USMNT beats Mexico for 3rd straight Nations League title on Tyler Adams' rocket, Gio Reyna's clincher

United States midfielder Tyler Adams (4) celebrates his goal with forward Christian Pulisic during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League final soccer match against Mexico, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

ARLINGTON, Tex. — The tamest U.S.-Mexico match in years was creeping toward halftime, gently, quietly, when the diminutive rocket-launcher stepped forward to ignite it.

The concourses here at AT&T Stadium were already filling. The constant din of this festive rivalry was petering out. The first 44 minutes of the 2024 Concacaf Nations League final had largely failed to excite.

And that’s when Tyler Adams — all 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds of him — spread his arms, hollered for the ball some 40 yards from goal, and fired the U.S. men’s national team toward its third straight Nations League title.

Adams, of course, is a pitbull-like defensive midfielder, a ball-winner and a conductor. He had not scored a goal of any kind, for any team, in over two years. He had not even started a game in over 12 months, as he battled a recurring hamstring injury. He was on a minutes restriction, and about to be withdrawn at halftime.

But Weston McKennie found him. Adams chopped his feet. And with every bit of oomph and technique he could muster, he stung the ball past Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa, the legendary Mexican goalkeeper who looked every bit of the 38 years old he is.

The goal brought a tactical, timid game to life. The U.S. had kept the ball for 63% of the first half. Adams’ rocket forced Mexico to become the aggressor. And that played right into the USMNT’s hands.

The Americans handled Mexico’s physicality.

They matched it, but didn’t egg it on, and never crossed lines.

Instead, they played their soccer, through and around Mexico. And they doubled their lead in the 63rd minute, via their most influential player this week, Gio Reyna.

Reyna’s half-volley put the U.S. firmly in control. He pranced toward the corner flag, where beer rained down on him, just as it had in 2021, just as it had last June.

Gregg Berhalter, the under-pressure U.S. coach, sprinted down the sideline to join the sticky, joyous celebration.

Adams, who’d been substituted at halftime, waved toward the Mexican fans, as if to acknowledge their fury and, simultaneously, to wave goodbye.

Mexico’s players kept pushing thereafter, and seemed to have won a penalty, but VAR overturned it; Mexican striker Santi Gimenez had flopped.

The fans kept fuming, and began their infamous “p***” chant midway through the second half. It boomed around AT&T Stadium, again and again. It prompted multiple readings from the public address announcer, discouraging discrimination. It stopped, briefly, when the game stopped for five minutes, part of Concacaf’s protocol to combat the chant. It resumed when the game resumed, as loud as ever. In stoppage time, the referee paused the game for a second time, and brought all the players toward midfield, as thousands of fans filed out.

Because by then, the result was a foregone conclusion. The U.S. was superior. The U.S. is superior. It has now beaten Mexico in four consecutive regional finals. It has gone seven games unbeaten in a rivalry that used to be two-sided. The USMNT is the king of Concacaf, and on Sunday, yet again, it drove home that point.

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