Last night’s CONCACAF Nation’s League Final of USA vs Mexico was by no means pretty, as neither team was at the top of their games. At one point, the United States couldn’t string more than three passes together. However, none of that matters, because USA got the result they wanted — a thrilling 3-2 victory over Mexico at Mile High in Denver.
Last night’s match was incredible. We had Captain America, Christian Pulisic, who earned a penalty with only minutes remaining in the Final. One would think that was the crowning moment of the game, but oh no, lightning struck twice for the United States. Enter Ethan Horvath, the 25-year-old keeper, who was a reserve in last night’s match, but was forced into duty with an injury to the USA’s normal number one goalkeeper Zach Steffen. The first time he got a glimpse of the ball, it was rolling into the back of his own net, as Mexico took the lead with only minutes left.
Hometown Boy Becomes the Hero | USA vs Mexico
After the first half of extra time, the score was still deadlocked, 2-2. In the second half of extra time, Captain America, Christian Pulisic, drew a huge penalty after being cut off in the 18-yard box. Pulisic, who has been the face of American soccer for five years now, went top bins and gave the United States a 3-2 lead with only minutes remaining. The captain ripped off his shirt and went to the corner, shushing the Mexican fans. However, only two minutes later, Mexico was awarded their own penalty, after a handball in the box. For Horvath, the lengthy 6’4″ goalkeeper who plays his club ball in Germany, it was the biggest moment of his life. Andres Guardado, the Mexican captain, was ready to take the spot kick, and the rest is history.
USA Finds a Way to Win CONCACAF Nations League Final
United States coach Gregg Berhalter had to think the world was falling, as Mexico jumped out to an early lead. Only 70 seconds into the match, US defender Mark McKenzie gave the ball away to Mexico, and Jesus Corona capitalized by blasting home a goal. It was a nightmare start for the United States. Fans have seen this over and over again with the Men’s National Team. A couple minutes later, USA won a corner kick. Pulisic took the kick, and Weston McKennie got a head on it, but it hit the post. However, Gio Reyna was poaching there to knock the ball into the back of the net. The score remained 1-1 at the half.
The second half was very physical, and El Tri scored what looked like the winning goal in the 79th minute. Diego Lainez, who was subbed in seconds earlier, made a nice move and beat Horvath to his near post side. El Tri took the lead, and things looked bleak for the Americans.
Only minutes later in the 82nd minute, Reyna took a corner and the ball found Weston McKennie, who slotted home the headed goal. USA was back in the game. After 90 minutes, the score was still 2-2, so on to extra time we went. The first 15 minutes of extra time were pretty lackluster, with no real drama. However, in the second 15 minutes, Pulisic was taken to the ground in the box, and after checking with VAR, was awarded a penalty. With an incredible amount of pressure on him, Pulisic could not have cared less. The whistle blew, he struck the ball and boom, right into the back of the net. It was a perfect penalty. Unstoppable.
After the match, Pulisic had this to say about the penalty; “I just said I’d put it top pins!” The United States led Mexico with only minutes remaining.
Horvath Saves the Day, USA Lifts Trophy
After the Pulisic penalty, there couldn’t possibly be more drama in an already epic match, right? Wrong. The Mexicans were awarded a penalty of their own, after a handball in the box by the United States. Mexican skipper Andres Guardada stepped up the take the spot kick. He went to his left with the strike, but Horvath, who does have a huge frame, held strong and parried the shot away. It was incredible. Horvath is from Colorado and grew up in Denver. Hollywood could not have written this scripts. The hometown boy, forced into action by an injury, saves the day.
After a confusing amount of stoppage time, the final whistle blew, and the entire United States squad ran to pile on top of Ethan Horvath, who had to hold back tears of joy in the post-game ceremony. Overall, this was absolutely the most thrilling USA vs Mexico game I’ve ever seen played. After giving up the early goal, the United States could have conceded and just finished the game out. That’s not what these young players wanted. They have been the shining light in US soccer for a couple years, and they are the new generation of players.
Sergino Dest, Gio Reyna, Christian Pulisic, Steffen, Horvath and Weston McKennie showed that the United States is not the United States of five years ago. These guys are young, fast, exciting and they believed. This was a team win, and the first time the United States have beaten Mexico in a competitive match since 2007. With World Cup Qualifying right around the corner, it’s great to celebrate now, but make no mistake, this isn’t the USA of old, these guys mean business.