U.S. men’s soccer is back, and while their Sunday victory over the Mexican national team in the CONCACAF Nations League final signaled their apparent resurgence on the national stage, it was the contentious nature of the match — both from fans and players — that dominated the conversation afterwards.
Christian Pulisic’s penalty kick in extra time won the match 3-2 for the Americans before backup goalie Ethan Horvath’s incredible penalty save off of a hand-ball.
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 7, 2021
“For this group, it’s really important,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said after the win. “We’re a young side and we need to learn how to win. These games are very difficult, and for us it was about having a game plan and executing the game plan, but then it’s also about the fight in the spirit.”
It was the first competitive victory for the U.S. men’s team over Mexico since 2013, and the match between the two rivals was far from friendly, with shoving matches between players, flying projectiles from the stands, and homophobic slurs hurled at American players.
Mexico’s fans threw bottles at US players all night, injuring one of our best players with a bottle to the head, forced the game to be stopped because of their homophobic chants, & I bet it gets less attention from woke sports media than Westbrook getting popcorn poured on him.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) June 7, 2021
Following Pulisic’s game-winner, the USMNT team were pelted with debris — including beer cans and water bottles — and USMNT player Giovanni Reyna was struck in the head by a flying object.
Reyna hit in the head, throwing stuff at the players is BS pic.twitter.com/pIRo7JMrhP
— Vikings Blogger (@firstandskol) June 7, 2021
Thankfully, Reyna was able to return to the pitch for the trophy ceremony.
“Total lack of respect for what’s happening on the field and all effort that both teams are putting into the game,” Berhalter said. “I think he’s going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse.”
Near the end of the match, a homophobic Spanish chant from the stands reportedly grew so loud that the referees had to stop play for three minutes until the chanting stopped, as part of CONCACAF’s anti-discrimination policy.
The use of the Spanish word at Mexican soccer games goes back years, and FIFA does have a three-step procedure to deal with the chant in its tournaments.
According to The Washington Post, the first step is to halt the match, the second is to send players to the locker room, and the third is to call the game.
“Our aim is to educate and inform fans that even if their intention is not to offend, this chant does offend many people and has no place in the game,” Victor Montagliani, Concacaf’s president and a FIFA vice president, said in a statement. “The Mexican Football Federation have themselves made it very clear that they want their fans to cease this chant and leave it in the past.”
The USMNT victory is a major step forward for a program that has drastically underperformed in recent years. The U.S. men’s national team did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup after losing to Trinidad and Tobago in qualifying, and head coach Bruce Arena resigned following the loss.
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