A thrilling CONCACAF Nations League final between the United States men’s national soccer team and rival Mexico was tainted by several episodes of disruptive fan behavior as the Americans pulled out an improbable 3-2 upset in extra time on Sunday night in Denver.
The game became the second of the tournament to be paused because of anti-gay chants from Mexican fans, and Team USA’s Giovanni Reyna was hit in the face with an object while celebrating teammate Christian Pulisic’s go-ahead goal in the 109th minute. Reyna, who scored Team USA’s first goal of the night, was examined on the field before being helped off by trainers.
He did return to the field for the trophy presentation, but there were several other incidents involving trash being thrown at American players on Sunday. Fortunately, the team appears to have escaped any significant injury.
‘Total lack of respect for what’s happening on the field and all effort that both teams are putting into the game,’ US manager Gregg Berhalter said after his first major victory with the team. ‘I think he’s going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse.’
Angry Team Mexico fans begin throwing cups and bottles at Team USA after Christian Pulisic netted the go-ahead goal on a penalty kick in extra time
Team USA’s Giovanni Reyna was hit in the face with an object while celebrating teammate Christian Pulisic’s go-ahead goal in the 109th minute. Reyna, who scored Team USA’s first goal, was examined on the field before being helped off by trainers.
Team USA’s Tim Weah (the son of former pro player and President of Liberia, George Weah) is seen getting hit with an object from the stands after Christian Pulisic netted his penalty kick
Team USA members celebrated the go-ahead goal in a corner of the field where Team Mexico fans were seated
Team USA looks up into the crowd amid a cascade of empty cups and bottles
Giovanni Reyna celebrates with teammates after winning the CONCACAF Nations League Championship Final between US and Mexico at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday. Reyna had been hit in the face with an object thrown by a fan less than an hour earlier
There were other incidents, including a fan running onto the field in extra time.
Minutes earlier, another fan was seen jumping through the CBS Sports set during a segment following the end of regulation. The man appeared to jump over the railing and out of the reach of security, but it’s unclear what happened to him after that.
As for the ant-gay chant, the match was briefly stopped in extra time as players from both teams pleaded with fans to stop. Mexico’s semifinal win over Costa Rica was also paused over the same chant, which originated at the club level but has been adopted by fans of the national team, according to multiple reports from the country.
Had the chants continued, officials had the option of sending players to the locker rooms, and could have either suspended or abandoned the match as well.
The play on the field wasn’t any less chaotic than the scene in the stands.
As Berhalter put it: ‘One of the classic, odd U.S.-Mexico games.’
One was seen jumping through the CBS Sports set during a segment following the end of regulation. The man appeared to jump over the railing and out of the reach of security, but it’s unclear what happened to him after that
Christian Pulisic’s late penalty kick earned him his second cup win in the last eight days
For starters, Chelsea’s Pulisic was lifting a trophy for the second time in eight days after becoming the first American to play in, and win, the UEFA Champions League Final.
His penalty kick appeared to seal Team USA’s win extra time until a handball gave Mexico PK in the 124th minute.
The problem for the US was that it was backup Ethan Horvath in net and not starter Zack Steffen, suffered a knee injury earlier in the game.
‘If you’re on the bench as a keeper, you don’t expect to come in the game,’ said the 25-year-old Horvath, who had about 20 family and friends at the match.
But while he never expected to play Sunday, Horvath still found himself saving Andrés Guardado’s penalty kick to clinch the Cup Final.
‘This is the perfect way to end the year,’ Pulisic said.
Fans celebrate the United States win over Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League Finals at Empower Field at Mile High on Sunday
Messages across the board remind fans to stay civil during the first half of the championship game at the Concacaf Nations League Finals at Empower Field at Mile High
Mexico fans show their support during the CONCACAF Nations League Championship Final between the United States and Mexico at Empower Field At Mile High
Jesús Corona put 11th-ranked Mexico ahead 63 seconds in after a sloppy giveaway by defender Mark McKenzie, whose poor pass into Corona’s path in the U.S. penalty area allowed the Mexican to break in alone on Steffen.
El Tri appeared to go up 2-0 in the 24th minute on a header by an unmarked Héctor Moreno, but a video review disallowed it for offside after Panamanian referee John Pitti consulted VAR.
Reyna, a son of former U.S. captain Claudio Reyna, tied the score in the 27th minute with his third international goal. The 18-year-old kicked in a rebound after Weston McKennie’s header from Pulisic’s corner kick hit a post.
Diego Lainez gave Mexico a 2-1 lead in the 79th, one minute after entering, when he cut inside from Tim Ream and beat Horvath.
By then Berhalter had changed tactics. He started five defenders that included Sergiño Dest as a wingback, a formation that could morph into a 4-3-3, then switched midway through the second half to four in the back.
Pulisic, fresh off of winning the Champions League with Chelsea on May 29, made the decisive move when cut inside the penalty area in the 108th minute and was pulled down by Carlos Salcedo.
Mexico”u2019s #23 Jesus Gallardo, left, puts his hand on the throat of United States”u2019 Midfielder Sebastian Lletget, #17 as Midfielder Andres Guardado, #18, center, gets in a shouting match with United States
Pitti did not initially signal a penalty but consulted a video review and then pointed to the spot. Mexico coach Tata Martino appeared received red card, apparently for putting a hand on an official during the review, and Hirving Lozano was given a yellow card for arguing after the decision.
Pulisic sent the ball to the upper corner past the left arm of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa for his 16th international goal.
Pitti again did not make a call in the 119th minute when Luis Romo’s header went off the left arm of McKenzie, whose arm was perhaps only slightly outstretched. Another lengthy wait for a video review followed.
‘It plays with your head a little bit when it takes long for the ref to decide whether it’s a PK or not,’ McKennie said, ‘and he didn’t lose his head. He went with his gut and his instinct and his training.’
Horvath waited to the last moment and dived right to bat away the penalty by Mexico’s captain.
‘It’s been a tough season for him, and to come have a performance like that in his hometown was the stuff that storybooks write about,’ Berhalter said.
The U.S. survived an extended 11 minutes of stoppage time following the second extra period and beat Mexico in a competitive match for the first time since 2013 following a stretch of three losses and a draw, gaining confidence ahead of the start of World Cup qualifying in September.
‘We’re a young side and we need to learn how to win,’ Berhalter said. ‘It’s also about the fight and spirit. .. They really showed the heart of champions.’
Team USA’s backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath seals the win by denying Mexico’s Andres Guardado on a penalty kick in the 124th minute