USMNT Needs a Trophy in Nations League

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John Dorton/ISI Photos / Contributor

2021 is a significant year for the U.S. Men’s National Team as they prepare for next year’s World Cup in Qatar.

Many nerves were rattled after the U.S.’ failed attempt to qualify for Russia in 2018 and that dissatisfying feeling carried over to this year when the Americans fell short of reaching the Olympics this summer.

The USMNT’s first big test of the year comes on Thursday when the Americans take on Honduras in the Concacaf Nations League semi finals in Colorado.

Costa Rica and Mexico will meet in the other semi final, with the opportunity to potentially set up a meeting with the Americans over the weekend.

Gregg Berhalter’s side will certainly be expected to get past Honduras, but the bigger task is winning the final -- should they make it there.


For years, we’ve been looking for that signature U.S. victory a la the Americans team of old. In 2009, the USMNT had arguably its greatest win of all-time against Spain in the Confederations Cup semi final before playing Brazil extremely tight in the final.

Mexico’s reign as the best team in Concacaf has been steady for many years, but given the amount of sheer talent in the current USMNT pool this has to be the time that Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and others take advantage of that depth.

Pulisic is coming off winning a UEFA Champions League final with Chelsea after battling his way back into the starting squad for much of the second half of the season under manager Thomas Tuchel.

Sergino Dest became a regular starter at Barcelona, playing regular minutes alongside Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Marc-andre ter Stegen.

The list of Americans playing in top leagues throughout Europe is at an all-time high and ultimately that club level of competition must transition over to the international side of things when the U.S. competes this summer at Gold Cup and into the fall with the beginning of World Cup qualifying.

Yunus Musah and Dest both ply their trade in La Liga, while McKennie and Bryan Reynolds compete in Serie A.

Many of these players either play with or compete against those that they'll face this summer or down the road at the World Cup, and it's important for the U.S. to begin to gear up for that reality.

The USMNT had a good final test in the lead up to their match against Honduras, meeting Switzerland in a 2-1 defeat.

Despite losing the match to the European nation, there were some good takeaways from it without Pulisic available to play.

“It was very positive,” said Berhalter. “The attitude of how we want to play, and the positioning and the intention to be very aggressive, very high-pressing, pinning them in, dealing well with balls that came out, that's what I envision this group being able to do.

“Over the course of 90 minutes we lost a bit of that power to be able to do it, but overall I think the guys did a great job. And the game plan was there -- we were able to move the ball, create goal-scoring opportunities and really put them in a bunch of trouble. 

“So to me it's positive. I don't love the result, I think we could have gotten a tie in this game, perhaps if the finishing is a little bit better we can even get a win. But the guys made a great effort and it's a great measuring stick.”

For years, the USMNT had the opportunity to compete against the world’s best, if they chose to, during international windows. 

Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann would notoriously schedule matches against Germany, Italy and other major powers in the world of football as a means of preparation for the biggest competitions.

The landscape of scheduling has changed though in 2021 with the emergence of Nations League in Europe not to mention the unforeseen fallout from COVID-19 over the past 14 months that has derailed many countries from playing regular matches.

Ultimately, Concacaf is about two teams at this point; Mexico and the USMNT. That’s the final everyone will want to see, and for the U.S. it’s the final that they should want to win more than anything this calendar year.

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