The day arrived once again for another rendition of a Mexico vs USA classico, this time in the form of the CONCACAF Nations League Final. This first rendition was sure to be hard fought by both sides, as both teams needed a statement win to kick off their summers. Fortunately for fans, it sure did not disappoint.
‘Tata’ Martino jumped onto the field with perhaps as good a team as he could field. It paid quick dividends as Tecatito Corona found the back of the net within the first minute of play. From there on it was on. An amazing back and forth game saw both teams step up to the occasion. After Tecatitos goal, Hector Moreno scored a header but that was recalled as offsides. Gio Reyna would later score the first equalizer off a corner kick rebound from Ochoa, who himself had a great game. In the second half, the action continued. Team USA goalkeeper and recent EPL winner Zach Steffen would leave the game with an apparent knee injury in the 68th minute of play. Shortly after, Diego Lainez would score the second go-ahead goal only minutes after having been substituted in. Unfortunately for Mexico fans, the US would respond just three minutes later with a Weston McKennie goal. With the game tied 2-2, it would move onto extra time. Up to this point both teams had been playing a tremendous match. In the second half of extra time, a Mexico foul would award the U.S a penalty kick after VAR review. In the meantime ‘Tata’ was ejected from the game after interfering with the referee’s review process. It was Christian Pulisic, the recent Champions League winner, who would step up to score the decisive shot. Mexico had one last opportunity as they were also awarded a penalty kick after VAR review following a Mark McKenzie handball. It was Andres Guardado, in his 166th game with Mexico, who would step up in the 120th minute to take the shot. The goalie that was substituted in the second half, Ethan Horvath, would prove to be the decisive player here as he managed to block Guardado’s shot.
With this, the score remained 3-2 in favor of Team USA, who would lift the first edition of the CONCACAF Nation’s League Cup. This was also ‘Tata’ Martino’s first loss to a CONCACAF team since he took over the reigns for Mexico. For Team USA this was a culmination of what Gregg Berhalter had been trying to do with the golden generation of Team USA players; get them to play well-ordered collective soccer. In this instance it paid dividends as we were able to finally witness the US play convincing soccer. For Mexico, ‘Tata’ Martino will have to reevaluate his squad as many players left on doubts. While Mexico played a good game themselves, factors such as Antuna’s level of play as well as Henry Martin’s effectiveness up front, leave a lot of questions to answer. They’ll have this month to answer them in a series of three friendlies they have upcoming. Afterwards, they will have another test to face in the form of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July.