Gregg Berhalter hails 'important' Nations League triumph for young USMNT

Lizzy Becherano
Jun 7, 2021, 4:00 PM GMT+1
United States vs Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Finals
United States vs Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Finals / Omar Vega/Getty Images

The United States men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter was full of praise for his side after beating Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League final on Sunday.

The USMNT lifted the Nations League trophy after a chaotic 3-2 over El Tri, marking the first time in eight years that they had prevailed over their rivals in a competitive fixture and further intensifying the rivalry between the two countries. 

The United States entered the match as underdogs, full of potential but lacking experience in comparison to Mexico. Over the 120 minutes of the match, the USMNT grew in momentum and dominance that culminated in a game-winning penalty by Chelsea sensation Christian Pulisic. 40,000 spectators watched as the match took twists, turns, injuries and tackles before the United States could constrain Mexico and record a historic win for the rivalry’s timeline. 

"For this group, it's really important," Berhalter said post-game. "We're a young side and we need to learn how to win. These games are very difficult, and for us it was about having a game plan and executing the game plan, but then it's also about the fight in the spirit."

With World Cup qualifiers fast approaching, the United States used this game to test starting lineups, positions and players, and the game provided insight into the depth of the squad. The biggest revelation of the night came from substitute goalkeeper Ethan Hovrath.

Halfway through the match, Zack Steffen suffered a knee injury that saw him carried off the pitch and force Hovrath into action. 

Hovrath wasted no time in getting acclimated, stopping a stunning strike by Hirving Lozano two minutes after coming on. After a phenomenal performance during regular time, he was hailed a hero for saving Andres Guardado’s penalty kick in the final seconds of extra-time.

"Just thinking about how difficult it is for goalkeepers to come into the game, in that stage of the game, and then to make the impact that he made was remarkable," Berhalter said. "It's been a tough season for him and to come and have a performance like that in his hometown was, you know it's stuff that storybooks write about."