U.S. Soccer Team Thrashes Mexico in Grudge Match in Las Vegas

U.S. Soccer Team Thrashes Mexico in Grudge Match in Las Vegas

In the first significant match for either team since the World Cup, the United States soccer team dominated a reeling Mexico, 3-0, in the semifinals of a regional championship tournament on Thursday night in Las Vegas. The victory, on the strength of two goals from the American star Christian Pulisic and another from forward Ricardo Pepi, sent the United States to the final of the tournament, the Concacaf Nations League. The Americans won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2021.

The game was ugly on the field — four red cards, shoving, a torn jersey, a bloody nose — and off it. The referee Iván Barton ended the game in the eighth minute of added time, rather than play the full 12 minutes that had been announced, because of a second instance of homophobic chanting from the crowd.

Mexico’s soccer federation, its players and officials from Concacaf, the soccer confederation for North and Central America and the Caribbean, have made many efforts over the years to encourage fans to stop shouting the homophobic slur during games. Mexico has been fined more than a dozen times in a failed effort to stamp out homophobic abuse, which remains a feature of games in Central and South America. Several years ago, Mexico even enlisted its star players to try to persuade fans to stop using it.

But as Mexico, which struggled in last year’s World Cup, played poorly again, fans became increasingly restless and chanted the word during a contentious second half. Barton stopped play for the first time in the 90th minute amid the chanting, and Concacaf public service announcements were shown throughout the stadium encouraging fans to stop. When it happened again minutes later, he followed the tournament organizers’ protocol and blew the final whistle to end the lopsided match.

“I want to make it very clear,” the United States interim coach B.J. Callaghan told reporters afterward, “it has no place in the game.”

The United States will play Canada in the Nations League final on Sunday night in Las Vegas. Canada defeated Panama, 2-0, in the other semifinal on Thursday behind goals from Jonathan David and Alphonso Davies.

But because of the red cards from the Mexico match, the United States will be without two key players. Midfielder Weston McKennie and defender Sergiño Dest were sent off for pushing Mexican players during testy moments.

McKennie was sent off in the 70th minute after a foul on Folarin Balogun sparked a fight. McKennie had his shirt ripped in the fracas.

In the 86th minute, Gerardo Arteaga and Dest were both issued red cards after exchanging shoves following a tough challenge near the sideline.

Blowing past the Mexican defense most of the game, Pulisic scored his first goal in the 37th minute, collecting a rebound near the top of the penalty area and then dribbling and firing a left-footed shot past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Less than two minutes into the second half, Pulisic doubled the lead by firing home a perfectly placed cross from Tim Weah.

Pepi made it 3-0 after coolly turning in a low shot after a brilliant individual effort from Dest, who had carved through the Mexican defense and then threaded a through pass to Pepi.

The loss, Mexico’s most lopsided defeat against the United States in 23 years, has the team’s new coach, Diego Cocca, in the hot seat already. Cocca took the job in February, after Mexico’s streak of advancing to the knockout stage in the World Cup ended. But only months into the job, he is already facing questions about his future: One Mexican reporter asked him if he planned to resign after Thursday’s loss.

“I dream about a process of three and a half years, not four months,” Cocca told reporters in Spanish after the game.

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