The USMNT comfortably dispatched Canada in the Nations League Final to defend its title in 2023. It is now the third-straight Concacaf trophy that has gone to the USMNT. The other two were the 2021 Nations League and that same summer’s Gold Cup. The United States can make it four-for-four as it begins this year’s Gold Cup on Saturday.
Under the stewardship of interim head coach B.J. Callaghan, a pair of first-half goals propelled the United States to an eventual 2-0 win. Both of the goal-scorers notched their first international goals with the senior squad. That included one player who many expect to make a major impact up top with the Stars and Stripes for a long time.
A fairly attacking lineup from Callaghan brought five players that tend to start as forwards or wingers. Brenden Aaronson, who made a substitute appearance in the win over Mexico, replaced the suspended Weston McKennie in midfield.
The United States withstood early chances from Canada. Then, despite all the attacking prowess in the USMNT’s starting 11, it was a defender to score the first goal. Chris Richards, who did not receive significant playing time at Crystal Palace this campaign, bagged his first goal in the red, white and blue of the United States. A corner whipped in from Gio Reyna met Richards at the edge of the six-yard box. The defender powered it low, and Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan could not get enough hand to the ball to keep it out.
Reyna the talisman in the midfield
Although just a corner, it was Reyna who picked up the assist. That improved his already impressive resume in Nations League Finals to have a goal and two assists in two games played. Of course, just 24 minutes later, he added another goal contribution to his time in this title game. This time, he fed one of the most exciting USMNT prospects in recent years.
Folarin Balogun, playing in just his second game for the United States, scored the insurance goal after a beautifully weighted pass from Reyna. Balogun did well to hold off Canadian center-back Scott Kennedy before blasting the ball by Borjan.
In two games in the Nations League Final, Reyna has a goal and three assists. Unsurprisingly, he won the award for man of the match in this game. His dazzling dribbling to go along with two assists made him integral to what the United States was able to do when moving forward.
The one concern for the United States was the fact that a calf injury forced Reyna into a halftime substitution. Reyna has dealt with injury problems with too much frequency in the past. The famously included a 16-game absence with Borussia Dortmund just before the 2022 World Cup. He was, however, walking and celebrating with the team after the game, even if he had a noticeable limp. Perhaps a summer of rehab can allow Reyna to return to fitness before this upcoming season with Borussia Dortmund.
USMNT claims Nations League win over Canada
The second half of the game was a strong performance from the United States. Without a need to push forward for a goal, Canada did amass some chances. Alphonso Davies, arguably the best player in North America, had instances of creating chances. However, Joe Scally did well on that right-hand side in place of Sergiño Dest, who also missed out due to suspension like McKennie.
One of Canada’s best chances came from Cyle Larin. He had two attempts at goal. Chris Richards blocked the first one. Then, Larin’s rebound attempt went over Matt Turner’s crossbar. Throughout the game, Turner did make four saves. Most of those were comfortable collections.
Christian Pulisic lifted another international trophy with the United States. Fortunately, this game did not have the bad blood and fireworks from Thursday night’s game against Mexico.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Agencia-MexSport
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