USMNT-Mexico Nations League final halted for anti-gay chant, fans throwing objects

DENVER -- The CONCACAF Nations League final between the United States and Mexico was marred by unruly fan behavior that included objects thrown onto the field and a brief pause in the game because of fans using an anti-gay chant.

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The pause occurred during the final moments of the second half before the game went to extra time in the U.S. men's national team's 3-2 win. Referee John Pitti resumed the match at Denver's Empower Field at Mile High after three minutes as players on both sides pleaded with the crowd to stop using the chant.

After Christian Pulisic netted the would-be game winner off a penalty in the 114th minute and ran to the corner to celebrate with the rest of his teammates, Giovanni Reyna was hit in the face with an object as fans in the stands threw items such as cups and water bottles onto the field.

Reyna, who scored the USMNT's first goal in the first half, laid on the ground for several minutes before walking off the field with trainers.

Minutes later, Mexico striker Henry Martin was also struck by a cup thrown from the stands during a stop in play. He remained in the game.

As the game neared its conclusion, a fan ran onto the field before being tackled and escorted off the field by security personnel.

Reyna later returned to the field following the match for the trophy presentation.

"Total lack of respect for what's happening on the field and all effort that both teams are putting into the game," U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. "I think [Reyna] is going to be OK, but he did take something to the head, and it could have been a lot worse.''

The controversial chant is used by some fans at Mexico national team and Liga MX games -- as well as in other Latin American countries -- and is aimed towards opposition goalkeepers as they are running up to take goal kicks.

CONCACAF's protocol on the chant calls for a warning by the public announcer, which occurred near half-time of Sunday's final. The second step of the protocol allows for the referee to pause the game. Should the chant continue to be used, the protocol's third step allows the referee send the players to the locker rooms, and can also call for the match to be abandoned.

Stadium officials said on Monday that five arrests were made and they had identified the individual who had thrown the projectile that hit Reyna.

"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 addition to ejecting several individuals for violating the fan code of conduct, our security staff worked closely with the Denver Police Department to identify five people who were arrested -- four for trespassing and one for throwing projectiles.

"The person arrested for throwing an object on the field was identified through security footage as being responsible for injuring a U.S. player. Along with facing criminal charges, this patron will be banned from all future events at Empower Field at Mile High."

Mexico's soccer federation also released a statement on Monday condemning the behavior, urging fans "to avoid the discriminatory chant, our biggest opponent, that can result in our team losing a match, and even keep us from playing in the World Cup."

This was the second match at the tournament to be halted due to the anti-gay chant. Mexico's semifinal win over Costa Rica on Thursday was also briefly paused. That match also saw several fans ejected from the stadium.

Mexico has struggled throughout the years with stopping supporters from making anti-gay chants. In March, FIFA opened an investigation into anti-gay chanting by Mexico supporters during an Olympic qualifier against the Dominican Republic.