The 2023 Concacaf Nations League came to a close on Sunday evening, with the USMNT defeating Canada by a score of 2-0, claiming their second consecutive Nations League title. It was a good run for the USMNT in the Nations League, as they dominated in every stage of the tournament.
They took care of business in Group D, as they won the group, qualifying them for both the Gold Cup and the knockout stages of the Nations League. They then faced off against Mexico and Canada in the knockout stages, easily taking care of both, and winning the tournament. The future of the USMNT is strong, and this tournament was just a preview of what to expect for the future from this squad.
A look back at the Group Stage
The USMNT was placed in Group D for this year’s edition of the Nations League, along with El Salvador and Grenada. The USMNT topped the group with ease, advancing to the knockout stages of the Nations League with ten points (a record of 3-1-0), and a goal differential of +12 in the four matches. Their first match of the group stage came against Grenada, where the USMNT was able to win 5-0 behind a four-goal performance from Jesus Ferreira. Paul Arriola would score the other goal for the USMNT, as they showed the dominant force that they could be early on in the group stage.
The match goal of the group stage saw the United States face off against El Salvador, where the two sides drew 1-1. The United States needed a last-minute goal by Jordan Morris to secure the point, but they were off to a good start, securing 4 points in their first 2 matches.
The third match of the group stage saw them take down Grenada once again, this time with a score of 7-1. This match saw a brace from both Ricardo Pepi and Weston McKennie, along with goals from Brendan Aaronson, Christian Pulisic, and Alejandro Zendejas.
The fourth and final match of the group stage saw the USMNT take on El Salvador for the second time. The USMNT was able to get revenge for their 1-1 draw and used a Ricardo Pepi goal to defeat El Salvador 1-0. This win saw the USMNT claim the top of the group, as they only needed a point going into the match to do so.
The Final Four
The USMNT advanced to the knockout stages of the Nations League for the second straight time, looking to defend their title from the first edition of the tournament in 2021. With the USMNT being the highest of the four seeds advancing, their semifinal matchup saw them face off against the lowest seed, which was Mexico.
The other matchup of the knockout stages saw Canada going against Panama, as they were the second and the third seeds from the group stages. This would not be the first time that the United States would have seen Mexico in the Nations League, as the two sides faced off in the final in 2021. In that final, the USA defeated Mexico 3-2, using a Christian Pulisic penalty in the 114th minute to knock off their Southern neighbors.
In this year’s Nations League, the United States would knock off Mexico once again, but this time in a more dominant fashion. The final score of the match was 3-0 to the USMNT, with the team using a brace by Christian Pulisic, and another goal by Ricardo Pepi to advance to the Nations League Final against Canada. Folarin Balogun also made his debut in this match, adding to the already large amounts of excitement for the USMNT and the US supporters.
In addition to the Balogun debut and the three goals by the USMNT, there were also a few fights in the match, with the referee showing four red cards, two to both sides. Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest got red cards for their involvement in the incidents, which suspended them for the match against Canada.
Cesar Montes and Gerardo Arteaga received red cards for Mexico, suspending them from the third-place match against Panama. B.J. Callaghan’s side looked great in the match, which set them up with some confidence for the final against Canada.
USMNT becomes back-to-back champions
The USMNT win over Mexico in the semifinals set up a final against northern neighbors Canada. The two sides have never faced off in Nations League play, and have not played a competitive match since qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The United States lost one and drew one in those two matches, so they would be looking for some revenge as they hoped to claim themselves as Champions of the Nations League for the second time. The USMNT would indeed get their revenge on Canada, as they were able to defeat their rivals by a score of 2-0.
A first USMNT goal by Chris Richards would open the scoring early on in the 12th minute, giving the USMNT a great start to the match. Folarin Balogun would also score his first goal in the USMNT shirt, to give the USMNT a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute. The United States would hold onto this lead for the remainder of the match, as they would be claimed Nations League Champions for the second consecutive time.
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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/John Locher