Step aside, Mexico. The battle for Concacaf supremacy is taking place this weekend and you are not invited.
Team USA throttled an overmatched Mexico side 3-0 to advance to a Nations League final against Canada, a 2-0 winner over Panama in the other semifinal.
Right from the outset, the United States flashed the speed and dynamic playmaking that would give Mexico fits throughout the match.
An ill-advised Edson Álvarez back pass in minute 37 led directly to a Christian Pulisic goal and the U.S. captain finished off a brilliant fast break just a minute into the second half to put a stranglehold on the game.
Mexico frustration grows as game slips away
After taking the 2-0 lead, Team USA dropped back and allowed Mexico to hold possession, but Diego Cocca’s men could not find any holes in the defense and showed little creativity when reaching the offensive third.
El Tri had few ideas and Cocca’s tactical alignment – to say nothing of his line-up choices – was proving to have been a mistake. There was little connection with the three-man front line and the fall-back plan of lofting long balls was ineffective.
Mexico’s frustration boiled over in minute 69. Defender César Montes made a move through midfield and found little help. He continued his dribble until Folarin Balogun stripped him and Montes responded by kicking him from behind.
Four Americans immediately charged at Montes, knocking him around as his teammates rushed to his aid. Ref Iván Barton immediately showed Montes a red card as tempers cooled.
Before restarting the game, Barton was informed by VAR that U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie had committed a red card offense (delivering a blow to Montes) and he was sent to the locker room.
It wasn’t long before Team USA put the final nail in the coffin.
In minute 78, U.S. fullback Sergiño Dest made a mazy run down the right flank before slipping a perfectly weighted pass into the box for Ricardo Pepi who got behind his marker. Pepi rounded Guillermo Ochoa and slotted home.
The Americans had to wait for VAR to confirm the goal after the linesman incorrectly raised his flag for offside. It was 3-0 and Mexico had yet to register a shot on goal.
One final skirmish and the reappearance of ugly chants
In minute 85, Álvarez and Gerardo Arteaga trapped Dest along the sideline and muscled him off the ball. Dest objected to the physicality and shoved Álvarez who ignored the jostling and prepared for a throw-in. Arteaga responded with a two-handed push, prompting Dest to answer with contact to the head.
While the melee was breaking up, ref Barton brandished his red card again, sending Arteaga and Dest to the showers.
Shortly thereafter, the frustrated El Tri fans in the stands – those who had not already trudged out of Allegiant Stadium – started jeering. When U.S. goalie Matt Turner took a free kick in minute 89, the fans let loose with the disgusting “Puto! Chant. Ref Barton blew the whistle and implemented the FIFA protocol regarding discriminatory chants.
All the players and officials gathered in the midfield circle while the PA announcer scolded the offending members of the crowd.
Play resumed with 12 minutes of extra time added, but after fans continued with the offensive chant, ref Barton blew the whistle and ended the match with 5 minutes of stoppage time remaining.
Mexico is now consigned to a third-place match against Panama on Sunday while the U.S. must face Canada without two starters (McKennie and Dest will miss the match) to determine who is King of Concacaf.
Team USA won the inaugural Nations League tournament in 2020 while Canada finished atop the Concacaf World Cup qualifying table so the winner on Sunday will have regional bragging rights.