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USMNT consolidate Concacaf dominance over Mexico: “It never, never gets old”

March 26, 2024, by Charles Boehm | Courtesy of

Seeking motivational fodder as the US men’s national team gathered in Texas to defend their back-to-back Concacaf Nations League titles, Gregg Berhalter and his staff fired up Photoshop right from the jump.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the camp. I showed them the Michael Jordan slide where he's holding up three fingers with a trophy. And that's what we wanted,” the coach revealed to reporters at AT&T Stadium Sunday night.

“Also we also photoshopped the Nations League trophy into the same picture of Michael Jordan. So that was what we focused on.”

Threepeat? Achieved. And then some.

The USMNT’s well-deserved 2-0 win over Mexico in the CNL final checked almost all the desired boxes: It extended their mastery of the competition and by extension the region, humbled a rival with a familiar ‘Dos a Cero’ scoreline and gave both individual players and the overall collective a useful boost ahead of this summer’s massive Copa América expedition.

Gio steps up

Exhibit A: Gio Reyna.

The New York City FC academy product was the star of Sunday’s win, scoring the victory-clinching goal en route to the award for top player in the tournament. His combined display across this game, which he started, and Thursday’s super-sub cameo in the semifinal comeback win over Jamaica, underlined just how crucial he is to the program, as well as the extent to which he and Berhalter have moved on from the drama that erupted around them at and after the 2022 World Cup.

And it was the most match action he’s had in months, due to his struggles for playing time at club level, first with Borussia Dortmund and lately at Nottingham Forest, where he went on loan in January. The size of his grin as the US paraded their trophy showed how much it meant to a player who’d already weathered injury woes and an off-field scandal in recent years.

“It never, never gets old, winning titles with your country. So I won’t take any of them for granted,” Reyna told CBS Sports’ Susannah Fuller in a postgame interview. “I'm so happy for the guys and how we played today and how we fought through adversity. And it was just a great game, I'm so happy for everyone.

“The group of guys and the energy we have here, it's amazing. I always love coming into camp. It's really, I really mean it, from the bottom of my heart, it's a great group of guys and they're so great to work with and be around. So I can't really say much more. I’m lost for words right now and it's just an honor to play with these guys for our country.”

Adams ascends

Exhibit B: Former New York Red Bulls star Tyler Adams.

The metronome of the USMNT midfield is a powerful presence on and off the pitch, but like Reyna has endured a nightmarish stretch of injury issues, hence the technical staff’s careful management of his minutes in coordination with AFC Bournemouth, who only last week finally welcomed him back to first-team action. Even with a cap on how much he could play on Sunday, he was a matchwinner, patrolling the center of the park and uncorking the game’s opening goal, an unexpected missile into the top corner just before halftime, when he was replaced by Johnny Cardoso.

It was a clear answer for anyone wondering whether this call-up had arrived too soon after Adams’ return from his hamstring problems.

“This team means a lot to me. We've been through a lot, I've known them all for a long time. And obviously Gregg has done an amazing job,” Adams told Fuller. “So when I knew I was starting, I was really excited, of course, because I know the impact that I can have – not scoring goals like that all the time, but I'm happy that I could hit one like that today.

“These guys are like brothers to me,” he later added. “I grew up with a lot of them. I've known them all for such a long time. And if I didn't grow up with them, I was watching them from afar, keeping track on their development and what they were doing. So to bring this group together and see how far we've come in the past couple of years, says a lot. You know, people have a lot of question marks about this, about that. But to see what we do week in week out, when we have the opportunity to work together, we continue to grow. So it's special.”

Regional prowess

This was a performance so emphatic as to prompt deeper, big-picture questions for Mexico manager Jaime Lozano, and really the entirety of Mexican soccer, in the immediate aftermath.

El Tri weren’t just the oddsmakers’ underdogs – they played like it, conceding possession and sitting deep in search of transition moments, which not so long ago was the approach taken by the USMNT in these matchups as they sought to knock a dent in the hegemony of the kings of Concacaf.

Make that deposed kings, because the Yanks’ capture of three straight Nations League titles has driven home to everyone that they’re several steps ahead of El Tri.

“I think they were a little bit better in everything – in quality, how they pressured us, and the chances of goal. They won fair and square today,” said Lozano in Spanish. “And for me, these experiences should teach you as much as possible and then turn it around quickly and continue forward.”

The USMNT, meanwhile, can now dare to dream just a bit bigger as they move towards the key measuring stick of Copa América on home soil – after another taste of champagne.

“It's good for momentum,” said Reyna. “I think we’ve been together with our core group for a while now and I think we know what it takes to win big games and tournaments, and hopefully we can carry that into Copa América and have a great run there and maybe even lift a trophy. So that's a little bit far down the road, but I just want to enjoy tonight with the guys.”

Charles Boehm - @cboehm

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