The Semifinals of the Concacaf Nations League showcased two suspenseful games with crazy finishes. The USA was able to win late on against Honduras, while Mexico needed to advance to penalty kicks to best Costa Rica. The drama, suspense, and craziness that comes from competitive international competitions were there in both matches. It produced the game everyone wanted to see; the USA and Mexico in the first-ever Concacaf Nations League final.
A USA-Mexico in Concacaf Nations League Final
It was clear that there were two teams who were clearly better in the matches. The USA had so many chances against Honduras and fail to capitalize on them. Honduras was able to get some counter-attacking opportunities since the US couldn’t put their chances away. Mexico’s attack was so dominant for major stretches of their match against Costa Rica. If they scored their early chances it would’ve killed Costa Rica who grew into that match.
We know now that it will be the USA and Mexico meeting in the Concacaf Nations League final but how did they get there?
USMNT get winner in 89th minute
The USMNT and their new wave of talent went up against a Honduras side who knows who they are. The Young USA side was able to dominate the possession from the jump. Honduras played their game where they sit in, clog up passing lanes, and look to counter. There was a great pace to the match set by the USMNT. They were fast on the ball, and had a few moments of individual brilliance, but couldn’t find the best passes to create better scoring chances. As the first half went on Honduras got more comfortable pushing counterattacks. They almost scored in the 27th minute but Josh Sargent was able to help out on defense and clear a ball off the goal line. As the match rolled to the second half things slowed down a bit.
The USA couldn’t match the pace of play they produced in the first half against Honduras. This allowed Honduras to have more chances when the US was spread thin. Center back’s John Brooks and Mark McKenzie were busy with Alberth Elis’ pace but did well to stifle any real chance. As the match moved to the final 12 minutes, Gregg Berhalter went to his bench for some fresh legs. Two of the most noteworthy subs were Brenden Aaronson and Theoson Siebatcheu. Aaronson was able to create a spark with good runs at the tired Honduras backline, while Siebatcheu helped the US secure the win. Siebatcheu headed home a chance in the 89th minute to give the USA the lead and help them advance to the final. It was a brilliant diving header.
The US advance thanks to a late goal, and now have questions to answer about how to defeat their bitter rivals Mexico who looked very dangerous in their semifinal.
Mexico advance after penalty kicks
Mexico took on Costa Rica in the first competitive match for either team since 2019. From early on it was clear that both sides have differing styles of play. Mexico is always direct. They want to be on the ball and pushing it to their creative attackers. Costa Rica came out in their low block. Looking to defend first and then build up in counterattacks or possession as the match progressed. It was clear that two players were sticking out in the first half and they both played for Mexico. Hirving “Chucky” Lozano was creative and dangerous in the attack for Mexico. His pace created many half chances but no goals. Diego Lainez was a creative force when on the ball for Mexico. He wants to play like his idol Messi and at times he has the creativity to warrant that comparison. Unfortunately, they didn’t score in the first half, which allowed Costa Rica to grow into the game.
As the match went on Costa Rica came out of their defensive shell and began to push into the attacking third. Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz, and Randall Leal were the driving force for that attack. They looked good at moments combining and getting some chances at the Mexico goal, but they weren’t able to find waya past Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa. The strong attacking three for Costa Rico were all subbed out, which came back to bite them as this match went to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
In Nations League, a match goes straight to pens after 90 minutes so the suspense is ramped up. Mexico’s first shooter stepped up and missed giving the advantage to Costa Rica. They lost that advantage after missing the second shot. It came down to the sixth round after Mexico made all of their kicks after the first miss. Costa Rica then had their sixth attempt stopped by Ochoa which gave Mexico their win.
We now know it will be what everyone wanted; USA vs Mexico in a final. How will that look in this new competition?
USA vs Mexico: Sunday, June 6th at 9:00 pm ET
The USMNT and Mexico will square off in a final yet again! There are some key aspects to this match that could tip the scales one way or the other for both of these nations looking to show they are the best team in Concacaf for the time being. Here’s a look at both teams keys to victory.
USA needs consistent interplay to win
This USMNT team needs to be able to play with the ball and find attackers in good spots to be successful. It was clear that when individuals tried to do too much, that the attacking chance went away. Too many times there would be some great passing only for a player to sit on the ball and not keep the movement going.
Berhalter will see this and get his team ready in the next two days to work on keeping the sharpness in the attack going. Possibly putting other names in the lineup could help with that as well. Keep an eye on how the US does this against Mexico. A disjointed possession and attacking sequences will benefit Mexico greatly.
Mexico needs to be direct and actually put shots on goal
Mexico will be direct in its attack through Lozano and Lainez. Those two are creative forces who run at backlines to create for themselves and others. The main thing they’ll need to do is to make sure that they create actual chances on goal. Against Costa Rica, they only had 4 shots on goal, which is why they needed pens to win it.
Head coach Tata Martino will be sure to be telling his team this. Mexico’s identity is to be dangerous while finding the best chances to score. If Mexico can run at the backline when the US has committed numbers forward they may be able to find those opportunities to get shots on goal. If they do this they will have the odds with them to win.
Don’t miss the action
Who will win the first-ever Concacaf Nations League final? Don’t miss the action on CBS Sports Network or Paramount+. The game will kick off at 9:00 pm ET this coming Sunday, June 6th!
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Mandatory Credit: (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)