Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mexican sports roundup: Disappointment for El Tri and Checo Pérez, while CDMX Diablos Rojos triumph over Yankees

Though the vast majority of the 59,471 fans at the game were in their corner on Sunday night, the players on the Mexican men’s national team were unable to stop the United States from achieving a three-peat.

Team USA took down Mexico 2-0 for its third straight championship in the Concacaf Nations League — a competition for teams in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Mexico entered the final at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on a high, a 3-0 win over Panama in the semifinals on Thursday, but the match against the U.S. turned out to be more of the same.

In its last seven contests against the U.S., Mexico has zero wins, five losses and two ties, a winless streak that dates back to Mexico’s 1-0 victory in the Gold Cup final in September 2019.

Mexico leads all-time with 36 wins, 17 draws and 24 losses, but the U.S. has a 19-8-9 edge since 2000.

Team USA entered the game ranked 13th and Mexico was 15th in the FIFA world rankings, but the difference looked a bit more pronounced. The U.S. outplayed Mexico, had better offensive bursts and continually denied Mexico good scoring opportunities.

U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna makes a run for the ball
U.S. midfielder Gio Reyna makes a run for the ball during the Nations League final on Sunday. (Concacaf)

A booming goal from more than 30 meters out by Tyler Adams in the 45th minute of the first half propelled the U.S. to the win. Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa dove perhaps a millisecond too late and the surprising, curling blast just eluded his right hand. Eighteen minutes into the second half, the U.S. added another goal by Gio Reyna.

Mexico didn’t play terribly for head coach Jaime Lozano, and though his job appears to be safe — never a certainty after Mexico loses a big game — Claro Sports after the game was quick to post the headline “Should Jimmy Lozano continue leading the Mexican team?”

Late in the second half, the match was suspended twice by Canadian referee Drew Fischer because of homophobic chants from the crowd. He stopped play in the 88th minute, restarted it, then halted it eight minutes later; play restarted 90 seconds after that and the game ended.

Last year, a Nations League semifinal in Las Vegas was halted four minutes early because of “puto” chants from Mexican fans, who for years have yelled the slur when the opposing team takes a goal kick.

The North America, Central America and Caribbean Football Association (Concacaf) issued a statement after the game saying that it “condemns the discriminatory chanting” and that “security staff in the stadium identified and ejected a significant number of fans.” It noted that its “What’s Wrong Is Wrong campaign,” launched in 2021, has “consistently urged fans to cease the chant, with regular digital communications and significant in-stadium messaging before and during all Concacaf events.

“It is extremely disappointing that this matter continues to be an issue at some matches, particularly in the context of the next two years presenting such a tremendous opportunity to grow the sport in our region,” Concacaf said.

Mexico, the United States and Canada are set to jointly host the 2026 World Cup.

A Mexican fan displays a large Mexican flag in the soccer stadium
Though the Nations League finals took place in the U.S., most attendees came out for Mexico’s El Tri. (Selección Nacional/X)

Next up for Mexico will be Copa America, an intense competition involving men’s national teams from South America and the top six finishers in the Nations League. The tournament will be held June 20 to July 14 in the United States.

New York Yankees visit Mexico City

An enthusiastic crowd of 20,735 packed Mexico City’s Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium to watch the visiting New York Yankees play the Mexico City Diablos Rojos in a spring training game on Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees, who left most of their star players back in Florida for an additional exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, were defeated 4-3 in the contest, the Yankees’ first in Mexico City since the days of Mickey Mantle in 1968.

The two teams will play a second and final game on Monday at 6 p.m.

Tickets for both games sold out a month ago in less than an hour, and for Sunday’s game, prices in the resale market ranged from US $130 in the bleachers to US $2,000 behind home plate.

A drone shot of a full stadium
It was a full house at Harp Stadium on Sunday afternoon, as fans packed in to see the Diablos Rojos face off against the Yankees. (Diablos Rojos/X)

“To me the price is reasonable,” said Armando Arce, a 45-year-businessman who bought a $250 ticket for Sunday’s game. “It’s not every day that you can watch your two favorite teams playing against each other.”

Both teams will open their regular seasons soon, the Yankees on Thursday at Houston, and Mexico City on April 11 at Puebla in the Mexican League (LMB).

Major League Baseball (MLB) will return to Harp Helú Stadium on April 27 and 28 for two regular-season games between the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies.

Last year, the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres met in Mexico City for a pair of regular-season games, with the Padres winning both, 16-11 and 6-4 before a combined attendance of over 39,000.

‘Checo’ Pérez places fifth in Australia

When his teammate, three-time defending world champion Max Verstappen, had to leave Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix on Sunday after sustaining a fiery mechanical failure on lap four, Sergio “Checo” Pérez of Mexico seemed to have a golden opportunity.

Checo Pérez's teammate Max Verstappen led the first lap but was quickly sidelined by engine problems
Checo Pérez’s teammate Max Verstappen led the first lap but was quickly sidelined by engine problems. (Formula 1/X)

The practically unbeatable Verstappen had won nine races in a row, and 19 of his last 20, and Pérez hadn’t won in a long 11 months.

However, the 34-year-old Guadalajara native finished in fifth place after starting the race in Melbourne from sixth on the grid.

Afterward, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained that Pérez’s car suffered slight damage from Verstappen’s mishap, which hindered his efforts to pass other drivers.

Not seeing Red Bull on the podium was a rarity. Verstappen had won the first two races of the 2024 season, and Perez was second in both, in the Bahrain and Saudi Arabian grands prix.

The Melbourne winner was Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz followed by teammate Charles Leclerc, giving Ferrari its first 1-2 result since the start of the 2022 season. McLaren’s Lando Norris was third.

With reports from Marca, Fox Sports, Goal, ESPN, AP and Diario AS

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