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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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THE GAZ STATION • Sports by Gary Jordan

Ugly Scenes Ruin USMNT Win. NBA Playoffs Race On

Published on June 9, 2021

USMNT The US Men’s National Soccer Team, with Christian Pulisic holding the trophy, after winning the CONCACAF Nations League 2021. PHOTO: US SOCCER

The USMNT scored a breakthrough win in the CONCACAF Nations League Final this past weekend, beating fierce rivals Mexico 3-2 after extra time. It was a game full of drama but will sadly be remembered for the wrong reasons as there were nasty confrontations on the pitch, and some sections of the crowd were heard chanting homophobic slurs.

The game, held at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, hinged eventually on two penalty kicks deep into the extra periods of play. Chelsea FC’s Christian Pulisic converted his spot kick in the 114th minute, which was the eventual game winner. This was backed up when US goalkeeper Ethan Horvath saved Andres Gaurdado’s spot kick ten minutes later.

The game started with a defensive mix up allowing Mexico to take the lead in the opening minute. Halfway through the first half it appeared to get worse but after a video review Mexico had a second goal ruled out. Soon after, the US team got onto the scoresheet when Giovanni Reyna struck home from close range following a corner kick. Mexico regained the lead with just over ten minutes to play, only for Weston McKennie to equalise just three minutes later to take the game into extra time.

After Pulisic scored his penalty, objects were thrown from the crowd towards where the players were celebrating, and Reyna was struck and had to leave the game. Following a lengthy stoppage in play for this incident, the game was again halted as the players pleaded with fans to stop the homophobic chants. The protocol instructs that the crowd are warned using the stadium PA system, which was done in the half time break, followed by the referee being able to stop play, which happened, “While the night showcased Denver as a world-class soccer destination and Empower Field at Mile High as a premiere sports and entertainment venue, the actions of a few patrons unfortunately took away from a memorable event,” stadium management said in a statement after the game. “The person arrested for throwing an object on the field was identified through security footage as being responsible for injuring a US player. Along with facing criminal charges, this patron will be banned from all future events at Empower Field at Mile High.”

Back to football matters and the US team manager Gregg Berhalter, was happy with his side’s performance and attitude in the testing environment, “Each and every game unfolds in a different way, and today I think is going to go down as one of those classic games. We are a young side, and we need to learn how to win. It’s also about the fight and spirit, they really showed the heart of champions.” But with thoughts turning to the ugly scenes toward the end of the game, “Total lack of respect for what’s happening on the field and all effort that both teams are putting into the game. I think he [Reyna] is going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse.”

NBA Playoffs

The National Basketball Association playoffs continue this week at a pace, and we are now into the second round with only one of the opening series of games going against the seedings, and the current champions exiting the competition. The four seed in the East, New York Knicks thrilled their home crowd with a rare playoff win but eventually were overpowered 4-1 by the fifth seed Atlanta Hawks in the only upset. Last years winners, Los Angeles Lakers lost their crown, but their series against the Phoenix Suns was a hugely compelling one, which the two seed Suns won 4-2. The same series score saw Denver Nuggets knock out the Portland Trail Blazers. There was only whitewash, with Milwaukee Bucks sweeping the Miami Heat, and at the other end of the scale there was only one series which went the distance as the Los Angeles Clippers edged out the Dallas Mavericks, 4-3.

The second round has some huge matchups, none more so than the Bucks facing off against the high scoring Brooklyn Nets, and already the Nets have opened a 2-0 lead, after winning their opening two home games. The other game in the East second round sees the Hawks trying to cause another upset when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers: the Hawks jumped out to an incredible lead before holding off a late rally to take the opening game. In the West, the number one seed Utah Jazz take on the Clippers, while the Suns won their opening salvo against the Clippers.

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