U.S. Men's National Team

USA surrenders two-goal lead, falls to Mexico in thrilling Gold Cup final

USA Mexico 2 (Getty Images)  



PASADENA, Calif. - The U.S. men's national team started its Gold Cup final almost as good as anyone could have imagined, but a two-goal lead to start the game wasn't enough against its most bitter rival.

The United States lost its second consecutive Gold Cup final to Mexico, falling 4-2 in a thrilling match played in front of a sold out crowd of 93,420 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night.

Goals from Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan put the Americans ahead 23 minutes into the game, but Mexico responded with four unanswered. Pablo Barrera netted twice and Andres Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos added one a piece as Mexico stayed undefeated in the tournament, won its sixth Gold Cup title and a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

“These games, more often than not, come down to special plays and sometimes players,” said Donovan, who started in his first game of the knockout rounds. "They just made more plays."

The Mexicans pushed the game from the opening whistle, looking dangerous with runs on the flank from Barrera and Guardado.

The U.S. team withstood the pressure, however, and opened the scoring in the eighth minute when surprise starter Freddy Adu whipped in a corner kick that Bradley was able to head home.

The United States' fortunes took a turn for the worse three minutes later as Steve Cherundolo sustained an injury to his left ankle. He was replaced by Jonathan Bornstein, who manned the left flank while Eric Lichaj switched to right back.

"Both teams had to deal with losing some players, key players," said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. "But certainly Stevie is an important part of our back line and when you play Mexico because of the way they play, it's a real challenge to your back four.

"Mexico came out and put all the pressure right from the start. I think we were figuring out ways to deal with it. Losing Stevie hurts in that moment, and we then move Eric Lichaj to the right and Jonny Bornstein comes in. But not having that experience at that point is a tough one."

The Americans didn't appear to let the injury phase them at first, doubling their lead in th 23rd when Clint Dempsey sprung Donovan free on goal. Donovan, deployed as a forward to start the match, raced by goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera and finished with his left foot. It was Donovan's first goal since last summer's World Cup.

Then things changed for the worse for the Americans, as El Tri began attacking Bornstein.

That resulted in Mexico starting its comeback with a goal from Barrera near the half-hour mark. Following a throw-in, Barrera got behind Bornstein and received a pass from Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez before finishing with a shot inside the near post.

The Mexicans found their equalizer in the 36th minute when Guardado found the back of the net. The play began when Dos Santos cut inside of Bornstein and played a ball across the penalty area. Lichaj got a touch on it but not enough, allowing Guardado to pounce on the loose ball and tap it in from close range.

"They did well to battle back,” said Tim Howard. “I thought we knocked the stuffing out of them at 2-0. We really hit them where it hurt, but take your hat off to them. They’re a good bunch of players.

It was more of the same in the second half as Mexico got a goal five minutes after the intermission. Guardado played a ball to Barrera, who took a couple of touches on the ball and then took a shot with the outside part of his right foot passed a helpless Howard.

“It’s beyond me how they rallied back from that,” said Howard. “We hit them, they counterpunched, and I think they staggered us with that counterpunch.

The U.S. team had chances to equalize, but Mexico added a fourth goal with 14 minutes left in regulation to seal the victory. Dos Santos received a through ball into the six yard box and he eluded an oncoming Howard, dribbling away from goal before floating a shot over a leaping Lichaj into the top corner of the goal.

"It's one of those things where we had a great start and unfortunately they got a couple goals and it put a lot of pressure on us," said Adu. "It's not easy playing against quick, fast guys. Like their whole front line are quick, fast guys and it's difficult for us to always have to deal with every single one of them. They've got a lot of weapons." 

Those weapons translated into a loss that the Americans will find tough to digest. That, and bragging rights and a Gold Cup title for Mexico.

  • Dean

    Under the present coach I wonder if US soccer has peaked. The loss to Mexico stung. Most of the US media ignored the entire event anyway, which is sad. But will American soccer supporters (like me) continually support this product? I love the US National Men’s Team, but is this the best we can do? Does US soccer really have a future beyond this? I’ve always thought it did. Now, I question it while my anti-soccer friends laugh at me.


  • Roberto

    Next time lets play the game at an American city wgere the home team is actually the americans! 80k out of 93k were cheering for Mex!!!

    We were even being booed Mext time lets play in canada we may have a friedlier crowd…


  • Since 82

    F Altidore – Agudelo – Davies/Burnbury

    MF Donovan (Bedoya) – Bradley (Jones) – Holden (Mixx) – Dempsey (?)

    D Lichaj (?) – Ream (Bocanegra) – Gonzalez (Onyewu/Goodsen) – Chandler (Cherundolo)

    This isn’t an exact depth chart obviously. I am optimistic about the next cycle because of the following:

    1) I think people will be surprised as to how good Altidore and Adu become

    2) I am confident that both Bradley and Holden will continue to improve and Donovan and Dempsey will still be effective in 2014 (if not playing full 90)

    3) Although young, I think this backline will prove to be the most mobile and have ability to go forward … unlike we have ever had

    It is going to be a tricky cycle. The formation choices, transition of the D, and maybe most importantly, where these guys play for club.


  • Since 82

    Very reasonable post. Given the scenario that happened early in the game yesterday and our weakness/transition at that position to begin with … what transpired should not shock anyone.


  • A-Lott

    I think your argument here is a little weak, Paul. It doesn’t get much more “laissez-faire” and “private sector” than Mexican kids practicing and playing in the street for hours on end without supervision. I feel our problem is the exact opposite: U.S. player development is stymied by top-down planning at almost every level of the chain. The American college system is about as far from “private sector” as you can get.


  • ben in el cajon

    You sound like those insane English fans nattering on about their players being “world class” and blaming the coach for every mediocre international showing. Look I’d be happy to be wrong, but let’s start by listing every single USA player in history who has succeeded at a top-tier club in Europe or South America.

    Okay, now that the list is complete, ask yourself why we should think we’re a top-ten national side, when even England currently has seven or eight internationals at top-tier clubs. And, by the way, England are over-rated.


  • AJ

    You say this as if that’s a walk in the park. Not familiar with football are you?


  • AJ

    Do you have to make it so obvious that soccer isn’t in your blood? Let me guess, to you if it ain’t Messi or Ronaldo it ain’t world class … and I’m sure you’re convinced that Donovan and Dempsey and Howard are there or close enough? But god forbid anyone label a Mexican player with world class right? Sorry Ken, the world has spoken. All of Europe has spoken. Hernandez is world class. And guess what? He’s getting better. Enjoy!


  • BR

    Mexico looked like Barcelona playing a second division La Liga team in the US, they were playing at a level the US has not attained yet. Having said that the US’s inability to play that way does not make Mexican players world class. Chicarito might be world class one day but it is too early to say that now after only one season in the EPL


  • biff

    I did not say we are a top ten team. We aren’t. I said I would like us to improve to the point that we are able to compete with Top Ten teams, instead of the current situation of struggling with teams ranked by Fifa in the 50-100 range. Many of us believe that although BB is a nice guy, he is not capable of taking us to the next level. It does not mean we are hateful or insane, it means that our allegiance is to the USMNT, and not to individual coaches or players. We want what is best for the team, even if that might not be the best for certain individuals. As for your contention we don’t have world class players, I can only say that I think we have a lot of good players but unfortunately the talent pool is not being utilized by BB as smartly as it should be. And, by the way, how many world-class players does Panama have? Or players that play in the Premiere League or the Bundesliga? Oh, none. The Panama coach is a darn good coach, almost pulled off the second win even without Blas Perez.


  • David

    Almost all our hand-wringing here is about lack of depth for defenders. But the forward situation seems worse to me. Agudelo couldn’t hold the ball. The team had no outlet up top. Rushing such a young guy to the national team, when he doesn’t start in the MLS seems crazy – until you consider the lack of other options.


  • David

    If feels like the team has been on an upward trend for the last 20 years. It’s tough to admit we have taken a little step backwards. It will turn around, though, and I hope by 2014…


  • McQ

    We were up two goals to Mexico(no knock against Mexico they are good) -but they are not Spain, not Brazil, not Argentina! our players are good enough to park ten men behind the ball, make the game the most boring exhibition you have ever seen and gotten out with the win! Good coaches realize that. He is too naive as a coach and this is why he must go.


  • McQ

    …we need Chandler for the World Cup not the Gold Cup. We can easily schedule some friendlies before the WC.


  • McQ

    Agreed but it didn’t need to be that way. We had them down 2-0 and our couch couldn’t get us home. He needs to go!


  • McQ

    You need to put things into perspective…They are a better team but WE HAD THEM DOWN TWO TO NIL!!!! They are not That much better than us. Everyone talks about Chichorito… He is a damn good player but he plays in the same league as Dempsey and do you know how many more goals he had than Clint???? ONE!!!! (and Clint is a midfielder and he is a striker).

    And in case you didn’t notice – Mexico lost two of thier starting defenders and we didn’t attack then nearly as much as we should have.

    We lost because our coach got substitutions and tactics wrong (…and they were a better team) but this is not the first time (or the second) he got the tactics wrong or the first time (or the second or the third or the fourth) that he got the player selections wrong. Let’s move beyond the Bornstein substitution let’s go back a few years to his infactuation with RedCardo Clark! how many games did that cost us? (think Italy in Confed Cup) and there are more. Enough is enough!


  • Ski Fast!

    What?? European football is set up with a much more capitalistic mindset than our own sports!


  • Bob34

    Hmmmm… I thought biff’s post was fairly well reasoned. I didn’t see any ‘hate’ in it.


  • Dawson

    You have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to Ferguson. He played for 15 seasons, including time with Rangers. He may not have had a Hall of Fame career, but his soccer background is very different from Mourinho or Villas-Boras.


  • Colin

    I think that Franklin/De La Garza/Dunivant would have done better than Bornstein on Saturday.


  • Colin

    Agreed. If you’re gonna pin our loss of Rossi to a USMNT coach, do it to the right ones. Bruce Arena and Thomas WRong-en.


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