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Mexico delivers crushing loss to U.S. in Gold Cup final

Mexico's Pablo Barrera, left, and Giovani Dos Santos

Mexico's Pablo Barrera, left, and Giovani Dos Santos celebrate after Barrera scored against United States in the Gold Cup final in Pasadena, Calif. (June 25, 2011) Credit: AP

A marvelous goal by Gio Dos Santos capped a stunning comeback by Mexico, which defeated the United States, 4-2, Saturday night in an exciting Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. 

The loss was devastating for the U.S., which not only lost to its rival, but let a two-goal lead disappear in yet another high-profile tournament championship. The United States took a 2-0 lead on Brazil in the Confederations Cup two years ago, but lost 3-2.

That one hurt. This one was crushing.

On a night when a six-pack of goals delighted nearly six figures worth of fans, Dos Santos' brilliant strike in the 76th minute sealed the win. The 22-year-old forward controlled the ball in the box as American keeper Tim Howard stormed off his line. Dos Santos withstood Howard's pressure, dancing with the ball across the middle before lofting a nifty, lefty chip into the top left corner of the goal for the game's final tally. Defender Eric Lichaj jumped in an attempt to head it clear, but the ball couldn't have been placed any better. 

Mexico won its sixth Gold Cup championship, claiming CONCACAF supremacy, but more importantly, gaining admission into the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil. The tournament is a key warmup for the following year's World Cup.

Pablo Barrera, who scored  his second goal in the 50th minute, notched the game-winner. The United States defense, which had posted three straight shutouts, couldn't keep up with Mexico's speedy stars, which included  Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, who didn't score Saturday but was his usual, dangerous self and led the tournament with seven goals to pick up the Golden Boot.

Though Mexico dominated play for the first several minutes of the match, by the 9th minute, the U.S. had a 1-0 lead. Freddy Adu, a surprise starter, and Steve Cherundolo did well to earn a corner kick after what was, basically, the Americans' first significant possession of the game. Adu took the corner and found a near-post run by Michael Bradley, who headed it  inside the far post  for the early lead.

Landon Donovan padded the Americans' lead on a nice run and great pass from Clint Dempsey in the 22nd minute. His left-footed strike -- the 46th of his career and 12th in Gold Cup play -- stunned the decidedly pro-Mexico crowd of 93,420.

But, it didn't take long for the "El Tri" fans to get back into it.

Mexico evened the score before halftime on goals by  Barrera and Guardado to end the U.S. defense's scoreless streak at 349 minutes. Hernandez and Dos Santos also created numerous chances and assisted on the goals.

Both teams were affected by injuries to key defensive players in the first half. Cherundolo exited with an injury in the 11th minute, forcing Bradley to insert Jonathan Bornstein into the lineup. Bornstein took his customary position on the left side, while Eric Lichaj shifted to the right to fill the void left by Cherundolo.

Mexico, meanwhile, lost two of its four starters. Left back Carlos Salcido was replaced by Jorge Torres in the 28th minute. Captain and center back Rafael Marquez left with hamstring troubles in the 41st and Hector Reynoso came in to take his place.

Although knocking Bornstein's play has become a trite pastime for American writers and fans, the fact remains he was heavily involved in both of Mexico's first-half goals. He lost track and was burned by Barrera on the first goal. On the second, Dos Santos took a touch past him and delivered the cross that led to Guardado's goal.

But, clearly, this loss can't be pinned on one man. Mexico, which dominated the group stage but had a little trouble in the knockout rounds, was just too good on this night.

The United States now looks forward to qualification to the 2014 World Cup with a few more players in the mix.

Adu is definitely now back in the fold, getting the surprise start in the final and making the most of it. At 22, he's now both a veteran and a youngster.

Lichaj is the best option the U.S. has had at left back in years and Alejandro Bedoya on the wing has gained the trust of his head coach after being overlooked for the past few years.

Defender Tim Ream, who lost his starting position late in the group stage, will likely get more looks in qualifying. Midfielder Stuart Holden (a Fox Soccer analyst for the Gold Cup final) adds a new dynamic to the midfield when he returns from injury.

Mexico, meanwhile, must prove that Saturday night wasn't a fluke. Known worldwide as the team that bows out in the World Cup's Round of 16 time and time again, Mexico hopes to show the world in the next few years that can contend in Brazil.

Now, it gets a chance to prove that twice.

The U.S. starting lineup:

---------------------------------- Donovan ------------------------------------

-- Dempsey ------ Adu (Kljestan, 86) ---- Bedoya (Agudelo, 62) --

------------------------ Jones ----------- Bradley ---------------------------

-- Lichaj --- Bocanegra --- Goodson --- Cherundolo (Bornstein, 12)

--------------------------------- [  Howard  ] ----------------------------------

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