The United States men’s national team entered the Nations League final against Mexico desperately needing to win.
Mexico led the head-to-head with 36 wins, 15 draws and 19 losses, dominating the US side for years. Their longstanding rivalry intensified the stage, culminating in one night on June 7 at the Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado.
USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter came prepared with his best players and a previously unseen starting XI. Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic stood at the forefront, leading and inspiring his teammates to their best. After almost 120 minutes of play, a penalty from Pulisic saw the United States triumph 3-2 over Mexico and lift the first ever CONCACAF Nations League trophy.
"It was a massive, massive game for us just to show CONCACAF what we're about," said Pulisic (as quoted by ESPN). "I think it was the first time we've really had all this group of players together.
"I think it just gives us a lot of confidence moving towards qualifiers and things coming up, and I think that is something we really needed."
Commenting on the penalty itself, it was the downtime that allowed Pulisic to concentrate and produce the rocket into the top corner.
"We were waiting around for a long time, so I had a lot of time to think," he said. "I just said, 'I'm just going to go for the top corner, because why not?' And it was a big moment, but I really just wanted to go for it."
Pulisic insists that the Nations League victory is only the first of many steps forward this summer. World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup are right around the corner, giving the USMNT an opportunity to hone their skills and perfect their structure.
"I think we've been playing really good football, the way that we keep the ball and at times changing also the way we play and not just always trying to build out or whatever it is," he said. "I think we have some different options now and different systems that we've been playing and know different things that work against different sides, and I think that's important."
Speaking about his own game, the attacker added: "There's a lot of things that I can continue to work on. I just need to be more consistent, to help my team when I get the chance. And I think if I do that consistently, obviously, I'll get my minutes and get my time."