Christian Pulisic converted a penalty kick in the 114th minute, backup goalkeeper Ethan Horvath stopped Andres Guardado's penalty kick in the 124th and the United States overcame an early defensive blunder to beat Mexico 3-2 on Sunday night in a final of the first CONCACAF Nations League that turned on three video reviews.
In a testy match, Giovanni Reyna, who scored the first U.S. goal, left the field when it appeared to be hit on the face by an object thrown from the stands following Pulisic's goal.
The match was also halted for about three minutes during second-half stoppage time because of discriminatory chants at Empower Field in Denver.
"I'm so proud of this group, we needed everyone today and it was a phenomenal performance," Pulisic said after the match.
Panamanian referee John Pitti did not initially signal a penalty but consulted a video review and then pointed to the spot. Mexico coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino appeared to receive a red card for putting a hand on an official during the review and Hirving Lozano was given a yellow card for arguing after the decision.
Pulisic sent the ball to the upper corner past the left arm of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa for his 16th international goal.
Pitti again did not make a call in the 119th minute when Luis Romo's header went off the left arm of Mark McKenzie, whose arm was perhaps only slightly outstretched. However, the penalty was awarded to Mexico for what would have been a game-tying goal.
Horvath, who replaced injured starter Zack Steffen in the 69th minute, waited to the last moment and dived right to bat away the shot by Mexico captain Guardado and effectivly seal the win.
"Me and Zack have been on the national team since we've been 14-years-old together ... He just said everyone believes in me and just do me," Horvath said.
The U.S. had to survive an extended 11 minutes of stoppage time following the second extra period.
"Each and every game unfolds in a different way, and today I think is going to go down as one of the classic games [in the rivalry]," U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said.
"We're a young side and we need to learn how to win,'' Berhalter said. "It's also about the fight and spirit. .. They really showed the heart of champions.''
On Horvath's heroics, Berhalter said: "It's been a tough season for him, and to come have a performance like that in his hometown [of Denver] was the stuff that storybooks write about."
Martino did not speak to reporters following the match, but assistant coach Jorge Theiler said his side should played a great game.
"I think that Mexico had a good match, no doubt that our team should have won the side for what we did on the pitch, for the game we played. The 90 minutes should have gone for the Mexican side."
Guardado also expressed the sentiment that his side seemingly gifted the game away.
"I think we were superior in the game, their goals were from set pieces, its a concern for us....I leave content with our team's composure. We did what we could to win."
Jesus Corona put Mexico ahead 63 seconds in after a sloppy giveaway by Mark McKenzie, who made a poor pass in his own penalty area right into Corona's path, who dribbled in alone on Steffen and sent an angled shot over the goalkeeper's right shoulder for his ninth goal. It was the earliest goal conceded by the U.S. since at least 1990.
Mexico appeared to go up 2-0 in the 24th minute when Hector Herrera played a short corner kick to Lozano, who gave the ball back, and Hector Herrera made a long cross that unmarked Hector Moreno headed in. After a brief delay for the video review, the goal was disallowed for offside.
Moments later, Reyna scored his third international goal when Pulisic's corner kick was headed by Weston McKennie off the far post and bounded in front of the goal, where Reyna kicked it in from about 4 yards with his left foot. He followed his father, Claudio, who scored against Mexico in a 4-0 exhibition win at Washington, D.C., in June 1995.
Diego Lainez gave Mexico a 2-1 lead in the 79th, one minute after entering, when he cut inside from Tim Ream and beat Horvath. McKennie tied the score three minutes later with a header from Reyna's corner kick for his seventh goal, setting up the dramatic finale of the match.