US beats Canada 2-0 to win CONCACAF Nations League on goals by Balogun, Richards

United States players celebrate Sunday after defeating Canada in a CONCACAF Nations League final match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Having scored his first goal for the United States and won his first medal, Folarin Balogun looked to a future that includes a 2026 World Cup co-hosted by America.

“I’ve only here a short amount of time, but already I feel a part of it and I feel a part of something bigger,” he said.

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Balogun and Chris Richards scored their first international goals, both off assists from Gio Reyna, and the U.S. beat Canada 2-0 on Sunday night for the Americans’ second straight CONCACAF Nations League title.

“It’s another step in the right direction,” U.S. captain Christian Pulisic said. “It’s just going to be about these knockout games. Come those big tournaments, Copa América, World Cup, it’s time to get tough. We got to step up and score the goals when it counts and keep them out of our goal.”

Richards scored in the 12th minute from Reyna’s corner kick, bouncing a header from 7 yards to the left of goalkeeper Milan Borjan for his first goal in 10 international appearances.

Balogun, who debuted in Thursday’s 3-0 win over Mexico after choosing to play the U.S. over England, doubled the lead in the 34th when he took a feed from Reyna and held off Scott Kennedy with his right arm to slot past Borjan.

“We’re looking beyond to the 2026 World Cup, and we need to perform in high-intensity knockout games,” interim coach B.J. Callaghan said. “That’s something that we learned from the World Cup.”

Callaghan took over May 30 and also will run the team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup starting next weekend. Gregg Berhalter, brought back as coach Friday 5 1/2 months after his contract was allowed to expire, won’t return to the sidelines until September exhibitions.

Before a crowd of just 35,000 at Allegiant Stadium, the U.S. extended its home unbeaten streak against Canada to 22 games dating to 1957. Canada remained without a title since the 2000 Gold Cup.

Reyna sparked both goals from a central midfield role rather than the wing Berhalter used him on, then left at halftime with a calf injury and was replaced by Luca de a Torre. Reyna’s lack of hustle in training at the World Cup and his family’s angry response created the controversy that let to Berhalter’s January departure.

“It shows his quality that’s on the field, his ball security, his ability to take on two or three players and connect passes,” Callaghan said. “We’ve challenged Gio to do more work off the ball on the defensive side, and he’s absolutely risen to the occasion.”

Before Richards’ goal, the Americans had not scored from a corner kick since Jordan Morris’ goal at El Salvador on June 14 last year.

“I definitely know I didn’t play that much this year, but I know what I can bring,” said Richards, who had just four Premier League starts and nine appearances for Crystal Palace.

Callaghan made three changes from Thursday, inserting central defender Walker Zimmerman for Miles Robinson and midfielder Brenden Aaronson and right back Joe Scally for Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest, both suspended after getting red cards against El Tri.

Canada coach John Herdman said the 6-foot-3 Zimmerman and 6-foot-2 Richards were difficult to defend against.

“We’re just not in that killer area of the pitch,” Herdman said. “We’ve talked about this post-World Cup. It’s in the boxes where Canada’s suffering. You don’t get time to work with the players. There’s no time. But we need this September window.”

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