The United States men’s national team showed its strength, resilience, and — yes — grit in beating Mexico to win the CONCACAF Nations League final.
Fast-forward to Wednesday against Costa Rica — no subpar foe in the confederation to be sure — and an almost entirely different group of Yanks battered Los Ticos 4-0 and spoke like players at the forefront of a movement.
“I think we made a statement to the rest of CONCACAF that we’re here to stay and I’m really looking forward to going from here,” said Brenden Aaronson, who scored and was a 90-minute live wire in the win.
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Aaronson, now with Red Bull Salzburg after breaking through with the Philadelphia Union and earning a first cap in February 2020, is one of so many Yanks who have rocketed up through the ranks of American and world soccer.
Forget (for a moment) the stories of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Zack Steffen, Josh Sargent, and Giovanni Reyna.
How about Aaronson, Daryl Dike, Jordan Siebatcheu, and Reggie Cannon?
The forwards from this month’s matches alone are a challenge to break down in how different they play: Daryl Dike an absolute unit. Josh Sargent a tornado of pressure. Jordan Siebatcheu somewhere between the two and with a nose for goal and winning duels.
ProSoccerTalk asked USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter what challenges that group can present CONCACAF.
“Daryl is a handful,” Berhalter said about the goal-scoring Orlando City man. “We purposefully played direct behind the line. Jordan same thing. Josh is a forward who works relentlessly and closes people down. We think for us to be successful we’re going to need to have a deep pool of strikers. It will take time but we’ll be comfortable with the No. 9 position.”
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And Aaronson heaped praise on Dike, whose profile has exploded after a free-scoring loan stint at Barnsley that led the Tykes into the Championship playoffs.
“I haven’t played with Daryl that much but all I can say is the guy’s a beast,” Aaronson said. “Not only can he hold the ball up but he can create chances itself. It’s always a dream as a 10 or a winger and you have a 9 who can hold the ball up.”
That skill has been noted worldwide and Dike is being ticketed with a big transfer this summer.
The striker wouldn’t be drawn on what’s next for him, but was asked another time about what he’d like to be next:
“I want to play with the best players and play at the best levels,” Dike said. “I’ve got Champions League winner Christian Pulisic with the national team. I’m with Orlando City and Nani. I want to keep taking the next step and taking the next step and taking the next step until…. I mean I don’t stop. I will keep taking the next step.”
Part of that growth is a solid set-up with the national team, where Dike, Aaronson, and others have their roles clearly communicated to them.
Aaronson credited Berhalter and his assistants, namely Nico Estevez and Anthony Hudson, with that.
“What we do here as a group, I’ve learned a ton with the coaching I’ve had and playing the professional game,” Aaronson said. “It’s been a crazy two years. You’re a young player and you come into the league, everything’s new and it’s hard to get on the ball sometimes. The way that we set up as a national team we have a great job, Gregg, Nico, Anthony, they give us a good plan and I think it showed up tonight.”