By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Jun 19, 2023) US Soccer Players – The United States defeated Canada on Sunday night to win its second straight Concacaf Nations League trophy, and in doing so, the USMNT consolidated its role as the region’s best team. The US’s 2-0 win at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas capped off a Nations League Finals that had included a 3-0 victory in the semifinals against Mexico. In all, the US put in an excellent showing over two games against their 2026 World Cup co-hosts.
While the Nations League is just in its second edition, it has proven to be a wonderful competition. The US performed in a way that bodes well for the program heading into the future. Up next for the US is the Gold Cup, where the team hopes they can repeat what happened two years ago by winning both competitions in a single summer. Here are three things we learned about the USMNT at the Nations League.
Growing gap with Mexico
Beating a surging Canada got the US the trophy, but the win against Mexico last Thursday once again highlighted the growing gap between the USMNT side and El Tri. The game was never close and the US’s ability to create scoring chances at will was a testament to the depth this team has across a number of positions.
What’s making the difference? The US has benefitted from two things in recent years. More Americans are playing in Europe, while at the same time MLS has gotten better. These two developments over the past decade have also coincided with fewer Mexican national team players leaving Liga MX. While Liga MX clubs very often dominate regional tournaments, the US has had the upper hand when it comes to National Team competitions.
The USMNT has stretched their unbeaten streak against El Tri to six straight games with four wins, equaling the longest streak against its regional rivals since a similar run that lasted four years starting in 2011. The Gold Cup may very well provide the next opportunity for a USMNT game against Mexico.
Depth across several positions
The key to success for any National Team is depth. The US came into this tournament dealing with several injuries, most notably center back Tim Ream and defensive midfielder Tyler Adams. In the final, the US was also without defender Serginho Dest and midfielder Weston McKennie due to red card suspensions.
“It’s a learning lesson for us because now we’re going to go play in the final (without Dest and McKennie), but it’s also something that we preach: Next man up,” Callaghan told reporters after the Mexico match. “I think the game is always at high intensity. High-stakes games, knockout games, you’re going to see emotions.”
Next man up was part of the story against Canada. Dest was replaced by Joe Scally at right back and Brenden Aaronson covered McKennie’s role in midfield. Both players stepped up, especially whenever Canada had possession, and that proved to be one of the keys to winning.
Reyna dominates in midfield
Gio Reyna played well against Mexico and was the star of the first-half in the final, creating both goals from Chris Richards and Balogun. The first came off a corner kick, while the second saw Reyna weave through the midfield, placing the ball in Balogun’s path for a goal. Reyna subbed out at halftime with a calf injury, but his recent performances in the midfield bode well for the USMNT in the future.
There’s lots to be excited about when it comes to this US squad. Over the next few weeks, we will get the chance to see a different version of the squad defend the Gold Cup title won two years ago. If this team has proven anything over the last few days it is that consistency and depth, marked by individual flashes of brilliance, can lead to international soccer success.
Clemente Lisi is a regular contributor to US Soccer Players. He is also the author of the new book “The FIFA World Cup: A History of the Planet’s Biggest Sporting Event.”
More from Clemente Lisi:
- Preview: USMNT vs Mexico, 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League semifinals
- Another MLS season is already showing the strength of goalkeeping in the league
- The highlights of the summer 2023 soccer schedule in the United States
- Using the US Open Cup round of 16 to push forward in MLS
Photo by Concacaf.com