico ahead, the lead lasted less than three minutes.In extra-time, VAR correctly awarded each team a penalty but the U.S. was able to make its play.This was a game where the U.S. team seemingly willed itself to victory and this was the type of game that should give the players a huge boost in momentum heading into World Cup qualifying – where it will rarely be pretty and it will come down to find a way, anyway, to emerge with the upper hand after a 90-minute slog.
Ethan Horvath was the MOTM for this game – and it’s a great story. The seldom used backup goalkeeper has rarely played for club or country the past two years and is now searching for a new club. In this game, he put on a fantastic performance that saved the U.S. team. It will also surely impress any scout who was watching.After conceding a goal soon after coming on (on a shot Horvath had no chance of saving), he made a series of very difficult saves that essentially won the game for the U.S. team. It completely redefined him as a keeper and clearly gave him the edge to be Zack Steffen’s backup.It was also a great story that such an important moment in his career came near his hometown of Highlands Ranch, Colorado. When he wanted to move abroad at an early age, his family sacrificed just about everything to make it happen – moving to Norway so that Horvath could join Molde.After three excellent saves from the run of play, Horvath was playing so well that it seemed like he was up to the task to stop Guardado on the penalty – even as he was taking his line to prepare for the shot.It was an absolutely special performance from Horvath.
THE 3-4-3 FORMATION
When the starting lineup was announced, the big takeaway is that Berhalter was rolling with a 3-4-3 formation with three central defenders and two wingbacks. Part of this was to get more width in the attack – which would ideally create more space up the middle.By design, the wingbacks would have an opportunity to move forward into the attack better with defensive coverage. On the flip side, this would leave just two central midfielders ( as opposed to three in a 4-3-3) and it would be quite burdensome on Weston McKennie and Kellyn Acosta.It took the U.S. team awhile to really adjust to the formation. For long stretches the 3-4-3 showed some promise but it was eventually abandoned late once the subs came into the game with extra time approaching.This formation, unfortunately, came at a time when too many in the backline were having rough games. Sergino Dest has been at his best for Barcelona once the team adopted a 3-4-3 formtion in Manchestr City. Dest, however, hasn’t been up to his high-level form for the U.S. team since camp opened in Switzerland. In this game, he really wasn’t able to get his offense going. Yedlin as well was only rarely pushed into the attack.Tim Ream and Mark McKenzie both also had some tough moments. Ream struggled with the pace from Mexican attackers and McKenzie seemed to struggle with confidence, particularly with the opening goal.So, was it a case of the formation not working, or the players having off-nights and not optimizing the benefits of the formation? It’s too early to say for certain, but Berhalter should keep this formation as a possible approach in games. If Dest is in better form (which is realistic to expect) and the U.S. has three central defenders playing well, it might work well.
REYNA, PULISIC, MCKENNIE, & BROOKS SHOW QUALITY
In this game, the U.S. team got special moments from four of its top players.Christian Pulisic was invisible early on but came a live in the second half and injury time to be the difference maker. While opponents can focus in on stopping him, he is of such quality that stopping him over 90 or even 120 minutes is impossible. He will eventually get really good chances.Gio Reyna, meanwhile, has simply had a great week. Ever since camp opened in Switzerland, Reyna has been the best and most consistent field player for the U.S. team. The son of the former U.S. national team captain has had an interesting year.He began the season with Borussia Dortmund playing extremely well but then struggled for several months after Lucien Favre was fired. From late December through the start of March, Reyna simply was in poor form. Starting in March, however, Reyna has completely reversed course where he has re-emerged as a key player for both Borussia Dortmund and the United States. He was key to helping Dortmund making a magnificent run to end the season and improbably qualify for the Champions League.That momentum clearly carried over into this camp with the U.S. team and Reyna has been so smooth with the ball, and his vision in connecting with his attacking teammates has been first-rate.McKennie, meanwhile, was asked to do a lot in the 3-4-3 as one of just two central midfielders. In terms of being a disruptive presence, he was big. His aerial ability on set pieces has been special the past week. Against Honduras, he was in position several times. In this game, he scored but also forced saves and headed one off the post which resulted in the opening goal.As for Brooks, it was a huge outing in central defense and it was made more difficult with Ream and McKenize struggling at times with the game. Brooks seemed to enjoy the hostile nature of the U.S. – Mexico game even if he has only limited experience in the rivalry. The question now with Brooks is for him to find a partner (or partners in a three central defender set) that can consistently play well. McKenzie had a rough game, but he will and should remain in the mix.
ACOSTA GREW INTO THE GAME
While Tyler Adams came into the game in the 82nd minute, it is clear he was rusty and not at his normal level. When the U.S. team is without Adams, it is always a question who should start in that role. Berhalter has explored a lot of options and in this game went with Kellyn Acosta along with Weston Mckennie in the two-man central defender set-up.Like it was with McKennie, it was taxing on both players as the wingbacks weren’t able to get deep into the attack and everything was geared up the middle.
Acosta didn’t have a good first 15-20 minutes but grew into the game nicely and worked well with McKennie – especially when the game got intense and physical in the later stages.Acosta’s versatility was also a help in the later stages when he shifted to play left back to help with defense and move out of the 3-4-3. Mexico had a tougher time going down his side of the field late in the game.Overall, Acosta made a strong statement to be in the rosters for World Cup qualifying and a player who is a serious option for playing time if there are injuries or suspensions to Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie.
THE STARTING LINEUP
Zack Steffen: Rating: 6.0
DeAndre Yedlin: Rating: 5.0
Mark McKenzie: Rating: 4.5
John Brooks: Rating: 7.0
Tim Ream: Rating: 4.5
Sergino Dest: Rating: 5.0
Kellyn Acosta: Rating: 6.5
Weston McKennie: Rating: 7.5
Gio Reyna: Rating: 7.5
Christian Pulisic: Rating: 8.0
Josh Sargent: Rating: 5.5
Tim Weah: Rating: 5.5
Jordan Siebatcheu: Rating: 5.5
Ethan Horvath: Rating: 9.0 (MAN OF THE MATCH)
Sebastian Lletget: Rating: 6.0
Tyler Adams: Rating: 6.0
Reggie Cannon: Rating: 5.5
USMNT player ratings from trophy-claiming ET win over Mexico
Nicholas Mendola Mon, June 7, 2021, 12:25 AM
The United States men’s national team won the CONCACAF Nations League in a non-descript match versus rivals Mexico that betrayed the nations’ usual rancor.Only part of that is true, as Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT scored him a statement 3-2 win in extra time that included a penalty made, another saved, two American equalizer, a surprising red card for Mexican coach Tata Martino, a surprising non-red card for Mexican star Hector Herrera, a pause in the game after a homophobic crowd chant, and a pitch invasion.Oh, and the Americans allowed a first-minute goal that would lead any neutral fan to believe the score was going to be 300-0 for the Mexicans.What say you we rate the USMNT players?
USMNT – Mexico player ratings
Zack Steffen (Off 69′): 7 — The non-contact injury will be a concern for Pep Guardiola and Gregg Berhalter alike and came after he was hung out to dry for Mexico’s opening goal. We’re giving him an extra point because if he stayed in the game it wouldn’t have played out like it did. Butterfly effect.
DeAndre Yedlin: 5 — Looked unfamiliar with his surroundings, which is odd for a 64-times capped back before you remember that he’s played all of nine minutes for the USMNT since the calendar hit 2020, and that those were the only nine minutes he’s ever played next to Mark McKenzie. Risky and unnecessary error on the first-minut goal.
Mark McKenzie: 3 — Nightmare start as the ringleader of a series of first-minute mistakes that put Mexico ahead. Nearly made amends for extremely shaky play at the back with a header off a corner that was collected by Ochoa with 15 minutes left to play. Then saw the second goal go through his legs on its way past Ethan Horvath. The good news is that he’ll know one of his worst nights — McKenzie is a pretty darn good young back — still wound up with a winner’s medal.
John Brooks: 7 — A mistake early in the buildup to the Mexico opener and another bad giveaway but otherwise another exceptional performance from the excellent-passing, physical leader of the back line. Still adventures more than necessary but there’s no one in the player pool anywhere near his skill set as a center back.
Tim Ream: 4 — He’s not a left back and we’d say, “but don’t tell Gregg Berhalter” if we weren’t positive that dozens of people have told Gregg Berhalter just that. The Fulham center back that started at left back for the USMNT over the man that Fulham coach Scott Parker usually chose at left back at Craven Cottage was exposed for pace. But really, that’s not Ream’s fault. At all.
Sergino Dest (Off 60′): 4 — The good news for Dest is that two-fold. No. 1: He’s really good so it’ll be easy to bounce back from a poor performance. No. 2: So much wacky stuff happened that few will remember said poor performance.
Kellyn Acosta: 5 — The penalty wasn’t his fault, as no one should call a handball when a cross turns off a head from super short range, and — again — it’s not his fault that Berhalter keeps putting him out there fro a player pool that includes a load of options including but not limited to Julian Green, Jackson Yueill, and – yes – even Michael Bradley. Bad touch on the opening Mexican goal, out to lunch but with a great view of the second.
Weston McKennie: 9 — He nearly scored with his header of Pulisic’s corner that became Reyna’s goal, then scored anyway off another set piece. He is the embodiment of what most USMNT fans want their team to be, and his massive long throw to set up the corner on Reyna’s goal was weighted like a through ball. Incredible stuff.
Giovanni Reyna (Off 86′): 9 — Why he was lifted before full-time, I have no idea. The son of Claudio Reyna showed the big game mettle of his dad in getting a goal and an assist and finding space more often than not as Tata Martino tried to shut down Christian Pulisic.
Christian Pulisic: 7 — Delivered the corner for the opener and won the decisive penalty, one he dispatched with vicious accuracy into the camera in the upper 90. When the USMNT captain eventually lifted the CONCACAF Nations League trophy, weeks after holding the European Cup, you had a feeling he’d transitioned from USMNT star to all-time great. He’s 22 and has 16 USMNT goals on 37 caps, one away from the program’s all-time top ten.
Josh Sargent (Off 68′): 5 — Slipped twice in the first few minutes and both were huge. One led to Mexico’s opener (though his slip was merely the catalyst for bigger errors by others) and the second came on a great run that could’ve made it 1-1 if he didn’t slip. Still, he’d find his real and proverbial footing before the end of his short shift.
Timothy Weah (On 60′ for Dest): 8 — Pace to burn and he did just that, solidifying the right side. Made a quick pass that should’ve left Mexico with 10 men when Herrera scythed down the three-time Ligue 1 champion.
Jordan Siebatcheu (On 68′ for Sargent): 6 — No super sub day, but still okay.
Ethan Horvath (On 69′ for Steffen): 9 — Save after save after save after … oh yeah, one of those was a penalty save on Andres Guardado up 3-2 in the second period of extra time. Can’t give a 10 due to the wrong-footing on Mexico’s second goal, though he was far from a culprit. Pretty good, guy.
Sebastian Lletget (On 86′ for Reyna): 6 — Not bad, not great, and kinda weird to see him out there for an 18-year-old Reyna boasting a goal and an assist through 86 minutes.
Tyler Adams (On 86′ for Ream): 6 — Please get fit and stay healthy, Tyler. The USMNT is much better with you in the fold.
USMNT player ratings: The kids are alright in wild Nations League Final win vs. Mexico
By Greg Seltzer Monday, Jun 7, 2021, 09:59 AM
In a chaotic, contentious game, the home side had to battle individual mistakes, the familiar El Tri swarm, unfamiliar tactics, injuries and some debated officiating that featured three VAR decisions. In the end, Weston McKennie led the way to victory with a comprehensive display that included an 89th minute rescue goal to send the game to extra time.
United States Men’s National Team Player Ratings
Goalkeeper · USA
The US netminder might like another shot at stopping Jesus Corona’s fast opener, but the danger was upon him so suddenly it would be harsh to fault him on it. Before leaving with an injury, Steffen was solid, with a monster 43rd minute save his top highlight.
3.5 Mark McKenzie
Defender · USA
I did not ding the Genk defender for his late penalty foul, as the ball skimmed off his hand from mere inches away. There were much bigger problems caused by McKenzie’s shaky work on the ball. His errant pass gifted Mexico the first goal only a minute in, and he was later bailed out on similar giveaways. The youngster did make some strong clearances and blocks, and he possesses the talent to mean this performance could very well prove a valuable learning experience.
5.0 John Brooks
Defender · USA
Perhaps thrown off by the formation change, Brooks made a string of tentative errors that put the team in trouble. The Wolfsburg center back did not have his usual passing lanes, so his incisive distribution game was mostly offline. He did do well to play the last 110 minutes carrying a yellow card, and made a few important interventions along the way, but the overall showing wasn’t up to his expected standard.
4.5 Tim Ream
Defender · USA
The veteran center back pitched in by offering plenty of possession support, but was simply pulled out and beaten by pace far too often for comfort.
5.5 DeAndre Yedlin
Defender · USA
With so much of the play away from his flank, Yedlin didn’t take part in many instances of note during regulation. The Galatasaray right-sider did fit in a couple of timely defensive stops during extras before departing with a knock, though.
5.5 Kellyn Acosta
Midfielder · USA
The first half hour of the game was pretty rough on the Colorado Rapids midfielder, but he grew into it and started helping McKennie run things. Acosta found ways to play the team out of the back and added some heady defensive work when shifted over to left back in the late going, but picked up one more sizable demerit for being among the guilty that didn’t properly close down Diego Lainez on his goal.
9.0 Weston McKennie
Midfielder · USA
For all those wondering if McKennie could develop into a guy who’d put on a do-it-all star show in the big game, you now have the answer. The Juventus midfielder was everywhere, doing a little bit of everything and he had a hand in nearly every positive development for the US on this night. One restart header put the team’s first equalizer on a tee and another one bagged its second in the nick of time. Long story short, McKennie was the best player on the field by a mile.
4.5 Sergino Dest
Defender · USA
The Barcelona talent got loose for an impressive early scamper, and you thought that might be an omen. However, Dest just could not shake Luis Rodriguez after that, and he also came up short defensively on various occasions.
7.0 Giovanni Reyna
Winger · USA
The Borussia Dortmund kid definitely disappeared from the match for stretches, but was present in the big moments. Reyna was on the spot to tap home the first US goal, and picked out McKennie with a fine corner kick delivery for the second equalizer. He also tracked back well to contribute some needed defensive interventions.
5.5 Josh Sargent
Forward · USA
Though not served by the team’s lethargy for much of the first half, Sargent managed some link play and one decent attempt on goal. That was about it for the Werder Bremen forward.
Forward · USA
The newest Captain America’s oddly loose touch hampered several rushes in a poor first half, but he atoned for it with a few terrific corner serves, one of which pulled the US level the first time. After the break, Pulisic pulled it together to initiate some dangerous rushes with great turns in between the lines. And with everything on the line, he made the winning penalty conversion look easy.
6.5 Gregg Berhalter
I’m still not convinced the shape change to a 3-4-3 was wise, and the same can be said about some of the personnel decisions for this game. That said, the boys never dropped their heads when mistakes happened and never packed it in when they were trailing. There’s a certain team atmosphere that allows them to pull off a double rally against an archrival that has typically foiled them in recent years, and Berhalter gets due props for that.
6.0 Timothy Weah
The Ligue 1 champ put the team on the front foot a few times with bursts up field, but could not turn those rushes into chances.
10.0 Ethan Horvath
Goalkeeper · USA
Well, gosh, I’m not sure one could ask any more of a injury replacement goalie in a title match. Horvath had little chance at stopping the Lainez strike that temporarily put Mexico ahead, and shook it off to save the USMNT’s bacon after they’d tied the game near the end of regulation. Of course, he capped off the win with a dutiful chips-down penalty save on Andres Guardado.
Forward · USA
The substitute striker did a bit of road plowing, but was never able to threaten the Mexico defense.
6.5 Tyler Adams
Midfielder · USA
The first thing Adams did upon entering the fray was make a big tackle. He kept his intensity high at the back until the job was done.
Midfielder · USA
The LA Galaxy man was largely invisible for the majority of his 38 minutes, but picked up his two-way play over the decisive waning moments of overtime.
6.0 Reggie Cannon
Defender · USA
USMNT’s epic Nations League triumph over Mexico provided plenty of lessons
Jun 7, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent
DENVER — The United States men’s national team headed into Sunday’s CONCACAF Nations League final against Mexico as a side heavy on potential but light on experience. Yet in an engrossing contest that lasted almost three hours, this young U.S. team grew before the collective eyes of those in attendance, prevailing 3-2 after extra time to claim the inaugural edition of the trophy.It was a match in which the U.S. navigated myriad twists and turns, rallying twice, converting a pressure-packed penalty through Christian Pulisic in extra time, and then surviving a penalty against it with substitute keeper Ethan Horvath saving brilliantly from Andres Guardado.There was also the usual venom that accompanies this rivalry. Pulisic and his teammates were showered with debris (and Giovanni Reyna being hit in the face with an object) after his penalty conversion. There were heavy challenges, more than a few scuffles — including a hand around the neck of midfielder Weston McKennie — and even fans invading the field.And in the end, the U.S. prevailed over El Tri in a competitive fixture for the first time in eight years. And while the game carried extra importance with a trophy on the line, the actual prize seemed almost secondary to the events that transpired throughout the evening.”For this group, it’s really important,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said about the victory. “We’re a young side and we need to learn how to win. These games are very difficult, and for us it was about having a game plan and executing the game plan, but then it’s also about the fight in the spirit.”The future will determine just how much this victory will galvanize the U.S. team. World Cup qualifying starts in a mere three months, and qualification remains by far the most important prize for this side. To a degree, the U.S. men’s program is still smarting from its failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. But this win means plenty for the players in that it provides a massive boost of confidence that its potential is being translated into results in big moments. It also gives Berhalter the kind of signature win that increases belief in his methods.At minimum, this is a game that these U.S. players will remember for the rest of their lives, especially given the wild swings in momentum. And none more so than Horvath, who struggled for playing time with Club Brugge this season and was penciled in as the backup to Zack Steffen. Yet when Steffen was forced off with a knee injury in the 69th minute, Horvath stepped in and made a series of game-changing plays to the delight of the more than 20 friends and family who were in attendance to see the Colorado native.”Just thinking about how difficult it is for goalkeepers to come into the game, in that stage of the game, and then to make the impact that he made was remarkable,” Berhalter said. “It’s been a tough season for him and to come and have a performance like that in his hometown was, you know it’s stuff that storybooks write about.”The talking point in the run-up to kickoff was Berhalter’s decision to go with a three-man backline, presumably in a bid to free up Sergino Dest from his defensive responsibilities and get more into the attack.
But before the U.S. could even settle into any kind of rhythm, disaster struck as a too-casual pass from defender Mark McKenzie was picked off by Jesus Corona, allowing him to advance toward goal and rifle his shot past Steffen. The game was a mere 63 seconds old.The U.S. struggled to settle in during the ensuing minutes, unable to connect passes and looking suspect in defense, especially with Tim Ream often left isolated to defend Uriel Antuna one-on-one.But a critical sequence around the 27th minute highlighted that as much as the U.S. labored at times both individually and as a team, it showed near-endless reservoirs of resolve and revealed an ability to learn on the fly. One moment, Hector Moreno nodded home Hector Herrera‘s cross, only for VAR to come to the U.S. team’s rescue and disallow the tally. Then, in a flash, they were level, as Reyna cleaned up a rebound after McKennie’s header hit the post. In between, Reyna was everywhere, getting into the attack but also contributing on the defensive end. McKennie began to impose himself all over the field, and John Brooks put in an immense performance to help stabilize the U.S. defense.There were still warning signs, however. Pulisic was ineffective for most of the night. The back line was wobbly. Dest, thought to be a key component in the U.S. breaking down Mexico’s defense, looked completely out of sorts and unsure of what he was supposed to do and where he needed to be.The second half saw the U.S. play with more composure and on more level terms, even if it wasn’t completely in full flow. McKennie forced a trio of saves from Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa as he consistently shook free on set pieces.
And yet it was a substitution from Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino — the introduction of attacker Diego Lainez — that nearly turned the tide. The Mexican side had been attacking Ream relentlessly all game, and Lainez’s shiftiness and fresh legs gave him a decided advantage. It paid off in the 79th minute as Lainez cut inside and unleashed a shot that beat Horvath.At that point, it seemed as though all Mexico had to do was see the game out, yet McKennie wouldn’t be denied, finally getting the better of Ochoa with his header from Reyna’s corner just creeping into the goal.
The regional heavyweights continued to land haymakers, and Horvath needed to be at his sharpest to deny Lozano in the 90th minute. And if the first 90 minutes delivered drama, extra time took matters beyond the red line. Pulisic won a penalty in the 109th minute after being felled by Mexico defender Carlos Salcedo, one that required a five-minute VAR review, and also saw Martino red-carded for placing his hands on the referee. Brooks couldn’t stand to watch, facing toward his own goal. He missed seeing Pulisic convert a cold-blooded penalty, and he celebrated by taking off his shirt and shushing the crowd, at which point the U.S. players were pelted with debris. Reyna appeared to take a projectile to the head, though Berhalter said he thinks the attacker “is going to be OK.”Of course, there was one more dose of drama. McKenzie was adjudged to have handled Luis Romo‘s shot in the box, requiring another lengthy VAR review. Guardado stepped up to take the spot kick, and while his shot lacked placement, it had plenty of power, forcing a spectacular save from Horvath. The keeper said he, Steffen and David Ochoa spent 30-40 minutes with goalkeeper coach David Hyde studying the tendencies of the opposition.”It’s down to us doing our homework,” Horvath said.The U.S. then smartly ran out the clock, even as more projectiles rained down on them. At the final whistle, players collapsed to the ground and were soon celebrating with the U.S. fans behind Horvath’s goal.For the U.S., the tournament has been a rousing success. Yes, the team showed its inexperience in managing big occasions. But it also revealed an adaptability and a mental toughness, even in the face of incidents like one in the second half when Hector Herrera grabbed McKennie.
“I don’t know what it is, but they seem to like to grab my neck,” McKennie said. “It’s a rivalry that’s been there for generations and it’s rivalry that will still carry on. We just got the upper hand this time, and hopefully it stays that way.”The younger generation is growing up.
USMNT-Mexico rivalry, post-Nations League classic: What’s next?
10:24 AM ET ESPN FC Jeff Carlisle Eric Gomez
Did the USMNT live up to the potential promised by its young stars like Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie? Is Mexico still considered the best team in CONCACAF despite the heartbreaking loss? And while Gregg Berhalter won his first trophy as USMNT manager, Gerardo “Tata” Martino may start to feel the pressure that comes with being in charge of Mexico.ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Eric Gomez look back at the epic match in Denver, while assessing both the state of both teams with CONCACAF Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying looming ahead.
What did we learn about both teams (the good, the bad and the ugly)?
Carlisle: The biggest takeaway from the CNL triumph is that the increase in talent the U.S. has brought through in the past 18 months is beginning to translate into results, all while getting a taste of what competitive fixtures in CONCACAF will be like.
Sure, players like John Brooks and Pulisic are well-versed in the kind of gamesmanship and shenanigans that go on in CONCACAF, be it subpar field conditions, crazy weather or provocations of any kind. But these past two games were a baptism of sorts for some of the younger elements in the squad like Giovanni Reyna, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest. And while some individuals coped better than others — you can count Reyna among those who really impressed — the U.S. did enough collectively to get two victories, including a massive confidence-booster against rivals Mexico.Even better is that players like McKennie, Brooks and Pulisic have started to take on more of a leadership role, stepping up in big moments. McKennie took the U.S. team on his back in the Mexico game, and Pulisic, while quiet overall, delivered in a clutch moment with his penalty. These are all vital developments for this side.Much is made about the continued barren spell in front of goal for Sargent. The good news is that the U.S. is scoring goals without him, but he has to break out at some point. How much patience will U.S. manager Berhalter have on this front?
Outside of Brooks, the defense remains very much a work in progress. Berhalter used a four-man backline against Honduras, and then a three-man setup (or five-man, depending on how you look at) at the start against Mexico before returning to four at the back later. Weaknesses were exposed in both systems. Against Honduras, the U.S. looked vulnerable in transition. Against Mexico, the U.S. struggled at times to build out of the back — including a giveaway by Mark McKenzie that led to Jesus Corona‘s opener — and was vulnerable on balls over the top. The system clearly asked too much of Tim Ream, who was repeatedly isolated in one-on-one situations against Mexico and struggled.And what of Dest? The move to a three-back system was supposed to free the Barcelona man up to get more into the attack; not only did he fall short in that regard, he gave Ream little help defensively.
It leaves Berhalter with a conundrum of sorts, one that might be solved if Tyler Adams can stay healthy. The team’s defensive shape solidified when he came onto the field against Mexico, providing help out wide when needed. But getting Dest back on track, and finding a defensive system that can work even if Adams isn’t available, is his biggest task at the moment.
Gomez: Mexico’s night in Denver started about as well as it could possibly script it: Corona barreled through the left side of the pitch, leaving American defenders behind, and after losing the ball, he got it back after an errant pass from McKenzie left him one-on-one against keeper Zack Steffen. Corona’s goal set the tone for most of the first half: El Tri took advantage of a high defensive line by lofting long balls to its wingers, often setting up chances against backpedaling opponents.
As subsequent attacks from Mexico in the first half showed, El Tri’s strength on offense comes from its speedy wingers who can stretch out the field, creating opportunities either by the strength of their own ability or by forcing mistakes from overwhelmed defenders. However, after the United States shored up its defensive alignment in the second half to better prepare for wide attacks, Mexico’s cracks began to show.
Without Raul Jimenez to shoulder the load up front, Gerardo Martino and Olympic team manager Jaime Lozano have a shallow pool of center-forwards to choose from this summer. In the Nations League final four, Mexico got by mostly through flashes of brilliance from individual performers. It’s hard to fathom seeing this team even making the final if not for goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. On Sunday, Ochoa, Corona and second-half sub Diego Lainez undoubtedly kept the team afloat in key stretches.
Moving forward, Martino’s focus needs to be on two key issues. Mexico gave up two goals off corner kicks against the United States, and nearly every other dead ball posed a threat. In previous years, under Juan Carlos Osorio, special attention was focused on this part of the game and became less of an issue. In addition, while Martino can’t do much about the player pool to shore up his team’s areas of need, his confidence in clearly out-of-form players such as Uriel Antuna, Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez and Alan Pulido needs to come to an end.
Finally, as the game neared its close, the Mexican players were obviously affected by the mounting pressure, committing silly fouls and becoming embroiled in scrums with the Americans even before Pulisic scored the defining penalty kick. In recent years, El Tri seemed unburdened with playing the United States on the Americans’ home soil, grabbing key wins in the process. Sunday night, the ghosts of the dos a cero era seemed to roam among them.
Carlisle: Let’s just state up front that even if the U.S. had lost that game, Berhalter wasn’t going to get fired, nor should he have been. You don’t hire a coach, have him manage the team through all the difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic, and then fire him three months before World Cup qualifying because of … some tactical quibbles?Up to Sunday’s match, he’d gotten the results that were expected. The win over Mexico now cements his position and gives him the signature win that his tenure needed in order to generate some momentum for the program. And while players have their own motivations for playing for the national team, it’s obvious that on Sunday this team went to the mat to get this win. That speaks well of the environment Berhalter has created, along with how well his message is getting through.That doesn’t mean some of Berhalter’s decisions can’t be questioned. The reliance on Ream at the expense of Matt Miazga is a head-scratcher. You have to wonder how many more opportunities Sargent is going to get, and Pulisic needs to get on the ball more. But the team is growing, and Berhalter deserves some credit for that.Now he has the luxury to experiment at the Gold Cup. World Cup qualifying then beckons, which will be the ultimate judge of his tenure.
Gomez: Early on in the Nations League final, it seemed as if Martino was dispensing a tactical masterclass to an overwhelmed Berhalter. Within the game’s first 30 minutes, Mexico was a VAR replay away from a 2-0 advantage. As we all know, however, the match was flipped on its head moments later when Reyna turned an American corner kick into an equalizer.From there, Mexico’s aforementioned tactical advantage dwindled slowly, as Martino was increasingly unable to rely on his speedy wingers to wreak havoc on his opponent as the game wore on. Though Berhalter’s use of substitutions can be rightfully critiqued on the winning side, Martino was equally baffling in his player selection and in-game formation rearrangements.El Tri seemed lost at times when it was not able to count on the likes of Corona, Lozano and Lainez to create instant offense. When Henry Martin subbed in for Corona (who was on a time limit due to a pre-existing injury), the Argentine manager’s gambit to balance his offense failed. As they did against Costa Rica a few days before, Mexico was far less dangerous up front with a true center-forward than without. Borrowing a page from Los Ticos, Berhalter dared El Tri to attack his team through the middle by stymieing the wingers — it worked.
On defense, against talented players with line breaking speed, it was borderline irresponsible to keep 33-year-old Hector Moreno in for exactly 100 minutes. Though Hector Herrera was gassed and in constant danger of picking up a red card when extra time rolled around, bringing in 34-year-old Andres Guardado to fill the role was a questionable move. Even with his fresh legs, Pulisic and McKennie tore into the Real Betis midfielder at will.
Yes, some of these poor decisions can be chalked up to Mexico’s looming generational switch and the aforementioned lack of depth, but Martino’s decision-making will be increasingly under the microscope from now on.
How does this project for the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying?
Carlisle: The roster that Berhalter takes to the Gold Cup is bound to be completely different than the one that contested the Nations League. He wants and needs his Europe-based players to get a rest after long club seasons. The clubs will be grateful for his judicious use of those stars as well. Instead, Berhalter will go with a group derived mostly from MLS. That should help him get some answers as to who will comprise his depth pieces, and he even might uncover a player or two — Daryl Dike, perhaps? — who can become steady contributors.
World Cup qualifying is easily the biggest priority, and that is when the viewing public will next see the players who were on show Sunday night. While the CNL has no direct impact on that competition, the confidence boost gained from that competition should set the U.S. up well when qualifying commences in September with a triple-fixture window. Part of the reason the U.S. scheduled a pair of friendlies around the CNL was to mimic the cadence of such a window, and Berhalter is no doubt already gleaning data from the current camp.Included in the September window is an away game with Honduras, always a tricky encounter. The match at Honduras counts as a frontier that this group of U.S. players has yet to navigate, that being an away date in Central America. Recall that in the group stage of the CNL, the U.S. fell to Canada 2-0 in Toronto in an environment that, while not friendly, is far from the most inhospitable it will find in the region.The U.S. is riding a wave of momentum heading into World Cup qualifying. A poor result anywhere would put a stop to that, something Berhalter will be mindful of going forward.
Gomez: The next few months have the potential to saddle Mexico fans with plenty of disappointment, celebration, or a combination of both. Losing to the United States in any official capacity is unacceptable for El Tri, which means the team will now look to the Gold Cup to make up for missing out on the inaugural Nations League crown.However, Mexico will also field a team at the Olympics in Tokyo. Given the difficulty that stems from negotiating with European clubs to allow their players to participate (as it overlaps with the start of their season), it seems more likely El Tri will draw on Liga MX or MLS players to fill in the roster gaps, including the three overage players each country is allowed to bring. We’ve already mentioned the player pool limitations Martino has had to deal with for the senior team; those are only compounded when it comes to filling two full-strength sides.Mexican fans and media have lofty expectations for their Olympic squad since the 2012 team won gold against a heavily favored Brazilian side in London, and this group is no exception. Even with El Tri’s talent on display, getting past hosts Japan and medal favorites France in the group will be no easy task. This sets up a scenario where if Mexico fails to win the Gold Cup and say, does not make the quarterfinals in Tokyo, the program will roll into September’s World Cup qualifiers under abundant pressure.A quick look at newspapers and TV show pundits after the loss to the United States makes it clear: Martino’s extended honeymoon period with Mexico is over, and it can only get worse as time goes on. Thus, it’s critical for Mexico to have a good summer after this initial letdown at the Nations League.
Where does the rivalry go from here?
Carlisle: The rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico has suffered of late on two fronts. One is the fact that prior to Sunday night, Mexico had won the games that mattered in recent years. You had to go back to 2013 in a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, to find the last time the U.S. won a game with something more than pride on the line.Another was the frequency with which the two teams had been meeting. Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic put that on hold to a degree, but prior to 2020, you had to go back to 2010 — a World Cup year — to find the last time the two teams did not square off in a given calendar year. Rather than being special occasions, these encounters were becoming commonplace, diluting the rivalry’s passion. Yes, the friendly games are money-spinners for both federations, but a “less is more” approach might help to maintain the intensity.The improvement of the U.S. squad will also play a part in ratcheting up the rivalry. It used to be a novelty to have a U.S. player taking part in the UEFA Champions League. Last year, 10 players alone were on Champions League rosters for the group stage, which was followed on by 13 players claiming 10 trophies over the course of the club season. That kind of experience will certainly help close the gap with Mexico, which has the stronger domestic league compared to the U.S.
Gomez: The United States had not beaten Mexico in an official match since 2013. It had not won a final against El Tri since 2007. Despite a few blood-pumping moments in some of the friendlies (Miazga vs. Lainez, anyone?), Mexico could claim a near-absolute dominance of its biggest rival in recent years. Factor in other big wins at other age groups on the men’s side, such as the win keeping the U.S. out of the Olympic Games last spring, and deeming the rivalry as one-sided was apropos.But Sunday’s intensity, aided by CONCACAF’s absolute incompetence (featuring horrible refereeing, a trophy that might or might not be made out of foam, and oh yeah, the VAR tent inexplicably placed between benches) yielded a game for the ages. This rivalry needs more of what made the Nations League final great. Frankly, it’s primed to do so given the Americans’ budding generation of stars coupled with Mexico’s willingness to couple its talent with top-tier coaches in recent years. It’s hard to argue against anyone predicting each game featuring these two teams will be fun in the near future. If both teams make it to the Gold Cup final, we’re looking at four direct matchups — counting World Cup qualifiers — in the next nine months.
Frankly, what does nothing to intensify the rivalry or make it better is some of the fan behavior observed in Denver. Authorities need to crack down on fans continuing to yell anti-gay slurs at games, and they most certainly need to figure out a way to protect players from those who launch projectiles from the stands, like the ones that could have injured Reyna and Martin. The half-hearted campaigns from the Mexican federation and the weak, almost laughable, enforcement of CONCACAF’s three-step protocol have done little to curb misbehavior.
These types of unfortunate actions fall under the purview of both federations and should lead them to come together in an effort to stop them once and for all.