The rivalry between Mexico and the United States in international Soccer has always been hard-nosed, grinding, and if you want to say CONCACAF-ey moments that shake your head, then, by all means, you have every right to think that. But in the next chapter of this big rivalry in the confederation, this one took the cake as the US Men’s National Team battled hard to take three goals to two victory inside Extra Time.
Nearly 40,000 fans from both the USA and Mexico filled Empower Field at Mile High to watch a spectacular CONCACAF Nations League Final that had everything you want when these two sides are battling for a trophy and it wasn’t disappointing at all. Drama on each and every minute of the match was explosive and the fireworks started off early inside the opening minutes of the match.
Mexico got the lead early with a goal off a poor error from former Philadelphia Union Center back Mark McKenzie in the second minute As the Mexican attack was trying to get thwarted down the near side, McKenzie tried to play the ball back out to a teammate, or tried to clear it out over the near side touchline, his pass failed him and continued the run for Mexico. Jesus Corona got inside the area and blasted the ball top shelf past Zack Steffen inside the near post. for the early lead.
Mexico, later on, did convert a second goal as they took a short corner at the near side, which was crossed inside the area to a wide-open Corona who buried the ball with ease, but there looked to be a hint of offside on the play, which was why VAR (Video Assistant Referee) was in play during the Nations League Semis, 3rd place match & Final, showed that a Mexican attacker was just offside when the ball was crossed for the goal. a Lucky break for the USA and in the 27th minute, they took their chance to equalize.
They earned a corner along the near side of the field and it would be Christian Pulisic to deliver the ball inside the Mexican area, As Weston McKennie tried to head the ball past Guillermo Ochoa, he hit the post on the far side, but Gio Reyna was in the right place to hit the rebound home to beat Ochoa and he celebrated scoring his first goal of the rivalry in the 27th minute. You also enjoyed the scenes of his father Claudio Reyna and his family celebrating that achievement in the stands.
When the second half began, we didn’t expect tragedy and magic to happen at the same time. As the match continued for both sides, there was an injury to Zack Steffen after he grabbed the ball and wanted to distribute it back in play, but he pulled up lame. After several minutes to try and get back up to continue Gregg Berhalter made the decision to sub-Steffen out for Ethan Horvath in the 69th minute and later in the match, that substitute would pay dividends.
Sadly the USA gave the lead back to Mexico ten minutes later as Tim Ream did not stop the chance from Diego Lainez who made him go back and forth many times, before cutting inside Ream’s right and blasting the ball inside the near post. but in the 82nd minute, the USA would tie it up again. Another corner was given along the near side and this time it was Reyna that would deliver it. As the ball whipped in, Weston McKennie leaped up against and with a power header squeezed the ball between the post and Ochoa to equalize for the second time in the match.
Then it was off to extra time and more fireworks exploded in the second half as VAR got involved again. In the 109th minute, it looked like Carlos Salcedo took the ball away cleanly, and then Pulisic was taken down, but after VAR showed the play to the referee it was clear that it was a foul inside the area and the USA earned a penalty. Pulisic took the spot-kick and drove the ball high above Ochoa in the 114th minute to give the USA the lead, but on the other side of the field, the USA gave a penalty to Mexico through AR as Mark McKenzie handled the ball.
The dangerous Andreas Guardado who came on into this game a substitute would take the spot-kick against Ethan Horvath and when he drilled it hard to his left, Horvath leaped to his right and made the biggest save in his early National Team career. Putting out his right hand and pushing the ball away to the far side, and the cheers in the stands got so loud for the biggest moment in the match.
After the final whistle had blown to end Extra Time and the match, the US Men’s National Team won the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League Championship and the celebration was going on all over Denver, Colorado as the fireworks were fired across the Stadium and the confetti blasting all over the field. While this tournament was celebrating a CONCACAF Champion, we will do it all over again in July when the Gold Cup begins in early July. so enjoy this moment USA fans, as we do it all over again within a few weeks.