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U.S. Men’s National Team Wins CONCACAF Nations League

June 8, 2021
USMNT Winners

The success for the U.S. Men’s National Team has been few and far between, especially when you compare them to the women of American soccer, who are the world’s best team. However, Sunday night in Denver, the much-maligned USMNT got a win for the ages.

Following the embarrassment of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the continued growth of Mexican soccer on the world stage, the U.S.-Mexico rivalry was losing its luster. The U.S. wasn’t even in the World Cup, while Mexico was going to the Round of 16 for the seventh straight time.

But in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League Final, a tournament postponed a year because of COVID-19, the Americans won 3-2 in extra time, recorded their first competitive victory over Mexico since 2013, and won their first trophy in almost four years.

A Wild Night in Denver

The crowd at Empower Field in Denver was typical for the U.S.-Mexico rivalry. It was loud and raucous. At times it crossed the line (there were several match stoppages due to homophobic chants), projectiles were thrown from the stands (American Gio Reyna was struck in the face). As a result, Mexico’s coach, Tata Martino, got a red card.

Luckily the spectacle in the stands was overshadowed by the incredible play on the pitch, with the U.S. twice coming from behind to force extra time, getting a late penalty kick from Christian Pulisic to take the lead (114th minute), and getting an incredible save by Ethan Horvath on a Mexico penalty kick (124th minute) to preserve the win.

Being the match hero was extra special for Horvath, who is from nearby Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and had 21 friends and family in attendance, even though he wasn’t expecting to play.

Up Next for USMNT

The American men will play a friendly against Costa Rica this week and then take the next month off as they prepare for the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Group play for the USMNT will begin on July 11 in Kansas City.

The U.S. is in Group B with Canada, Martinique, and a qualifier yet to be determined. The success of the USMNT did give them a short-term boost on the odds board, moving from +12500 odds to win the 2022 World Cup down to +6500.

Patrick Cantlay Wins Controversial Memorial

It’s always a shame when one player’s accomplishments are overshadowed by controversy. And to be sure, Patrick Cantlay’s win at the Memorial this weekend was no fluke. He was the winner in Muirfield two years ago, and much of the scene – the crowd in attendance, the winner’s handshake with Jack Nicklaus – felt normal.

But even though Cantlay is a deserving winner, after outlasting Collin Morikawa in a playoff, the pandemic was ever-present in the person who wasn’t allowed to compete in the final round despite leading the field by six strokes.

Jon Rahm was your clubhouse leader after 54 holes and was doing it in record-tying fashion. He was 18-under par and leaving little doubt as to who was the best golfer on the course. But as Rahm finished his round on Saturday, he was told that his COVID test had come back positive, and he was no longer eligible to play in the fourth round.

“Such a weird situation and so unfortunate because – me included – everyone knows it would have been a totally different day had that not happened,” Cantlay said. “But there’s nothing I could do about it.”

“We’re all devastated,” said Jack Nicklaus. “I wish we could figure out how to give Jon three-fourths of the trophy.”

The PGA Tour’s COVID Policies

Rahm had been in the PGA Tour’s contact tracing program because he was deemed to have been in contact with a person who had tested positive on Monday before the tournament. That meant that he was subject to daily testing, which had all come back negative until Saturday’s test.

The PGA’s program of contact tracing and close monitoring has worked. There hadn’t been a positive test during a tournament since Branden Grace tested positive after 36 holes at the Barracuda Championship 10 months ago.

Rahm’s positive test was confirmed at 6:05pm as he was walking up the 18th fairway. As he left the 18th green, he was met by the PGA’s medical director Dr. Tom Hospel, who broke the bad news.

Rahm is asymptomatic and currently in isolation, as per the CDC’s recommendations.