The United States Men’s National Soccer Team took on Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinals Thursday evening, but their 3-0 victory was bittersweet as the game saw a whopping four red cards and the ref was forced to end the game early due to an unruly crowd.

Four players were ejected in the match, including Americans Weston McKennie and Sergiño Dest and Mexicans César Montes and Gerardo Arteaga. Salvadoran referee Iván Barton also ended the game early after the crowd repeated homophobic chants.

“These are rivalry games. These are derby games. Things like this happen across the world and in no way am I embarrassed,” U.S. interim coach B.J. Callaghan said after the game, his first leading the team.

USMNT striker Folarin Balogun, a 21-year-old who made his debut for the squad, said he was “shocked” by the game: “The boys told me it was going to be intense, but I’m definitely still shocked by the events.”

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Folarin Balogun battling for the ball

Folarin Balogun of the United States (20) battles for the ball with Cesar Montes of Mexico during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

Goals for the U.S. were scored by Christian Pulisic, who had two, and Ricardo Pepi. Mexico had only one shot on goal in the contest.

Pulisic now has 25 goals in 59 international appearances, including four goals against Mexico. It was his first professional start for club or country since April 15.

The game’s second half grew particularly testy, with red cards handed out in the 69th minute, the 71st, and two in the 85th.

Two players vying for a ball

Giovanni Reyna of the United States (7) and Jorge Sanchez of Mexico battle for a header during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

In addition to the four red cards, a total of nine yellow cards were handed to players — four to the Americans and five to Mexico.

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The game was halted in the 90th, due to homophobic chants, before the ref resumed the action and signaled an additional 12 minutes of stoppage time.

Barton ended the match in the eighth added minute as the chants resumed.

Ref calling a foul

Uriel Antuna of Mexico reacts after missing a shot on goal against the United States during the second half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinals soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

With the win, the U.S. also extended its unbeaten streak against its southern neighbors to six (three wins, three draws), matching the Americans’ longest, from 2011-15.

The USMNT reached its 5th straight CONCACAF Nations League final. They will play against Canada, who defeated Panama 2-0.

Canada won their semifinal game despite having fewer shots on goal, fewer passes and possessing the ball less than their opponents. One red card was given in the game to Panama’s Eric Davis.

Callaghan said after the game that he disagreed with the contentious crowd.

“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,” the coach said. “It has no place in our value system.”

McKennie and Dest are suspended for the final.

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Tim Weah, a 23-year-old forward for the USMNT said their loss would be “definitely a blow.”

“It comes with the game. I know the red cards are definitely a bummer, but it happens,” he remarked. “Aggressive match tonight.”

Callaghan added: “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.”

Timothy Weah celebrating

United States’ Timothy Weah celebrates a goal by Christian Pulisic against Mexico during the second half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

Christian Pulisic celebrating

Christian Pulisic of the United States celebrates after scoring against Mexico during the first half of a CONCACAF Nations League semifinal soccer match Thursday, June 15, 2023, in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

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The CONCACAF Nations League finals will be played on June 18, at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Mexico and Panama will meet in the third-place match.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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