Gio Reyna, Haji Wright heroics set up USMNT vs. Mexico Concacaf Nations League final on Sunday

Happy Friday! I’m Pardeep Cattry, and I hope you’ve recovered from a dramatic night at the Concacaf Nations League to enjoy the weekend that’s ahead. Here’s a CNL-focused newsletter to kick off your weekend.

📺 Footy fix

All times U.S./Eastern

Friday, March 22
🌍 Friendly: Netherlands vs. Scotland, 3:45 p.m. ➡️ FS2
🇺🇸 NWSL: Utah Royals vs. North Carolina Courage, 9:30 p.m. ➡️ NWSL+

Saturday, March 23
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 WSL: Manchester City vs. Manchester United, 8:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+, CBS Sports Golazo Network
🇺🇸 MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. Inter Miami, 2 p.m. ➡️ Apple TV+
🌍 Friendly: England vs. Brazil, 3 p.m. ➡️ Fox
🏆 CNL: Canada vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 4 p.m. ➡️ CBS Sports Network, Paramount+
🇺🇸 NWSL: Washington Spirit vs. Bay FC, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ ION

Sunday, March 24
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 WSL: West Ham vs. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+, CBS Sports Golazo Network
🏆 CNL: Panama vs. Jamaica , 6 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+
🇺🇸 NWSL: Portland Thorns vs. NJ/NY Gotham, 7:30 p.m. ➡️ ESPN2
🏆 CNL: Mexico vs. USMNT, 9:15 p.m. ➡️ Paramount+

⚽ The Forward Line

🇺🇸 Wright, Reyna rescue USMNT

The U.S. men’s national team made their third successive Concacaf Nations League final last night in the most dramatic of circumstances, with a couple of substitutes saving the day in their 3-1 win — Gio Reyna and Haji Wright.

Gregg Berhalter’s side went down in the first minute after Jamaica’s Gregory Leigh scored, and were locked in a match that seemed destined to go against them, despite their attempts to equalize. The USMNT took 20 shots during the first 90 minutes but few of them were impactful. The team put just four on target and had 1.35 expected goals, with Berhalter noting post-game that his side were at a serious disadvantage while down a goal.

  • Berhalter: “The worst thing to do against a 5-4-1 is give up a goal. You see how they protected the lead and were very compact and very difficult to break down. … We have to improve, especially against a 5-4-1 which has given us problems in the past. To me, it’s about the speed of ball movement, combinations, particularly in wide areas to get behind them and hurt the defense and we didn’t do that enough.”

Cory Burke’s own goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time, though, changed the complexion of the game. It offered the USMNT with much-needed momentum in extra time, when Reyna assisted both of Wright’s goals. It was a particularly bright showing for Reyna, who has yet to truly capitalize on his potential through injuries and a lack of playing time at his clubs.

  • Berhalter: “His quality is unquestionable. When you see the plays he made on both the second and third ball but I think most importantly, the ball he wins and makes the pass, he has that quality that not many players have and it’s clear that he deserves to play.”

If anyone’s stock rose dramatically, though, it was Wright. He was initially left off the roster but skipped out on a family trip to Dubai to join the USMNT after Josh Sargent pulled out with an injury. In his first involvement in a national team game since the 2022 World Cup, he exemplified the grit it took the whole team to come back from behind last night, and earned the plaudits of teammates like Tyler Adams.

  • Adams: “He’s a player that’s developed a lot, especially even since the World Cup. You can see even today. He was just clinical with any chance he got. It’s good to see him like that because I’ve played with him for a long time and I know the talent that he has, so I’m happy for him.”

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🔗  Midfield Link Play

🇲🇽 Mexico cruise to victory

Awaiting the USMNT on Sunday is the latest installment of their rivalry with Mexico, who took care of Panama with ease with a 3-0 win on Thursday.

El Tri did so with goals from Edson Alvarez, Julian Quinones and Orbelin Pineda, and succeeded with a more effective version of the strategy that almost worked out for Jamaica — letting the opponent have the ball. While Jamaica had barely 20% of the ball, Mexico had a little more than 40%. Panama also outshot Mexico 15 to six, but only slightly outperformed them in terms of expected goals (1.4 to 1.28), in large part because El Tri were remarkably effective going forward. They put all six of their shots on target, scoring three of them.

It sets up not just a high-profile finale for the Nations League final, but a fascinating tactical battle for Sunday. Mexico’s defense demonstrated a strong ability to sniff out Panama’s attack, something Berhalter openly admitted is something his team continues to struggle to deal with. The final will ultimately be a test of both sides’ progress with Copa America right around the corner.

For the USMNT, it’s a chance to prove that the game against Jamaica was essential for problem-solving and for Mexico, it will provide an opportunity to showcase that their defense-first strategy can withstand a variety of attacking talent.Weight and Reyna are not the only players on the USMNT capable of showing glimpses — Christian Pulisic is coming off a streak in which he scored four in a row for AC Milan, and rightfully remains a focal point of the USMNT’s attack.

🔗  Top Stories

🇺🇸 USMNT rewind: More on Gio Reyna’s strong showing last night, plus a look at the USMNT’s aggressive set piece approach led by specialist Gianni Vio and a status check on Gregg Berhalter’s job security.

🥇 Road to Paris: The Olympics draws for the USWNT and the U-23 USMNT are out, and the USWNT has lined up a re-match with Mexico as one of their sendoffs before the Games.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 England check-in: Bukayo Saka pulled out of the England team with a minor muscular injury, plus a look at Gareth Southgate’s unclear future as the manager.

🇺🇸🇲🇽 Like a good neighbor: The NWSL and Liga MX Femenil will partner for the Summer Cup, which will run during the Olympics break in the regular season calendar.

🇪🇺 UWCL roundup: Chelsea and Barcelona are impressing halfway through the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarterfinals and carry leads heading into the second leg.

🎠 Coaching carousel: From Roberto de Zerbi to Thomas Tuchel, here’s a look at the top candidates for several top jobs at European clubs this summer. Plus, the race to hire Xabi Alonso is getting more and more competitive.

‼️ Goalkeeper scores: Orange County’s Colin Shutler chats with the Morning Footy crew about scoring the equalizer in the USL’s Cali Clasico against Sacramento Republic.

💰  The Back Line

💵 Best bets

  • MLS: New York Red Bulls vs. Inter Miami, Saturday, 2 p.m.
    💰 THE PICK: Luis Suarez to score (+500)
    — Just five games into his MLS stint, Suarez already has four goals and three assists. It seems obvious to pick him to do so again while he’s in the midst of a scoring streak, especially since both rosters will be somewhat depleted during the international break. With those odds, it might be the easiest bet to play all weekend.
  • Friendly: England vs. Brazil, Saturday, 3 p.m.
  • 💰 THE PICK: Jude Bellingham to score (+180) — Like Suarez, Bellingham’s form makes him an easy goalscorer to pick on any given day for club or country. He’s also happy to score on a big occasion to expect him to earn some of the spotlight in one of the most high-profile games of the international break.

📺 What’s on CBS Sports Golazo Network

☀️ Morning Footy (Weekdays 8-10 a.m.): Hosts Susannah Collins, Charlie Davies, Nico Cantor and Alexis Guerreros help fans get their day started on the network’s flagship morning show with highlights, interviews and the biggest soccer storylines. Morning Footy is also available in podcast form, so you’ll never have to miss an episode.

📦 Box 2 Box (Weekday afternoons): The news-driven show quickly recaps all the latest headlines from around the world with panelists previewing the top matchups of the day. Catch Box 2 Box on CBS Sports Golazo Network on the CBS Sports app, PlutoTV and Paramount+. 

3️⃣ Attacking Third (Monday, Thursday): The leading women’s soccer podcast and social brand is now a live studio show. The NWSL season is back and our coverage of the women’s game is stronger than ever. Our analysts will be breaking down the USWNT, NWSL and European domestic season all year long.

👟 Kickin’ It (Tuesdays): CBS Sports Golazo Network’s unfiltered interview show releases Tuesday. Hosted by Kate Abdo, Clint Dempsey, Mo Edu and Charlie Davies, the group chat candidly with the biggest names from the Beautiful Game and share their stories from on and off the pitch. 

Call it What You Want (Monday night): A weekly podcast where Jimmy Conrad, Jesse Marsch and Charlie Davies cover all things USMNT and the state of the beautiful game in the United States.

🥅 Scoreline (Daily): Scoreline is the newest place for fans to catch up on all the biggest news and results impacting global football, match highlights from the top soccer competitions and all the can’t-miss goals from the day’s action, starting Thursday and airing seven days a week.

📺 How to watch: CBS Sports Golazo Network is a free 24/7 channel exclusively dedicated to offering unparalleled coverage of all the top soccer competitions worldwide. You can stream for free on the CBS Sports app, Pluto TV and Paramount+.

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