Three takeaways from the USMNT’s thrilling extra-time Gold Cup Final win over Mexico
It took some 117 minutes to separate the USMNT from Mexico in an emotional, frenetic and often sloppy affair whose entertainment value nonetheless lived up to the lofty bar set by its Sin City setting.
That makes two victories for the US in two showcase finals in two months against El Tri, following on from the similarly epic Concacaf Nations League title match and contrasting the back-to-back wins Mexico strung together in the summer of 2019.
But as most every coach on earth will tell you, effort is non-negotiable, and over time this group grew comfortable working, fighting and enduring together, and it made them more difficult to beat with each passing match.
After scoring early and hanging on – at times for dear life – against Haiti and Canada in the group stage, the USMNT won all three of their knockout matches with late goals: Matthew Hoppe in the 83rd minute vs.
This isn’t just the “rise and grind” kind of grind we’re talking about; there was also a slow, steady, sandpaper-like process of abrasion being inflicted on the opposition.
“We just kind of ride the waves, the ebbs and flows of the game.
They are occasionally tested but rarely troubled in the group stage, then face a sequence of more and more difficult opponents with smaller and smaller margins for error as they advance through the knockout bracket.
So as enjoyable as it was to watch the likes of Robinson, James Sands and Sam Vines thrive from the jump in their introductions to the senior international level in those early games, they were subjected to challenges of another magnitude against Mexico.
We were together for a month, and we just saw them growing, saw the team growing, saw individuals growing and improving.
“Before the final today, there was a feeling inside of me that I just wanted it so bad for them, that they can taste this and they could win a trophy together.
Proactive possession play is a hallmark of Berhalter’s philosophical approach to the sport.
This team has shown phases of crisp ball circulation, passing patterns and positional play this month, but has at other times looked dull and ineffective in that mode.
With Funes Mori and his teammates unable to cash in on the good looks they carved out in the first half, US confidence grew as the scoreline stayed at 0-0 — and eventually the spaces opened up that allowed Berhalter’s side to do more with the ball.
“Normally, the team should have managed the like the first 20 minutes of today’s game,” said Mexico boss Tata Martino.