Benefit or burden?  USMNT begin Nations League defense

Benefit or burden? USMNT begin Nations League defense

The new tournament was meant to give a helping hand to smaller nations by replacing often-meaningless friends with official competitive matches, thus raising the region’s overall level of play. But for the likes of Mexico and the United States, there was some frustration at the prospect of losing already-scarce opportunities to test themselves against elite opponents from Europe, South America and points further afield.

Thanks to COVID-19, the inaugural edition of the CNL didn’t conclude until a year ago this week, and the joy of the US men’s national team was palpable and authentic as they hoisted the hardware following a dramatic extra-time victory over their rivals El Tri that night in Denver. The Yanks extended that high in a dogged march to the 2021 Gold Cup title a few weeks later, building momentum heading into their ultimately successful 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign.

In retrospect, the event many fans feared as a hindrance turned out to be a platform for collective growth.

“This tournament helped us a lot to gain confidence in the team as a whole,” USMNT winger Paul Arriola told reporters in Spanish in a Wednesday afternoon media availability ahead of Friday’s 2022-23 CNL opener vs. Grenada in Austin (10 p.m. ET | ESPN+, UniMas, TUDN). “Winning this tournament for the first time was very important for us, it gave us the confidence that we can win cups and tournaments. So for us right now the most important thing is to focus on defending our title, and also trying to improve.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.