FRISCO, Texas — FC Dallas defender Reggie Cannon was at the grocery store on his birthday, about to check out at the register, when he got a call from U.S. Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter, letting him know he was being added to the 23-player roster for the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup.
Cannon was added to the roster due to an injury suffered by RB Leipzig’s Tyler Adams, who was dealing with chronic groin issues. The injury would sideline Adams for 6-8 weeks, opening up a spot for Cannon to make his first trip with the national team since January camps.
“It was one of the best feelings ever, being called up,” Cannon said. “In football, you always have to be on your toes. I never expected to make that trip in the first place, but somehow it came back for me. I was the most excited person in the world.”
The USMNT traveled to six different cities within a month for the Gold Cup. Cannon started in three matches and made an appearance in another, and he said he wouldn’t have traded the experience for anything.
When he first arrived at camp, Cannon said his confidence wasn’t the highest because he was the last player added to the roster. But, the more he played and worked hard in training, the more he began to build confidence and momentum.
“I went into the trip not putting pressure on myself,” Cannon said. “I was just there to have fun, play, and it actually paid off. I know people don’t really see it for what it is, but I came into camp as the last man and I somehow started in the semi’s and finals. My confidence was beaming, and Gregg just kept pushing and pushing me every day in training.”
From being the last man added to the roster to starting in the Gold Cup Final, Cannon said he credits his relentlessness for his quick rise to the Starting XI. He made the most of his opportunity, and Nick Lima, who was the starting right back at the beginning of the tournament helped push Cannon to be his best. Cannon said he credits Lima for being there for him throughout the entire tournament.
“I have to give a shout out to him because he kept pushing me at my position,” Cannon said. “He’s one of my great friends at camp, and he’s a very special player. He helped me fulfill that role, and it takes a lot of strength and courage to do that, especially when you’re not playing. I’m very proud of Nick, and I’m sure he’s proud of me, too.”
Along with Lima, other veterans took Cannon under their wings during training and throughout the entire month he was with the team.
“People like Michael Bradley, one of the most influential players in U.S. soccer, he was there at camp,” Cannon said. “He’s, what? 33? He’s up there, but as a leader, as a captain, as a person who brings the locker room together, as a person who gives people confidence, he’s the best man for the job.”
Before the Gold Cup Final against Mexico, Cannon said he was nervous. It was the biggest match he had ever played in while on national team duty, but Bradley was there to calm his nerves.
Bradley told him that even he still gets nervous before matches, but to focus on the task and remember everything learned in training.
“I was nervous, I had jitters, I had butterflies,” Cannon said. “Michael was the first one to come up to me and say that this isn’t a gift, it was something I earned. He said you have to go for it.”
The pep talk worked. Cannon played an excellent match for the entire 90 minutes. He marked Mexico’s Rodolfo Pizzaro for the entire first half, and he forced Pizzaro to switch wings after the halftime break because he was struggling to create any chances on Cannon’s side.
The U.S. had to deal with Mexico’s hybrid press, something that was different from the rest of the competition the Americans had faced in the tournament up to that point. Mexico’s press was controlled and relentless, so Cannon was forced to play confident on the ball, dribbling past defenders and cutting up the field to find the open teammate.
“I enjoyed his comfort on the ball to possess, he got forward, he broke his line, he was aggressive to close things down, he handled his duels, and those are all very important concepts,” FC Dallas Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez said. “Not just here. It showed on the national team, so just really proud [of him].”
The Gold Cup was a big step for the Gregg Berhalter Era for the U.S. The national team has evolved since he was hired as head coach, and Cannon believes they are heading in the right direction, despite the scrutiny the team gets. He likes how Berhalter isn’t afraid to call up younger players, no matter what league they play for — whether it be Europe or MLS.
“Besides Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, guys like that, everyone else was from MLS,” Cannon said. “The goal [in the final] was scored by an MLS player. It’s important to call people up regardless of their background and where they’re from. I have the utmost respect for Gregg, and I definitely think we are headed in the right direction.”