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Pulisic’s Controversial Extra Time Penalty Decides USMNT-Mexico Instant Classic

The Nations League final in Denver delivered much more than promised.

A sensational, helter skelter Concacaf Nations League final between the USMNT and Mexico in Denver, Colorado, was ultimately won 3-2 by the home nation after a 120-minute match that included sensational moments of play, godawful refereeing, raucous fan behavior, five goals and a backup goalkeeper making a decisive penalty save at the death. 

After pre-match talk that centered on the experience of this Mexico team compared with the youthful naivety of the U.S., maybe it wasn’t so surprising to see Mark McKenzie pass it straight to Jesús Corona for the game’s opening goal with only one minute on the clock.

Tecatito was a surprise inclusion in the starting lineup because of fitness concerns, but the Porto attacker is Tim Weah’s hero for a reason.  

We thought Héctor Moreno had given El Tri a 2-0 lead in the 24th minute, but VAR rightfully called it back for offside. Three minutes later, Weston McKennie struck the post with a header off a corner and Gio Reyna was there to bury the rebound.

The scoreline remained the same until the 79th minute, when Diego Lainez produced an individual moment of magic to give Mexico the lead (for three minutes).

But McKennie again levitated on a corner to equalize for the U.S. 

In added time, Christian Pulisic, who’d been enduring a difficult evening, earned and converted a penalty to put the U.S. up 3-2 with just 15 minutes to go. 

The call looked harsh on Mexico after looking at the replay, but the ref — as he’d done all game — called it poorly both ways. He gave El Tri a penalty in stoppage time, and Ethan Horvath, who’d replaced Zack Steffen in the 69th minute after the Manchester City keeper went down holding his leg, came up clutch.

It's the first Concacaf Nations League title for the USMNT, which is one more than any other nation.

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