Five key takeaways from football’s 2024 CONCACAF Nations League final

A fiery US-Mexico rivalry, Tyler Adams’ 35-yard screamer, the end of the Reyna-Berhalter feud and a Michael Jordan-inspired three-peat.

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)
United States midfielder Tyler Adams scored a 35-yard goal that stunned fans at the CONCACAF Nations League final in Arlington, Texas [Julio Cortez/AP]

The United States have won their third straight CONCACAF Nations League title after beating Mexico 2-0 in the final, thanks to goals from Tyler Adams and Gio Reyna.

The final was played in front of a boisterous crowd supporting both teams at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Sunday night.

The North American football tournament takes place every two years and is spread across dates allocated for international friendlies by FIFA. It determines the finalists for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the region’s qualifiers for the CONMEBOL Copa America.

All 41 regional teams are divided into three tiers, with the top four teams from the top tier qualifying for knockout competition to determine the champion.

Here’s a look at the five talking points from the tournament:

The US-Mexico rivalry is alive and kicking

The US men’s football team may not be as globally successful as their female counterparts, but they have been a dominant force in the North American region and have nudged ahead of their southern neighbours Mexico in recent decades.

This has fuelled a rivalry loaded with political and footballing sub-plots.

Once counted among the powerhouses of the continent, the El Tri – as the Mexican football team are known – has fallen behind the Stars and Stripes. Their last 36 meetings have resulted in 19 wins for the US and only nine for Mexico.

They have met twice in the CONCACAF Nations League final and the US has won on both occasions (2019 and 2024) — but Mexico holds a slight edge in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Sunday’s game led to heated words being exchanged on the pitch, as well as fans throwing objects from the stands.

US coach Gregg Berhalter and some of his players were struck by debris while celebrating Gio Reyna’s 63rd-minute strike that put the home team 2-0 ahead.

“That was unfortunate because we want a really competitive game, we want a great atmosphere, but we don’t want to get things thrown at us,” Berhalter said post-game.

Mar 24, 2024; Arlington, Texas, USA; Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez (4) argues with United States goalkeeper Matt Turner (1) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez argues with United States goalkeeper Matt Turner during the final [Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports]

Homophobic chants continue to cause problems

For the second straight year, the final was suspended in the closing minutes because of homophobic chants by pro-Mexican fans.

Canadian referee Drew Fischer twice stopped play: in the 88th minute, and again six minutes into stoppage time. The match was eventually completed, leading to the regional football body issuing a post-match statement condemning the “discriminatory chanting”.

“Security staff in the stadium identified and ejected a significant number of fans, and the referee and match officials activated the FIFA protocol… It is extremely disappointing that this matter continues to be an issue at some matches.”

Tyler Adams scores a worldie to mark international comeback

Once the US were crowned CONCACAF Nations League champions, a celebratory Tyler Adams stood on the field cradling his two-month-old son Jax; the 25-year-old midfielder still grinning widely after scoring the goal of his life in his side’s 2-0 win.

In his first start in more than a year for club or country, Adams powerful strike from 35 metres thundered past the helpless Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, who’s well-timed lunge towards the right goalpost still couldn’t prevent the ball from rocketing past his right hand and into the back of the net.

“People have a lot of question marks about this, about that,” Adams said. “But to see what we do week in, week out when we have the opportunity to work together, we continue to grow.”

Adams has two goals in 38 matches for the US. The other came against Mexico in 2018.

The oft-injured midfielder made his first start for the US since the loss to Netherlands in the 2022 World Cup round of 16.

Jordan’s three-peat pushes Berhalter’s men

Earlier in the week, Berhalter motivated his players to win their third straight Nations League title by emulating the famous example of NBA legend Michael Jordan and the 1991-93 Chicago Bulls.

“The Jordan slide, when he’s holding up the three fingers with the trophy,” Berhalter said, “we photoshopped the Nations League trophy into the same picture with Michael Jordan.”

United States players celebrate on the podium after a win over Mexico in a CONCACAF Nations League final soccer match, Sunday, March 24, 2024, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
United States players celebrate on the podium after winning the CONCACAF Nations League final [Julio Cortez/AP]

Is this the end of the Reyna-Berhalter feud?

Attacking midfielder Reyna started the game for the US, scored his eighth international goal and later went on to say that winning titles for his country “never gets old”.

“I’ll never take any of them [titles] for granted,” he added.

“The group of guys and the energy we have, I always love coming to camp. I’m at a loss for words right now.”

Son of American football legend Claudio Reyna, the Nottingham Forest player has come a long way from the Reyna-Berhalter family feud that emerged during the team’s run at the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Berhalter nearly sent Reyna home from the 2022 tournament for a lack of hustle in training, sparking a feud that led the US Soccer Federation appointing interim coaches for much of last year. Berhalter returned in September and Reyna followed suit a month later after recovering from an injury.

“When I took over the team again, I talked about it needing time,” Berhalter said. “And that was something that we both acknowledged. And the more you work together and the more that he believed that intentions were true and that the whole staff has his best interests in mind, I think we started to gain trust.”

Reyna, who was picked as the CONCACAF Nations League player of the tournament, expressed hope that the three-peat would provide inspiration for competing in Copa America on home soil this summer against South America’s top teams.

“It’s big for momentum,” he said. “We’ve been together with our core group now. We know what it takes to win big matches.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies