USMNT crushes Mexico 3-0 in Concacaf Nations League semifinal

Goals, red cards and brawls, the USMNT-Mexico semifinal was packed with drama


LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 15: Christian Pulisic #10 of the United States scores a goal while defended by Jorge Sánchez #19 of Mexico in the first half during the 2023 CONCACAF Nations League Semifinal at Allegiant Stadium on June 15, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The gap between the U.S. men's national team and Mexico couldn't be any more evident than Thursday night.

The USMNT moved on to the Concacaf Nations League Final after crushing Mexico 3-0 in the semifinal in Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders.

Interim manager B.J. Callaghan went with a loaded 4-2-3-1 lineup that formally introduced young star forward Folarin Balogun as the nation's newest No. 9 while Diego Cocca went the usual 3-5-2 for Mexico in recent times.

But it was all USA from start to finish.

Christian Pulisic had the chance to open the scoring in the 23rd minute when he brilliantly rounded past goalie Guillermo Ochoa, but instead of laying it off to Balogun for the finish, his off-balance effort sailed over the bar.

He made amends for the brutal miss in the 37th minute, though. The 24-year-old got on the end of a loose ball inside the penalty box before slotting it past Ochoa towards the bottom right corner with his weaker left foot.

At the half, the U.S. logged seven shots with two on target to just two with none on target for Mexico. El Tri offered little in attack going forward and lost the 50/50 duels in the middle, with Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah working tirelessly.

It didn't take long after the break for the U.S. to make it 2-0. It took just a minute, to be exact. Matt Turner started the build up from his own net until it quickly made its way to Timothy Weah on the right wing. Weah delivered a well-timed cross that Pulisic connected with, sliding in on his left foot to arc it over Ochoa and into the net with power.

From there, the game completely boiled over. After Balogun chased down center back Cesar Montes to win the ball in the U.S. half, Montes kicked his leg out and took out Balogun's ankles, earning him a straight red card. Players from both sides got into it, with McKennie getting caught in a 1v5 scuffle. This was the result.

McKennie received a red card, too, despite not initiating any contact, so the game became 10-on-10.

Moments later, Ricardo Pepi, aka "El Tren," came off the bench and made it 3-0 over El Tri after Sergino Dest's brilliant run down the right flank.

About five minutes later, two more red cards were handed out. After Edson Alvarez kicked out at Dest near the right corner flag in Mexico's defensive third, Dest retaliated. Gerardo Arteaga then came in from behind and began hitting Dest on the head, which sparked another scuffle. Dest and Arteaga were sent off.

The game then got delayed in the 89th minute after loud discriminatory chants were made from Mexico fans. During the 12 minutes of stoppage time, the chants were made two more times, so the referee stopped the game in the 97th minute and called the final whistle.

Following Canada's 2-0 win over Panama earlier on Thursday, Mexico will now face Panama in the bronze-medal game on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

The U.S. and Canada will play for the Nations League title later in the day at 8 p.m. ET, though they will be without McKennie and Dest. The Stars and Stripes are defending champions, having beaten Mexico 3-2 in the final in the tournament's debut in 2019-20.

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