USMNT 2, Mexico 0: Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna score in Nations League final halted by homophobic chant

The United States men’s national team has won its third straight CONCACAF Nations League final with a 2-0 win over Mexico at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex.

Tyler Adams opened the scoring just before halftime with a long-range thunderbolt on his first start for the U.S. in about a year and a half, while Gio Reyna added the United States’ second after providing two assists in the semifinal vs. Jamaica.

Here are our takeaways from the match.

Tyler Adams, from long range

After two hamstring operations and a whole lot of rehab work and waiting, Tyler Adams started for the United States for the first time in 478 days. Yet as the midfielder continues to work back to full fitness, he still was limited, with U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter only able to play him 45 minutes.

He used every last bit.

As the first half neared stoppage time, center back Tim Ream ran down an errant corner kick and moved the ball to Tim Weah who found Weston McKennie further wide. McKennie then slid the ball to Adams who was around 30 yards from Guillermo Ochoa’s goal. Adams took one touch then launched a right-footed rocket through the legs of diving Mexico midfielder Erick Sanchez and past the diving Ochoa for a resounding opening goal.

Even before his golazo, Adams had made his presence felt in the middle of the field, closing down opposing defensive midfielder Edson Alvarez when the West Ham United player got on the ball with time and dropped back to help the U.S. pass out of pressure when Mexico forward Henry Martin was trying to win the ball off the American center backs.

Still, the strike, Adams’ first career goal from outside the box, will be what everyone remembers from the performance.

“I’ve been at training passing him balls to hit from 30 yards out … I’ve never, ever seen him hit a ball like that,” Jesse Marsch, Adams’ former club coach, said on the Paramount+ broadcast.

Not a bad way to make a mark in 45 minutes of play. – Jon Arnold

Reyna’s interesting role

It’s fair to say that Gio Reyna loves the CONCACAF Nations League.

After scoring in the 2021 final and assisting on both goals in last year’s final against Canada, Reyna found the back of the net with a finish in the second half of this year’s final to double the USMNT’s advantage.

Reyna spent parts of the first half, though, dropping deep in possession on the left side trying to start the U.S. build-up from that deeper position. It’s a similar role to one played by Weston McKennie, who got on the ball in that space often at the World Cup against England and in several other U.S. games, including the semifinal win over Jamaica.

The majority of Reyna’s touches in the first half came well away from the attacking third, and the decision to play him in that role prompted some criticism at halftime from the CBS analysts, including Marsch, who was a candidate for the U.S. coaching position last year, and former U.S. forward Charlie Davies.

“I just don’t understand why we make all these complicated rotations and for me they were putting players into position that doesn’t access their best qualities,” Marsch said. “We decided to put (Reyna) almost in a buildup position as a left center back, and what you’ll see is he doesn’t even look that comfortable…he is making passes that Tyler Adams could easily make, that Tim Ream could easily make, that players that have less quality than he has can easily make. I think what makes Gio special is when you put him up the field and you put him in difficult spots where he has real options ahead of him to make meaningful plays.”

The U.S. had fairly decent control of the game in the first half, and finally got rewarded when Adams lasered his finish home. Reyna did get more involved up the field in the second half, though Adams’ goal changed how Mexico had to approach the final 45 minutes. Reyna’s positioning further up the field allowed him to get on the end of a poor clearance from Mexico and volley the finish into the lower corner to make it 2-0.

Reyna, who was starting a competitive game for the first time since Nov. 1, 2023, was subbed out in the 79th minute for Yunus Musah as the U.S. looked to close out the result. – Paul Tenorio

The results will decide

For nearly 90 minutes during Thursday’s semifinal against Jamaica, it felt as though the United States’ Nations League campaign would be viewed as a disaster. The team never shook off the sting of conceding early in that game, and seemed unable to even formulate a potential answer until deep into second-half stoppage time. In most cases, a late equalizer would cause TV pundits to tear up their talking points and just acknowledge the chaotic game-breaker for the spectacle it was.

Not Clint Dempsey.

“That was stressful,” Dempsey said minutes after Cory Burke’s own goal. “I haven’t really seen the U.S. play good since the last CONCACAF Nations League, to be honest with you. And then before that, the last time I saw them play well was against England in the World Cup. I just haven’t been impressed with their play. They look tired today. We’re still in it, but man, it was almost panic stations.”

Sunday’s win in a third consecutive Nations League extends an impressive record against Mexico in recent years, but those looking for style from this iteration of the national team would be forgiven for being underwhelmed by this window.

Five years ago, discussing Berhalter’s approach to the role centered around a style of play; buzzwords like “verticality” were all the rage, and patterns of play were carefully dissected to track the program’s progress. Since the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, however, those trademarks are less evident. It’s what pundits like Dempsey and CBS Sports desk peer Jesse Marsch have fixated on in questioning Berhalter’s credentials to lead this team into the Copa América and, ultimately, the 2026 World Cup.

Such is life as a second-term international manager. Poor results that would’ve been excused away as “learning moments” a cycle ago are now graded on a pass/fail basis. There’s (almost) always a previous tournament performance that serves as a benchmark, and only meeting or surpassing those milestones will be enough to bypass a potential alternative on the touchline.

Berhalter’s players continue to back him. Having won another Nations League and again asserted dominance over the region, there’s indisputable evidence that the project is on track. At this point, either Berhalter’s team will continue to rack up the wins — and therefore justify a more pragmatic approach than some would like from these players — or they don’t. Only then is there an open question needing an answer.

We’ll check back during Copa América. – Jeff Rueter

The chant persists

As the match approached the 90th minute with the United States leading 2-0, fans could be heard shouting a discriminatory word on goal kicks that FIFA, CONCACAF and the Mexican federation have worked to eradicate. After each instance, a message was read over the stadium’s public address system in English and Spanish reminding fans of the federation’s policy concerning that chant.

As the shouts persisted after goal kicks taken by U.S. goalkeeper Matt Turner, Canadian referee Drew Fischer finally moved to Step 1 of that anti-discrimination protocol, which calls for the match to pause, offenders to be removed from the stadium and the game resumed.

When it seemed that the match was over, and some fans even directed chants at Mexican shot-stopper Ochoa, Fischer once again put a pause to proceedings rather than ending the match – which the referee also may do under the protocol.

Before Turner could take the final kick of the match, 40 seconds after the second pause, the referee ended the match as fans streamed out of the stadium. – Jon Arnold

(Photo: Omar Vega/Getty Images)

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