USMNT’s Gold Cup triumph over Mexico will resonate far beyond lifting the trophy

The U.S. soccer team’s crushing Gold Cup win over Mexico this week will go down as one of the biggest moments in American soccer history, but it will have a ripple effect far beyond the match itself.

To say that this was a watershed moment in the American soccer psyche would be like saying the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was a moment of national unity. It was a defining moment in the collective psyche, a time when the United States showed it was ready to embrace its best and worst qualities as one.

The Gold Cup victory is not just about the trophy; it’s a victory for Americans of all stripes. Whether you’re a Christian, a devout Catholic or a secular atheist, this squad should be a source of pride for all people of faith. For those who have followed the team’s journey to the World Cup, seeing them win over Mexico—a country that was considered a lock to win it all before the tournament even started—made it even more of a joyous occasion.. Read more about 2021 gold cup and let us know what you think.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — United States manager Gregg Berhalter made it plain before the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup that his team’s objective was to win the tournament. It was the sort of remark that was easy to dismiss as coach talk for a young bunch of players who didn’t appear to be capable of winning the entire thing.

Berhalter was a forerunner, guiding his side to a thrilling and well-deserved 1-0 extra-time victory against Mexico in the final on Sunday, with defender Miles Robinson tapping home the game-winning goal in the 117th minute.

When the final whistle sounded, it capped off a near-perfect summer of soccer for the USMNT, followed by a cheer from the few American supporters in attendance. With the victory in the CONCACAF Nations League, the United States has won two titles at the cost of Mexico, rebalancing what had been a one-sided rivalry. And it turned out to be the ideal birthday gift for Berhalter.

“When I reflect on it, I’m most proud of the team, the men,” he added. “We were together for a month, and all we saw was them develop, the team grow, and individuals grow and improve.” We saw that the team’s chemistry was improving.

– Schedule and bracket for the CONCACAF Gold Cup

“Before today’s final, I had the sense that I really wanted it for them, that they would have a taste of it and then win a trophy together. I’m very proud of the group, and I’m so pleased of their perseverance. And, as you can see from today’s game, we didn’t stop. We were unrelenting in our efforts. That was the sign of a good squad.”

It’s a triumph for the United States that means more than just having its name engraved on the trophy. Berhalter has been successful in bringing in a whole new set of players. The timing couldn’t be better, with World Cup qualifying beginning in September and featuring triple match periods that will test depth. This squad hasn’t simply seen international soccer; it has learned and adapted on the fly while winning games against a broad range of opponents, from Jamaica’s physicality to Qatar and Mexico’s possession-based assaults.

Many of these players have now shown that they can be relied upon in high-pressure situations. The final at Allegiant Stadium on Sunday definitely fit the bill. According to a conservative estimate, 90 percent of the 61,514-strong audience was in the Mexico camp. Yes, World Cup qualifying will be characterized by severe weather and challenging field conditions, but the measures made in this tournament and in Sunday’s final were critical in achieving success in such conditions, and they speak well for the future.

Robinson is a great illustration of how intense competition benefitted a player. The Atlanta United defender appeared in every game of the tournament, and it’s difficult to recall a single occasion in which he made a mistake. He played with the necessary toughness and was also quite quick on the ball. And the goal, delivered inch-perfectly by Kellyn Acosta, closed off a great tournament for him.

“Throughout the tournament, I believe we really put our heads down and grinded out outcomes,” Robinson said. “It’s simply a matter of this squad’s confidence with and without the ball, and how we’ve really stayed together as a family, and I’m very thrilled for this bunch.”

On Sunday night, an understrength United States squad defeated a largely front-line Mexico team 1-0 to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Getty Images/Patrick T. Fallon

Will he be able to make the starting lineup when qualifying begins? On the left side of the American defense, a player like John Brooks will be difficult to replace. However, there seems to be an open audition for the position beside Brooks, and Robinson’s mobility may make him an excellent substitute for Aaron Long, who is now injured. At the very least, there’s faith that if a guy like Brooks isn’t available — he’s had some severe injuries throughout his career — the impact will be minimal.

Acosta and James Sands also performed well. When Tyler Adams is absent, Acosta has finally responded to the issue of who can fill in for him. He was all over the place on Sunday, demonstrating his range, tackling, and passing. Sands was far from flawless in Sunday’s final, battling at times against Mexico’s muscular striker Rogelio Funes Mori. However, as the game progressed, it was clear that he was adapting and dealing better with duels.

While the players’ performance on the day is ultimately up to them, Berhalter deserves praise for including every player on the squad and utilizing them at the appropriate times. On Sunday, players like Eryk Williamson and George Bello were called upon to start against Mexico despite not having played much in the tournament. Williamson was silent at times, but he shown a desire to attack the Mexico defense in a manner that no one else would. On the left side of the American defense, Bello was a rock. Cristian Roldan shined as a super-sub, giving a youthful bunch important experience.

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“It’s about relentless pressing, going high, and next man up,” Berhalter said. “We need fresh players, we need fit guys to be able to play the way we want to play.”

Sunday’s contest was reminiscent of previous US efforts against El Tri in many respects. Mexico dominated possession and had many clear chances, but a combination of poor finishing and outstanding goalkeeping — in this instance from Matt Turner, who has also performed well throughout the tournament — kept El Tri off the scoresheet.

At the other end, the Americans seemed to be opportunistic in attack, creating a few of clean chances at goal. The US forced a turnover in the 27th minute, which allowed Sebastian Lletget to send Paul Arriola in the clear, but he could only hit the post with his effort.

And, as has been the case in the past, the longer the game went on, the more confident the US side became that it could win. Given that it had far more of its first-choice team available, Mexico was always under the most pressure to win, and that pressure started to show on El Tri.

“So we felt like we were in a very strong situation from halftime,” Turner added. “We felt like we’d arrived at our destination. I believe we may have passed up a few more opportunities than we would have liked. But fast forward to a score of 0-0, and we’re still asking questions.”

Both sides had their share of heart-stopping moments. Oberlin Pineda and Funes Mori both wasted golden opportunities, as did the United States, including a subsequent close-range effort by Arriola that Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera stopped with a stunning save.

In the end, it was the United States that converted, and now there will be celebrations for a few days. The game, on the other hand, does not wait for anybody or any team. Berhalter’s mind had already turned to September by the time the postgame press conference arrived.

“We’ve been assessing individuals continuously for the past couple of years,” Berhalter said. “That’s what it was about: assessing to get to these moments where qualifying is the most important thing right now. That’s what we’re concentrating on right now. That is where we are concentrating our efforts. This competition is no longer taking place. Now we’ll go on to qualifying. We’re expecting it to be difficult. However, we believe the player pool has grown and has been put to the test.”

It also thinks that brighter days are on the way.

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