This young USMNT group are fiery, focused and full of smiles as they came through a gruelling 120 minutes against Mexico to win their first trophy together.
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This feels like it is just the start.
Yes, it was only the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League trophy, but this was about putting down a marker to Mexico that they will be pushing them all the way in the next decade or so to become top dogs in North and Central America.
It was also about winning something and coming through adversity in the most CONCACAF-y way imaginable, as they beat Mexico in a competitive game for the first time since 2013.
From letting in a ridiculous early goal to an injury to a star goalkeeper, from VAR and late penalty kick drama to tension in the stands in Denver and from Mexico coach Gerard ‘Tata’ Martino getting ejected and celebrating in a hostile atmosphere, this game pretty much had it all.
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How big of a win was this?
Overall, it was fun to watch these young USMNT stars celebrate wildly at the final whistle, and you get the sense this is only the start for them. And they know it.
It was an invaluable learning experience for this talented, but very young, USMNT group and they passed it. Just.
At times it wasn’t pretty, at all, but they got the job done and this victory against Mexico will give them a great reference point when it comes to similar games against CONCACAF foe in World Cup qualifying coming up.
Was this an upset win? It was, but it also set the tone for the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying later this summer.
Gregg Berhalter has spoken of his pride for his young team for finding a way to get it done (see: semifinal win v. Honduras) and when all is said and done, only one thing matters: using experiences like this to make sure they reach the 2022 World Cup and don’t miss out like they did in 2018.
Rebuild now bearing significant fruit
Since that fateful October evening in Couva in 2017, this has been a long, tough rebuilding process for the USMNT. Only a handful of players from that squad remain, and Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna and Zack Steffen are now the young leaders of this group.
Adams simply said ‘first of many!’ while Pulisic added about his game-winning penalty kick “I said, ‘I’m going to go out swinging so I’m going to put it top bins! I’m going to go for it.’ Sure enough, it went in.”
Pulisic went on to say: “I’m so proud of this group, we needed everyone today and it was a phenomenal performance… We are so proud, we still have a long way to go but we’re happy.”
The minutes, and experiences, these players were given over the last few years, at such a young age, helped them navigate the mess that was last night against their bitter rivals.
Along the way, many of these young American stars in Europe have often looked dejected and downbeat, playing like the weight of the world is on their shoulders when they pull on the Stars and Stripes.
They wanted results now. They wanted wins. They wanted trophies.
That is now starting to happen, which is great and it has been a long road to get here. This epic encounter against Mexico was just a taste of what’s to come from this ‘golden generation’ of USMNT talent.
I’m not afraid to say it, and neither are they. The latter is the best part about this young side. They have the skill to back up their swagger.
USMNT ‘golden generation’ revels in glorious, crazy win v. Mexico originally appeared on NBCSports.com