Good morning everyone! Hope you enjoyed your weekend.
Ever since fans vacated stadiums around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a feeling that some rivalries have lost their edge. Without thousands of fans in the stands screaming at each other, it can be hard for players on the pitch to match the level of animosity that would be expressed by their supporters.
Luckily for anyone who happened to watch last night’s CONCACAF Nations League final between Mexico and the United States, there were thousands of American and Mexican fans in the seats of the Empower Stadium in Denver cheering every tackle and every goal, and the mood whipped the players on the pitch into a frenzy. The players of the USMNT and El Tri already hate each other's guts, so with their respective fanbases at their backs, the hatred was on full display. Every overly-aggressive tackle would result in a crowd and shoving match. There were high studs galore and even a minor choke attempt. The fans in the crowd took it too far sometimes, pelting several players, including Gio Reyna, with soda cups. The referee also had to stop the match at one point due to homophobic chants coming from the crowd.
But besides from all that, the game was amazing. It started out when Weston McKennie gifted a goal to Mexico’s Jesus Corona in the very first minute of the game.
But then, BVB’s own Gio Reyna found the back of the net. After a header from Weston McKennie off a corner delivery struck the post, the ball bounced straight into an opportunistic Gio Reyna, who slotted the shot home.
The game would go back and forth for a while, with both sides scoring again only minutes apart in the second half to force extra time. By this point in the game, about 50% of the play involved post-whistle shoving matches and players getting in each other’s faces. It was amazing to watch, something that I imagine was reminiscent of the golden age of the USMNT-Mexico rivalry in the 1990s.
Of course, any great match needs a dramatic ending, and boy did we have one last night. Christian Pulisic was knocked down in the box in extra time, and after a lengthy VAR review, the referee pointed to the spot. Christian Pulisic stepped up to the spot and smashed the ball into the top corner, and ripped his shirt off in celebration.
Here’s the perfect Christian Pulisic penalty kick goal to beat Mexico. Hopefully many more wins over Mexico to come for this group. pic.twitter.com/mDrBXfrw9m— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) June 7, 2021
The celebration seemed premature given the amount of extra time remaining, and it looked like it might come back to bite Pulisic in the back, when Mexico was awarded a penalty on a handball. This moment allowed an unlikely hero to step up: the USMNT’s backup keeper Ethan Horvath. The same goalkeeper that rode the bench while BVB brushed aside Club Brugge had potentially the biggest moment of his life when he saved the spot kick from Andres Guardado.
With club football ending and the EUROs not starting for another week, it was nice to have an exciting game of football, at night no less. I didn’t even know that the CONCACAF Nations League was a thing until about two weeks ago, but I found myself absolutely enthralled with last night’s game. In a time when a lot of high-end football matches, like the Champions League, seem sterile, international football can still bring all the heat of an historic rivalry.
The Daily Buzz
Did you watch last night’s game? What was your reaction?