Fans jump in as they watch the United States and Costa Rica play a friendly match at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. The United States won 4-0. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
SANDY – Seconds after the United States’ last triumph over a regional rival, head coach Gregg Berhalter led the United States Men’s National Team in a celebratory ride around Rio Tinto Stadium.
Finally, the Yankees could breathe. After eight days of simulating CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers mingled with the very first Nations League title, and more than a month away from the next big international competition, the American manager has let his players enjoy their success. from last week.
And what a week it has been.
If there were points and standings attached to the matches against Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica – three of the team’s toughest opponents in the CONCACAF region – the Americans would have come away with nine points: three wins, no losses and the first place in the region.
So the party? It wasn’t just the fans at the Rio Tinto stadium. The players, coaches and staff felt it too. In a game celebrating Pride Month – with rainbow-colored jersey numbers on American kits – there was a lot of American pride on a hot summer night.
The results of the last eight days – really, the last dozen games of the last bakers, where the United States is at 11-1-1 – have been good. But the best part of Wednesday’s game was getting to walk around the pitch, cheer and cheer on what Berhalter called “a great football market”, and realize that the United States had achieved their biggest goal: three matches, three wins, nine points against CONCACAF opponents.
The crowd, the noise and even the “Wave” that circled the stadium on several occasions were all iced up on a delicious four-game cake from Berhalter’s last camp.
Daryl Dike scored his first career goal with the United States Men’s National Team, Brenden Aaronson, Reggie Cannon and Gio Reyna each added a goal as the United States claimed a 4-0 victory over Costa Rica in front of 19,007 fans during his regional farewell on Wednesday. evening at Rio Tinto stadium.
“It makes me smile,” said Aaronson, the Philadelphia Union Academy product who saw his stock increase during last summer’s fan-less MLS, the Back Tournament which became a contract in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg. . “It’s been so long since we’ve had any fans. It gives you an extra boost – and they were electrifying. It was great to go after the game and cheer everyone up; it’s what you are supposed to do.
“It just brings a smile to play in front of the fans again.”
Brenden Aaronson opens scoring for USMNT against Costa Rica after Nations League win over Mexico pic.twitter.com/42NJcsWBBz
– ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 9, 2021
So it was fitting that the crowd welcomed a new breed of US internationals, a group led by Christian Pulisic of Chelsea, Sergino Dest of Barcelona and Weston McKinnie of Juventus – not to mention RSL goalkeeper David Ochoa, the academy product. became -starter whose senior international debut was suspended a little longer in favor of Ethan Horvath.
Everything else, though? It was just about perfect for the national team’s first appearance on the Wasatch front since 2017, and the national team program record which tied for the 10th consecutive victory over a CONCACAF opponent.
Perhaps Ochoa’s absence from the field was the only downside for any Salt Lake City resident who picked up valuable tickets on a midweek summer night at Sandy. But even that has a bright side.
“I told David about it and said ‘your time will come,'” Berhalter said. “Our goal was to qualify for the World Cup, to get minutes from Ethan – precious minutes that he needed recently. But David is a top prospect. He continued to impress us throughout the game. camp, by his attitude and also by his game.
“We are delighted to see how it is evolving.”
Football met summer in Utah the second week of June, combining a mildly warm evening during a scorching heat wave with a nationwide TV audience in the United States’ final game before the next Gold Cup , from July 10.
Aaronson gave the United States the lead in the eighth minute, and Dike doubled the lead in the 42nd minute to take the Americans to a 2-0 halftime lead on a well-played ball from Mark McKenzie. .
Cannon added the third goal in the 52nd minute, as the chants “USA! USA! USA!” enveloped the largest crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium since RSL’s 2020 season opener against the New York Red Bulls, held less than a month before the COVID-19 pandemic hit immobilizes much of the world. Reyna, 18, the son of former American legend Claudio Reyna, finished the scoring in the 77th minute, taking a penalty kick moments after being substituted to become the youngest America to score from a penalty kick in program history.
Berhalter used the game to his advantage, generously substituting and allowing playing time for everyone on the roster except Ochoa and Pulisic. Ditto for fans, who have enjoyed the largest stadium capacity since last March as the number of COVID-19 cases in Utah continues to decline and vaccination rates continue to climb with soaring temperatures.
USMNT FLIES! 🔥
Reggie Cannon’s first goal at USMNT brings the score to 3-0 against Costa Rica! pic.twitter.com/P4iIrmL9uJ
– ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 10, 2021
The Beehive State’s first meeting with the United States Men’s National Team since 2017 was long overdue – and well worth it.
“Coming here to Salt Lake and having the crowd that we had, a loud crowd, was a great feeling,” said Berhalter. “A lot of guys haven’t played in front of crowds like tonight.”
In many ways, this was exactly what players also needed before heading off on a brief vacation – or a handful, like Ochoa, who will return to MLS play on June 18.
“It was amazing to have these fans,” said Dike, the Orlando City forward who was loaned to Barnsley in the English Second Division. “Throughout my career, I feel like I haven’t had a full stadium; everything has been limited or empty.
“Being able to play in front of fans is a great feeling. I think it’s something that you always looked forward to as young children, playing in front of thousands of fans and hearing them cheer. It was just a great environment, in general. “