“Dos a cero” is no more as the United States men’s national team continued their dominance over regional rivals Mexico with a comfortable win in their Concacaf Nations League semifinal encounter in Las Vegas on Thursday night which was marred by four red cards and discriminatory chants.
There was concern coming into this game as the U.S. was still in search of a permanent head coach as their previous interim coach Anthony Hudson stepped down and B.J. Callaghan came in to replace him. However, the change did not affect the mood of the squad as they showed who is currently the top team in the region.
Callaghan started a mostly European-based starting eleven, with Miles Robinson being the only player from Major League Soccer to get the nod.
The Americans had an excellent chance to open the scoring after 23 minutes when the captain Christian Pulisic made a darting run down the left side of the field with the ball following a throw-in from Antonee Robinson. The winger had options in the box with Folarin Balogun and Tim Weah, but he took a shot as he rounded Mexican goalkeeper Memo Ochoa. However, his shot went over the bar.
The number 10 had another chance a couple of minutes later with a free-kick from outside the box, but his shot was easily grabbed by Ochoa.
After continued efforts to crack El Tri’s defense, the U.S. finally broke through in the 37th minute. Sergino Dest’s past found Weah, who flicked to Pulisic and got it back on the return pass. Gio Reyna would then try to feed the ball to Balogun, but he was tripped up, leaving Pulisic to pounce on the loose ball and strike past Ochoa for the lead.
It was more of the same early in the second half as the Chelsea man scored his second on the night. Weston McKennie’s deep pass released Weah on the right side and he was off to the races. The winger sent a perfect low cross into the path of a streaking Pulisic as steered his shot into the back of the net.
Down by two goals, Mexico became increasingly frustrated and started to lose their composure as they pushed, shoved, and hacked down U.S. players, forcing the referee to go to his pocket to show the yellow card.
Things became even more chippy in the 69th minute when Cesar Montes made a horrible tackle on Balogun sending the U.S. debutant to the ground writhing pain. That got the entire American side in fight mode as they squared up to their rivals ready to protect their forward. Montes was shown a red card along with McKennie as he was caught in a scuffle with several Mexican players near the sideline.
Both sides were down to 10 men, but the U.S. continued on the attack as they did not settle for the typical “dos a cero” scoreline. Ricardo Pepi would come off the bench to score the team’s third in the 78th minute when ran onto a through-ball from Dest before rounding Ochoa to slot the ball in the open net.
Things got testy again in the 85th minute when the referee showed red cards to both Dest and Gerado Artega as both got into a shoving match on the sideline.
However, the game was done and dusted as the referee blew the final whistle early in stoppage time due to Mexican supporters making discriminatory chants from the stands.
All in all, a total of four reds and nine yellows were handed out, but the three goals were all that mattered as the U.S. head to the final. That’s now six games unbeaten for the red, white, and blue against Mexico.
Up next, the Americans will face their foes to the north, Canada, on Sunday as they look to retain their Nations League title.