Berhalter used Michael Jordan three-peat as USMNT inspiration

ARLINGTON, Texas — United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter hailed his side’s ability to play under pressure in defeating Mexico 2-0 to claim its third Concacaf Nations League crowns.

The U.S. rode goals either side of halftime from Tyler Adams and CNL Player of the Tournament Giovanni Reyna. The USMNT also was rock steady in defense to extend its unbeaten streak against Mexico to seven games, the longest for the U.S. in the series.

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“Today’s a final and you could see the guys are super focused all throughout the day,” Berhalter said. “To me, we knew what type of game it was going to be and that was important. We wanted to maintain calm and play our football and credit to the guys because I think the intensity stayed in a really high level for the whole game and that was really important, especially against Mexico.”

The U.S. remains the only team to have won the CNL. Berhalter revealed that he used the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls as motivation for his team, photoshopping the CNL trophy onto a photo of Joran holding up three fingers.

“That was what we were focused on,” he said of the three-peat. “It doesn’t happen too often. I think in North American sports in the last 50 years, pro sports, it’s probably happened six times, so it’s rare. And congratulations to the guys. Congratulations for playing a great final.”

Berhalter was also full of praise for Reyna, who with a goal and two assists was a worthy winner of the Player of the Tournament award.

“I think he had a great performance, 75 minutes, and he hasn’t had that much game time in a while,” Berhalter said. “And for him it was just a mental thing. He was determined to grind through it and power through it and I thought he was doing really well. And you see it got to the point, right where we’re going to take him out, where he actually did cramp up and it was evident that he needed to come out. But I think all tournament long over the last two games, I think he did a great job.”

The title was one that almost didn’t happen, as the U.S. was pushed to the limit in the CNL semifinal against Jamaica, needing a stoppage time own goal to tie the match before prevailing with two more goals in overtime. But Berhalter feels his side is one that bounces back well to subpar performances, though he acknowledged that the U.S. will need to show more consistency in this summer’s Copa America and two years down the road in the World Cup.

“For me it’s really focusing on that type of performance every game and that’s what it’s going to take to be successful at an event like the World Cup,” he said. “But I know the guys in the last World Cup, as soon as they got to camp, it was like focus, focus, focus. They were on it. And same thing in this camp as the camp went on…For me it’s about really taking advantage of every single opportunity we have because before we know it, 2026 is going to be here.”