With a chaotic extra-time ending that included a penalty kick from Christian Pulisic and a penalty save from substitute goalie Ethan Horvath, the United States defeated Mexico 3-2 to win the first CONCACAF Nations League.
The United States defeated Mexico 3-2 in extra time to win the first CONCACAF Nations League on Sunday, with Christian Pulisic scoring a penalty and replacement goalie Ethan Horvath saving a penalty save. The US battled back from a 1-0 deficit then a 2-1 deficit to force extra time in front of a loud crowd at Empower Field. Following normal time ended with a 2-2 tie, Chelsea attacker Pulisic put the United States ahead for the first time in the 114th minute when he converted a penalty granted after a VAR review.
Andres Guardado’s penalty effort, which was granted after VAR determined a handball by Mark McKenzie in the penalty area, was pushed away by Horvath six minutes later.
By that time, Mexico’s Argentinian coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino had been dismissed, allegedly for throwing an arm over Panamanian referee John Pitti as he reviewed the footage of Carlos Salcedo’s foul that sent Pulisic down in the box.
Fans in Mexico pelted the pitch with debris after the penalty was awarded.
Mexico had gotten off to a fast start, taking a 1-0 lead via Jesus Corona in the second minute.
In the 27th minute, Gio Reyna equalised for the US, only minutes after Mexico believed they had gone up 2-0 on a header by Hector Moreno but was disallowed due to a hair offside on VAR review.
That set the situation for Reyna, an 18-year-old midfielder for Borussia Dortmund, to score the rebound after Weston McKennie’s header from a Pulisic corner kick hit the post.
In the 79th minute, second-half replacement Diego Lainez restored Mexico’s advantage, sliding a shot past Horvath, who had entered the game in the 67th minute when Steffen left with an apparent leg injury.
McKennie slipped a header past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and into the side net to bring the US level once more.
After normal time and the first period of extra time, the two teams were still tied.
Pulisic then fell down in the area after being pressured by two Mexican defenders, fresh off Chelsea’s Champions League victory.
Pitti initially refused to give the spot kick, but after a prolonged review period during which tensions on the ground and in the spectators grew, he changed his mind.
Pulisic took two strides forward and rifled the ball into the top corner beyond Ochoa.
Guardado, playing in his 116th international, took it confidently as another VAR review confirmed McKenzie’s handball, but Horvath dove to his right for the stunning save.
Horvath told a television journalist, “I’m kind of dumbfounded to be honest.”
“As a goalie, you don’t expect to come in the game if you’re on the bench,” he continued. “It’s simply a jumble of feelings. In my hometown of Denver, it’s a memorable occasion for me.”
The United States defeated Mexico in the CONCACAF tournament final for the first time since the 2007 Gold Cup.