While the performance was not elegant by any means, the United States got the result it needed on Thursday, edging out Honduras 1-0 to advance to the inaugural Concacaf Nations League final against rival Mexico on Sunday. The Americans will have a chance to win their first trophy since the 2017 Gold Cup.
The United States was understandably rusty, having not played a competitive match since November 2019 and essentially completely overhauling the roster as well. The team is full of talented young players, but between them offer very little national team experience or meaningful minutes shared on the pitch together. This was evident against Honduras with moments of individual skill, but ultimately struggles with decisiveness and cohesion, especially around the box.
Despite the number of stars on the pitch, it was substitute Jordan Siebatcheu who scored the last-minute winner on Thursday. The Young Boys striker made his United States debut just a few months ago, but his goal off a Weston McKennie header from John Brooks’s longball was enough to win the game in regulation.
Aside from the lack of sharpness from the Americans, the match was also a frustrating reminder of what it is like to play in a Concacaf tournament. Honduras frequently reverted to hard fouls and timewasting, as is tradition throughout this confederation. Mexico barely got by Costa Rica on penalties after a goalless 90 minutes in a match that also featured some aggression and less-than-ideal behavior, both on and off the pitch. Expect some more shenanigans on Sunday.
El Tri has gotten the better of the rivalry as of late, winning the 2019 Gold Cup final after also claiming the Hex fixture in Columbus in November 2016. However, the Americans did earn a rare draw at Estadio Azteca later in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying cycle, thanks to a magnificent Michael Bradley (remember him?) goal. These matches never come easy for the United States, but there would be no better way to announce the arrival of the new generation than winning a trophy over Mexico.