Momentum can be a funny thing. It can come out of nowhere to give a team life, and it can also vanish just as quickly. Sunday’s game between the US and Mexico was somewhat of a microcosm for the way the last two years have played out for US Men’s National Team (USMNT) fans with wild swings in momentum at some of the most unexpected times. The 3-2 win to capture the Concacaf Nations League trophy was exactly what the US fanbase needed to fully get back on board with the team. But before the top players head off for summer vacation there is one more game still to be played – a friendly against Costa Rica.
Just like the fortunes of the USMNT have flowed up and down over the course of Gregg Berhalter’s tenure, so too did they flow up and down on Sunday against Mexico. El Tri came out of the gates firing and after a disastrous giveaway by Mark McKenzie. To many fans, it felt like the rout was already on before the game even started, and Mexico duly took a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes gone. But the US was gifted a lifeline after VAR disallowed the goal, and then the first of the many momentum swings took place as the US equalized immediately after through Gio Reyna.
The second half saw more swings as Mexico again took the lead after Diego Lainez left Tim Ream chasing shadows in the 79th minute, only for Weston McKennie to equalize with a powerful header two minutes later. Extra time came and with it more craziness as the US was awarded a penalty after a VAR review (and Tata Martino was dismissed and shown the red card for irresponsible behavior for making contact with the referee during the VAR review). Christian Pulisic stepped up and scored the penalty just seven minutes from time.
However it wasn’t over yet as Mexico was awarded a penalty five minutes later. But in another moment of insanity, Guardado’s penalty was saved by Colorado native Ethan Horvath, who was only in the game because of a second half injury to Zack Steffen.
Full credit must be given to the US players on the night. They could very easily have dropped their heads and mailed it in (as they did in the last meeting against Mexico in 2019) after they conceded in the first minute of the game. But they kept fighting and never gave up, and ultimately prevailed, earning a result that many hope will prove to be the decisive turning point this program needs.
Costa Rica’s time in Denver was not nearly as successful as the USMNT’s, but it wasn’t any less eventful. In the semi-final, they took Mexico to penalties at 0-0 but fell 5-4 in the shootout after six kicks each. In the third place game against Honduras, they again went to penalties (this time at 2-2) and again fell 5-4 in the shootout after six kicks each. Their poor showing in Denver continues what has been a miserable run of form for the Ticos. In 2020, they failed to win a game posting a record of 0-4-1 (W-L-D). This year has been more of the same with 0 wins, 1 loss, and 3 draws. But the upcoming Gold Cup offers them a change to right the ship before World Cup Qualifying starts (they are in a group with Suriname, Jamaica, and a third team TBD). Their roster for this month’s games features mostly domestic based players with a sprinkling of MLS players.
1. Sunday’s triumph in the Nations League was the first time Gregg Berhalter has won a trophy in his managerial career.
2. The USMNT has won three of it’s last four games against Costa Rica.
When and where to watch the game on US TV and streaming
USA leads 17-16-6
Saturday, February 1, 2020
Dignity Health Sports Park
USA 1-0 Costa Rica
Current FIFA Ranking
Costa Rica: 50
Sunday, July 11, 2021
USA vs. TBD
Children’s Mercy Park
Kansas City, KS
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