The United States men’s national team won the inaugural CONCACAF nation final league on Sunday in Denver, defeating Mexico 3-2 in extra time. In the 114th minute, Christian Pulisic scored the game-winning goal from the penalty spot.
After ruling that Carlos Salcedo had fouled Pulisic in the box, the referee waved play on and then gave the penalty. When Mexico coach Tata Martino approached the referee during the review and placed his arms around him, he was given a red card.
However, there was one more twist in the match when Mexico was granted a penalty in stoppage time. Ethan Horvath made a diving save to deny Andres Guardado, closing up an outstanding performance by the shot-stopper, who came on in the 69th minute to replace Zack Steffen.
The first defeat of their opponent
This is the first time the USMNT has beaten its adversary since September 2018. El Tri came into the game having won four of their previous six meetings.
Extra time was played after a dramatic end to regulation. Mexico took the lead in the 79th minute when Diego Lainez received the ball on the right side of the 18-yard box, cut inside with his left foot, and beat Horvath with a low shot into the right corner.
Set pieces were a strength for the Americans, and Weston McKennie’s 82nd-minute equalizer came from one of them. After the way the two teams started the game, few fans were likely to predict this outcome.
After a little more than a minute had passed, Jesus Corona blasted Mexico into a 1-0 lead. Corona intercepted Mark McKenzie’s poorly delivered ball, and his powerful effort gave Steffen little chance to make a save. Gregg Berhalter surprised everyone by starting McKenzie, Tim Ream, and John Brooks at center back. Berhalter was completely wrong in believing that a three-man backline would provide more defensive stability.
Mexico demolished the US defense in a couple of seconds. The United States’ defending on a corner kick that resulted in a goal for Hector Moreno in the 24th minute was particularly egregious.
With good technique in nation final league, they were able to defeat the opponent
After a video review, Moreno was found to be offside, but it was yet another blatant blunder as he was left alone in front of goal.
After doing little in the offensive third up until that point, the US responded admirably by converting a corner kick of its own. McKennie headed Pulisic’s cross off the left post in the 27th minute, and Gio Reyna was in the right place at the right moment to drive home the rebound.
It was the 18-year-first old’s goal in a competitive encounter for the national team, and it’s sure to be the first of many. The USMNT was fortunate to be tied at halftime with Mexico, as El Tri appeared to be the far stronger and more structured team. The second half was a little different, with Berhalter’s team getting a little more into the game.
In the 71st minute, McKennie forced Guillermo Ochoa to make a diving stop off a corner, and a go-ahead goal wasn’t out of the question before Lainez gave Mexico a late lead.
While Berhalter has a good young talent pool at his disposal, with a group that hasn’t spent much time together on the field, setbacks are unavoidable. The USMNT could have crumbled after such a poor start and suffered a huge defeat. Instead, the players fought back and gave supporters reason to be optimistic.
There are some issues Berhalter will need to address in the future, but a win like this gives a solid foundation.