Summertime internationals can range from the complete meaninglessness of random exhibitions, through the pseudo-competitiveness of glorified friendlies in the UEFA Nations League or the massively mismatched European Championships qualifying group stage games, all the way to the blood-and-thunder of a USA versus Mexico CONCACAF Nations League semifinal in Las Vegas.
Three goals, four red cards, one referee floundering well in over his head — CONCACAF! — ... and Christian Pulisic scoring a brace on an absolutely embarrassing night in every respect for Mexico and their fans, and an impressively dominant 3-0 performance from the young Stars and Stripes, who have certainly flipped the balance of power in North America over the past few years. El Tri haven’t beaten their northern neighbors since 2019 and have now gone over 360 competitive minutes without even a goal.
A couple early forays forward from Mexico aside, it was all USA all the time, and while Pulisic did have a shocking miss from point-blank range after dancing through the defense, he quickly made up for it with a goal either side of the half-time break. First, he opportunistically nipped in to snatch up a loose ball and squeeze a left-footed shot between defender and goalkeeper and inside the far post, and then, just seconds into the second half, he outpaced his marker to slide in and finish off the jet-heeled Timmy Weah’s perfect cross from the right.
The match then descended into a bit of the old ultra-violence, and crowned off by yet more homophobic chanting from the pro-Mexico crowd, before the referee regained some measure of control and sense after the preceding 20 minutes of non-footballing madness by blowing the full-time whistle well before the minimum 12 minutes (!?) of added-on time were gone.
Anyway, some fun highlights, and plenty of lowlights on another banner night for CONCACAF.
Earlier in the day, and a bit lower down on the aforementioned competitiveness scale, Spain beat Italy in the semifinals of the UEFA Nations League in slightly less dramatic circumstances, with Joselu scoring the winner in the 88th minute. Yes, that sounds dramatic, until you CONCACAF it.
Kepa Arrizabalaga played backup and sat on the bench for Spain. Ex-Chelsea Vice captain Jorginho played the first hour for Italy. Spain will face Croatia in Sunday’s final.
And even earlier in the day and even lower down the competitiveness scale, Argentina beat Australia, 2-0 in a random friendly in Beijing, China. Enzo Fernández played most of the game and collected the assist credit on Lionel Messi’s second-minute goal: curled into the top corner casually, as you would.