Geography tends to play a big part in making a rivalry. However, it’s not just location as the two teams need to be evenly matched. They also need to play meaningful games against each other.
This year’s Nations League Final features the US and Canada. It’s a rivalry that has long had potential but has never amounted to much.
The last four or five years have seen this become a real rivalry. Canada has started to get results against the US after over 30 years of pain. Those results have also come in competitive games, with Canada winning in both the Nations League and World Cup Qualifying.
The Nations League Final now provides an opportunity to add an exciting chapter to this blossoming rivalry.
USMNT path to Nations League Final
The US earned their spot in the final by finishing first in Group D with 10 points, ahead of El Salvador and Grenada. In a CONCACAF rarity, they played Mexico in the semi-final, rather than the final. That semi-final against Mexico was one for the history books.
Before the game even kicked off, the American soccer landscape was set alight when news broke that Gregg Berhalter was to be rehired.
This process has been widely criticized, with it eerily similar to how he was appointed in 2018.
Once the game was under way it was quickly obvious that the US was the far better team. Christian Pulisic put them up 1-0 just before halftime and then scored again to make it 2-0 just after halftime. Ricardo Pepi rounded off the scoring to make it 3-0.
But as is usually the case in US/Mexico games, the main storyline was off-field problems.
First came the barrage of red cards. Each team had two players sent off: Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest for the US plus Cesar Montes and Gerardo Arteaga for Mexico. There was also trash thrown at the players by the predominantly Mexico-supporting crowd.
This, though, paled in comparison to the return of the homophobic chant that has landed the FMF in trouble previously.
Canada’s path to Nations League Final
The path taken by Canada to the Nations League Final was not all that different from the US’. They finished top of Group C with 9 points, ahead of Honduras and Curacao.
Their semi-final against Panama was a walk in the park. They won 2-0 with a goal in each half, one from Jonathan David and the other from Alphonso Davies.
Canada’s form heading into the final is promising. Not only did they make light work of Panama, but they also won their only other two games this year.
Their squad features plenty of experience and lots of goalscoring potential. Davies and David are there, as well as longtime captain Atiba Hutchinson with a staggering 104 caps. Cyle Larin is their weapon up top with 28 goals in 61 games for Les Rouges.
- Sunday’s game against Canada will kick off at 8:30pm ET and will air on Paramount+ in English as well as Univision in Spanish.
- The US has struggled against Canada of late. During the first tenure of Gregg Berhalter the US went 2-2-1 against the neighbors from the north and lost the most recent meeting in 2022 by a score of 2-0 in Hamilton.
- The Nations League Final will be the third game the US has played at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, and the second cup final.
Photo credit: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire
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