The U.S. are your 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup champions after beating Mexico 1-0 in an extra time thriller at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, NV. Mexico dominated most of regulation until the tides turned in extra time to favor the U.S. Men’s National Team. Mexico failed to convert any of their copious chances and the difference in the game was a set piece executed to perfection. Miles Robinson, an Atlanta United center back, has cemented himself as the real deal.

Greg Berhalter made four changes to his lineup tonight. George Bello got the start at left back, Eryk Williamson started in place of Gianluca Busio, Gyasi Zardes started at striker in place of Daryl Dike, and Reggie Cannon was given the reigns at right back over Shaquille Moore. Before the match, Berhalter cited fitness as his reason for the changes.

Mexico’s first chance on goal came in the 10th minute. On a Mexico corner kick, Rogelio Funes Mori had a solid chance with a header on target but USA’s Matt Turner made the last minute diving save to keep the game scoreless.

We don’t panic, we use this experience to improve, just like we have been over the past two and a half years.”

Gerardo “Tata” Martino, after losing to the U.S.

When Mexico made a mistake in their defensive third, the U.S. had their first opportunity on goal in the first half. Paul Arriola found himself 1 v 1 with Mexico’s Alfredo Talavera. Arriola beat Talavera to his left but the shot went wide of the post. Arriola would find himself in the same situation just before the end of the first half, and again, his shot went wide.

It took 40 minutes for the USMNT to earn their first corner and just a few seconds to watch it go to waste. Mexico continued to overwhelm the U.S. all through the first half with crosses, long balls, 1-2 linkup play, through balls, and everything in between. The USA’s young back line was simply bombarded by Mexico’s attack.

A giveaway by Carlos Salcedo in the 69th minute should’ve gifted the United States their first goal, but the finish wasn’t there. Matthew Hoppe had a chance just a few minutes later but his shot was deflected over the crossbar.

USMNT’s Paul Arriola had a night to forget as he struggled against a strong Mexico side in the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Final (James Lyons/TPR)

In the 95th minute in extra time, Nicholas Gioacchini had a chance to give the U.S. the lead on a counterattack. A heavy through ball was played into the box but Gioacchini reached it with only a few steps before the touchline. With defenders closing in, the window of opportunity abruptly shut and Gioacchini’s shot was deflected away by Talavera.

In the 107th minute in extra time, Gyasi Zardes had a solid chance to break the deadlock but Talavera came up big once again.

USA’s Gyasi Zardes wins a header against a relentless Mexico side that dominated possession (James Lyons/TPR)

But the go ahead goal would come in the dying embers of the match. Deep into the second half of extra time, Kellyn Acosta launched a long ball into the box from a set piece. Miles Robinson leaped past his defender and headed the ball home past Talavera to seal the victory.

While the U.S. would be outplayed all night, as they say in football, “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.” One solid, accurate, well-timed set piece, was the difference between losing to a rival in a tournament final and winning the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup.

“We believed that we competed well against them in the two finals. We had beautiful moments in the game that were in our favor,” said Gerardo “Tata” Martino after the match. “It is a painful defeat, but with that, we will continue to improve, as we’ve been getting better the past two and a half years.”

USA’s George Bello pushes forward in attack to assist his teammates (James Lyons/TPR)

Along with the U.S.’s victory, history was made tonight. Tonight’s match was the largest soccer attendance in the history of Nevada, the first sellout for a sporting event at Allegiant Stadium (61,514 attended), and the first soccer match ever played at Allegiant Stadium.

Winning Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup against your bitter rival is a big deal. For Berhalter and Co., they’ll want to celebrate their hard work but be sure to reign it in as World Cup Qualifiers start in just over a month.

Now that the U.S. has proved they can handle business without heavyweights like Christian Pulisic, Sergiño Dest, and Weston McKennie, selecting a roster might prove to be a difficult feat next time around.

-Jon J.

Photo: James Lyons

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