USMNT survives ugly scenes vs. Mexico to face Canada in Nations League final
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Four players were ejected and the match was cut short by the referee after repeated homophobic chants Thursday night.
The United States' 3-0 victory over Mexico for a spot Sunday in the CONCACAF Nations League final against Canada will be remembered as much for the ugliness as for two goals by Christian Pulisic and one by Ricardo Pepi.
Americans Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest were ejected by Salvadoran referee Ivan Barton along with Mexicans Cesar Montes and Gerardo Arteaga during the testy second half.
"These are rivalry games. These are derby games. Things like this happen across the world and in no way am I embarrassed," B.J. Callaghan said after his first game as U.S. interim coach. "It comes from a good place. They care about each other so much in that locker room that they're standing up for each other. Sometimes does it have an issue where we take a red card? Yeah, but when you know where it comes from, you can accept it and it's a learning lesson for us."
Play was halted in the 90th minute because of homophobic chants. When action resumed, 12 minutes of stoppage time were signaled but resumed chants caused Barton to end the match in the eighth minute added minute.
FIFA fined Mexico 100,000 Swiss francs ($108,000) in January for anti-gay chants by fans at two games,
"In terms of the chant, I want to make it very clear first and foremost, for our beliefs and our culture, it has no place in the game," Callaghan said. "It has no place in our value system."
McKennie and Dest are suspended for the final. Luca de la Torre and Joe Scally are possible replacements.
"It's definitely a blow," Tim Weah said. "It comes with the game. I know the red cards are definitely a bummer, but it happens. Aggressive match tonight."
Striker Folarin Balogun made his debut after the 21-year-old decided to play for the U.S. over England and Nigeria.
"The boys told me it was going to be intense, but I'm definitely still shocked by the events," said Balogun, who at one point was shoved to the field. "I was just on the floor because I was in pain, but when I looked up I just saw so many people around and I knew my teammates were just trying to defend me."
Making his first start for club or country since April 15, Pulisic put the U.S. ahead in the 37th minute and doubled the lead in the 46th. He has 25 goals in 59 international appearances, including four goals against Mexico. Pepi scored in the 79th, five minutes after replacing Bologun.
With its first three-goal victory over Mexico in 23 years, the U.S. stretched its unbeaten streak against El Tri to six (three wins, three draws), matching the Americans' longest, from 2011-15.
The U.S. went ahead when Gio Reyna poked the ball off Montes and then while prone, poked it forward off Jorge Sanchez. Pulisic burst behind the defenders, took a pair of touches and from the edge of the 6-yard box slotted the ball past goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
McKennie started the move toward the second goal with a long pass down a flank to Weah, who crossed. A sprinting Pulisic got behind Israel Reyes and Sanchez, stabbing the ball in with his left foot from 6 yards,
Montes was given a straight red card in the 69th for kicking Balogun while the two were challenging. McKennie was given a red card two minutes later for placing a hand on Sanchez's neck during the ensuing arguing and shoving.
Pepi scored his seventh international goal, receiving a pass from Dest, taking a touch and rounding Ochoa. Dest and Arteaga were sent off in the 86th for shoving each other.
"There was moments on both teams that we could have handled better," Callaghan said.
Notes: Reyna, his hair dyed blond, made his first start for club or country since March 27, also the last time Dest and goalkeeper Matt Turner had appeared in any match. ... Canada beat Panama 2-0 in the opener on goals by Jonathan David in the 25th and Alphonso Davies in the 69th. Mexico and Panama meet in the third-place match.
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