After a two-year hiatus, the United States and Mexico have finally written another chapter in their historic soccer rivalry.
Following nearly two hours of action on the pitch and plenty of moments that will never be forgotten, the United States Mens National Team came home with a 3-2 victory. While the score seems normal at first glance, Sunday’s game was anything but, as late game heroics from the future of American Soccer capped a chaotic match.
The match started out normal enough, as Mexico player Jesus Corona put in a first minute goal to put his club in front. For nearly twenty minutes afterwards, the score remained at One to nil, until the 27th minute of the game when Christian Pulisic set up for a corner kick.
An impressive corner by Christian Pulisic sailed all the way to fellow American Weston McKinnie, but McKinnie’s header attempt only met the post. Luckily for the US, midfielder Gio Reyna was in perfect position to collect the rebound, and fire the first equalizer of the night. The two teams stalled all the way until the games 79th minute when Deigo Lainez put Mexico in front again. This late goal set the Mexican club up for a great chance to win the game, but the USMNT’s resilience rose and tied it up again. At minute number 82, McKinnie got his redemption, heading in the final goal of regulation and evening the score for the second time on the night.
Extra time rolled around shortly after, and was home to some of the most exciting action either team has ever seen. In the 114th minute of extra time, Christian Pulisic received a pass and dribbled the ball into scoring position. An optimal scoring chance was denied when Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo made a challenge for the ball. What at first seemed to be a terrific challenge was later reviewed and after five excruciating minutes, deemed a penalty.
As Mexico fans and players rioted, Pulisic calmly set the ball on the spot and fired in the kick of his life to put the United States up 3-2. In protest of the controversial call, Mexico fans threw projectiles on the field, including a glass bottle that nailed Gio Reyna in the head. While the display of passion was heated, it only got more serious from there. With little time to go, Mexico again made a push all the way to the US goal. US defender Mark McKenzie accidentally grazed a shot from Mexico with his hand, setting up a PK attempt for the visitors.
Mexico captain Andres Guardado was the one to take the kick for Mexico, as all of Denver watched with baited breath. In the net for the US was backup keeper Ethan Horvath, who had previously come in following an injury to the American starter. Guardado’s kick was terrific, but even better was the save by Horvath who made the play of his career to send the US home with a 3-2 victory.
This victory for the United States marked a changing of the guard, as plenty of new faces showed up big across the entire CONCACAF run. The title win for the United States makes for the first ever CONCACAF Nations Cup victory for any country and sets up nicely for a run at the upcoming Gold Cup. If the future of US soccer resides in the hands of players like Horvath, Pulisic and Reyna, the US finds themselves in good shape for a Golden Age in the program’s history.