History does have a pattern of repeating itself and the U.S. Men’s National Team (USMNT) did so on Sunday night as the U.S. claims the CONCACAF Nations League title again. This victory marks the third consecutive tournament title for the USMNT including victories in the 2021 Nations League and the 2021 Gold Cup.
The tournament was marred by the U.S. – Mexico semi-final match.
I’ve played a lot of soccer in my lifetime and watched a lot of matches as well. Going back to when I was a young kid just learning to play the “Beautiful Game” up to recent matches either live or on television. I don’t think I can ever recall a match where four red cards were handed out. In fact, it should be a rare event when one single send-off should happen, and for good reason. To summarize the U.S. – Mexico match in one word is simple: ugly.
The history of the U.S. – Mexico soccer rivalry is well-documented and probably well-grounded in the fact that these are neighboring countries whose influences reach across each other’s borders. However, while the USMNT won this match decisively with a 3-0 clean sheet on two goals from Christian Pulisici and another one from Ricardo Pepi, this match will be remembered as more of a street brawl than anything else.
Even after four red cards and the match being reverted to a 9 v. 9 format (again, nothing I’ve ever witnessed before), referee Ivan Barton and his officiating staff tried their best to keep the lid on this contemptuous street fight until not one but two homophobic chanting outbursts from the crowd at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas forced the ending of this match eight minutes into a planned 12 minute stoppage time.
To be fair to the Mexican soccer federation and the Mexican national team, they’ve taken great pains to try and rein in their supporters to not use homophobic chanting as this behavior has cost Mexico numerous fines over the past few years. However, the traditional chanting which is intertwined historically with Latin American soccer, has a zero-tolerance policy at the international level. The crowd behavior, combined with another poor performance by the Mexican national team in the semi-final match, only confounds the question as to which way is up for Mexico at the international level.
The USMNT controlled their destiny in the tournament final.
Facing a steady opponent in Canada in the Nations League final, the USMNT moved back and forth against a solid Canadian squad until a little bit of soccer history occurred, Chris Richards became the first U.S. player to score his first international goal in a tournament final and his achievement was followed up by Folarin Balogun who became the second U.S. player to score his first international goal in a tournament final as well. In the end, the U.S. emerged victorious with another 2-0 clean sheet win over Canada.
USMNT team captain and forward Christian Pulisiic was named the player of this tournament and he truly was the bedrock of the U.S. team. His efforts in the Mexico semi-final match were the turning point of the U.S. efforts and set the tone for the final matchup versus Canada. USMNT head coach B.J. Callaghan made a bold move and pushed forward a youth movement for this tournament as the average age of the American players was under 24 years including seven players under the age of 23.
USMNT claims CONCACAF Nations League title again.
In the first meaningful efforts since last year’s World Cup, the USMNT again made a statement that American soccer on the international stage is getting stronger and with the Women’s World Cup starting next month, U.S. Soccer looks to continue making strives on the international levels.
With the Copa America tournament scheduled next summer in the United States, the USMNT looks to make a solid run by challenging current champion Argentina and the other traditional Latin American soccer powerhouses including Brazil and Mexico yet again. Is it safe to say that U.S. soccer is on the rise finally at the international level? With a big tournament win for the USMNT, along with any solid performances from the USWNT at the upcoming World Cup, the answer to that question should be a solid yes.