PASADENA, Calif. — It was a dream start for the United States in the Gold Cup final on Saturday, but it quickly turned into a nightmare as Mexico battled back to win their second consecutive Gold Cup, 4-2 in front of a capacity crowd of 93,420 at the Rose Bowl.
The United States struck for two early goals in the first 25 minutes of play, but Mexico — led by attacker Giovani dos Santos — struck back for four unanswered goals to give the Mexicans the CONCACAF crown and a bid in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
The win gave Mexico their second consecutive Gold Cup championship and ninth CONCACAF title all-time.
The Americans broke their recent stigma as slow starters by striking first just eight minutes into the match after Freddy Adu fired in a cross off a corner kick that found Michael Bradley, who headed it past Alfredo Talavera for the early goal. Although the Americans were in high spirits, they were forced to make a change almost immediately as US right back Steve Cherundolo was removed in the 12th minute due to a left sprained ankle, which forced Jonathan Bornstein’s inclusion into the match.
The Americans struck again in the 22nd minute off a beautiful stretch when Adu once again provided the service, sending in a ball that caught a streaking Clint Dempsey who slipped it into Landon Donovan, who rounded Talavera to put the Americans up by two on their hated rivals. With the goal, Donovan became the Gold Cup's all-time leading scorer with 13 goals.
Mexico got on the board in the 29th minute when Javier “Chicharito” Hernández sent in a ball that found Mexican winger Pablo Barrera, who caught Bornstein flat-footed and fired a shot that was too much for US goalkeeper Tim Howard. After their initial goal, the Mexicans began to dominate the possession finding space to create chances and send in probing balls into the US back line.
El Tri found their equalizer by once again exploiting the Americans' left side of defense in the 36th minute when Giovani sent in a dangerous ball that found Guardado, who sent in a slow rolling ball that just barely crossed the goal line. It was through Bornstein’s post on the left side that the Mexicans were able to readily find space and where they would deliver their crushing blows.
Mexico took an early second-half lead after Barrera scored his second of the night following an impressive passing sequence, which once again was spearheaded by Giovani. The Tottenham-owned attacker found Barrera, who beat Howard with a bending shot to the far post. It took just 10 minutes after the Mexicans' goal for the Americans to nearly find their own equalizer when Clint Dempsey fired in a shot that rattled the cross bar after beating Talavera.
It was the closest the Yanks would come.
As the match wore on, tempers started to flair with both sides engaging in a physical battle that referee Joel Aguilar was happy to allow. Despite the physical play, the Mexicans continued to control the play down the left side of the Americans defense and eventually found their dagger.
Receiving the ball after a failed clearance by Carlos Bocanegra, Giovani danced into the area and was able to catch Howard out of position. After leaving the US 'keeper sprawling, he then skipped around the American defense and lofted a shot into the corner of the net that was out of reach for a leaping Eric Lichaj, giving El Tri their fourth goal and placing an exclamation point on their comeback.
The announced attendance of 93,420 was the largest for a Gold Cup game in the United States.
USA - Bradley (Adu), 8'
USA - Donovan (Dempsey), 23'
MEX - Barrera (Hernandez), 29'
MEX - Guardado, 36'
MEX - Barrera (Guardado), 50'
MEX - Dos Santos, 76'
USA - Donovan, 33'
MEX - Torres Nilo, 81'
USA - Dempsey, 87'
USA - Jones, 91'
USA - Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo (Jonathan Bornstein, 11), Clarence Goodson, Carlos Bocanegra, Eric Lichaj; Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya (Juan Agudelo, 63); Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu (Sacha Kljestan, 86)
Substitutes Not Used - Marcus Hahnemann, Jonathan Spector, Maurice Edu, Tim Ream
Mexico - Alfredo Talavera; Efraín Juárez, Héctor Moreno, Rafa Márquez (Héctor Reynoso, 42), Carlos Salcido (Jorge Torres Nilo, 27); Gerardo Torrado, Israel Castro, Andrés Guardado, Pablo Barrera (Jesús Zavala, 75); Giovani dos Santos, Javier Hernández
Substitutes Not Used - Jonathan Orozco, Aldo de Nigris, Ángel Reyna, Paul Aguilar
Referee: Joel Aguilar
Referee's Assistants: Hector Vergara, William Torres
4th Official: Walter López