CHICAGO (From USSoccer) — The U.S. Men’s National Team continued their domination of Mexico with a sterling come-from-behind 2-1 masterpiece to claim their fourth all-time CONCACAF Gold Cup championship. Despite a 1-0 halftime deficit a confident and powerful U.S. team dominated Mexico in the second half behind goals from Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber while also twice hitting the post.
In addition to laying claim to their third regional crown since 2002 the victory in the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup paves the way for the USA’s invaluable participation in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup an eight-team tournament being staged in South Africa one year before the 2010 World Cup.
"This is the kind of effort on the inside of our team that we keep talking about said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley after extending his record with the United States to 10-0-1 since taking over at the start of the year. "(It is) a result that didn’t come easy. A result where we had to come from behind. A result that comes from the effort of our entire group. We are proud of defending the Gold Cup championship and keeping the trophy in the United States."
The second half began with another savvy tactical move from Bradley who brought Ricardo Clark on for tournament standout Pablo Mastroeni to help the U.S. midfield cover more ground across the field. Clark’s impact was felt immediately and helped unify a backline that had been a bit unsettled in the first half.
The USA’s first goal came on a nice build-up from the U.S. who seamlessly moved the ball from the left to right flank at the midfield stripe through DaMarcus Beasley setting up Jonathan Spector to send a perfect cross into the area for Brian Ching. The Hawaiian forward controlled the ball well spun around his marker and was setting up for a chance on goal when Jonny Magallon clipped his legs from behind setting up an easy penalty call for Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres.
"Chingy made a great play to get the penalty said Donovan after the game. "He's in there to do that. He's tough to play against. He used his body well and the guy had no choice but to foul him."
As he has done throughout the tournament Donovan stepped up and drained the spot kick the fourth consecutive game in which the forward scored on a penalty kick. For Donovan the goal was a historic one in many ways tying him for the USA’ all-time goal-scoring lead with Eric Wynalda at 34 and also tying the all-time Gold Cup goal-scoring record with Mexico’s Luis Robert Alves with 12.
"I'm proud of it certainly said Donovan about tying Wynalda’s record. "I'm more happy we won the game but when I sit down tonight and think about it it will be awesome. But now I want to get the next one in."
With the game now tied the U.S. continued their inspired play in the second half eventually leading to a game-winning goal that will surely go down as one of the greatest in U.S. Soccer history. Mexico was beginning to feel the pressure from the U.S. again when a dangerous cross from Jonathan Bornstein earned the USA a corner kick in the 72nd minute. As Donovan’s corner kick slid into the area it was headed out by the Mexican defense falling to the top of the area where Feilhaber hit a one-time full-volley blast out of the air and into the upper left corner past a helpless Oswaldo Sanchez.
"The first thing I was thinking of when the ball was coming in the air was that I’d had a couple of shots in the El Salvador game that were the same as that one said Feilhaber who scored for the second time in seven appearances. "I was just looking to get good contact on the ball and send it toward the goal. I knew as soon as I hit it that it was going in. It felt great."
With the U.S. ahead 2-1 Mexico began to crumble under the pressure of trying to end their decade-long losing streak against the USA in the United States. Their efforts were to no avail as the U.S. created two more scoring chances that were stopped by the woodwork but ultimately didn’t help the Mexicans overcome their nemesis. The first shot off the post came in the 76th minute when the ever-active Ching spun on Magallon in the penalty area again stepped around Sanchez and then hit an off-balance shot at an empty net that bounced off the right post as he was falling backwards.
In the 89th minute a patented late-game burst from Donovan saw a two-on-none breakaway end with DaMarcus Beasley banging his empty net shot off the cross bar.
Those two misses were ultimately not a factor but could have been if not for a world class save from Tim Howard on Mexican substitute Adolfo Bautista in the 89th minute just seconds before Beasley’s miss. On the sequence Nery Castillo dribbled into the penalty area and hit a shot that ricocheted to Bautista eight yards in front of the goal. Bautista had time to take a touch but his hard shot was pushed over the bar by Howard with two hands.
"I’m still in shock you know said Howard about his late heroics. "It’s just one of those things where you practice all the time and sometimes it comes off for you. I saw the ball break through and I tried my best and today it was good enough. It's one I'll remember forever. Sometimes the team needs you to come up with a big save and you know you can make a difference. I was elated."
The USA is now 8-0-1 in nine home games against Mexico this decade outscoring their rival 15-1. Mexico's goal in this match did manage to end their goalless streak in the U.S. at 797 minutes across 10 games. Since 1990 the U.S. is 12-7-7 in 26 games against Mexico which includes a dominating 11-3-5 record in the United States (and a 1-0-1 record in neutral venues). The victory also marked the first time the U.S. had ever come-from-behind to defeat their arch-rivals.
In another USA milestone for the first time ever the U.S. went a perfect 6-0 in the tournament improving their all-time Gold Cup record to an impressive 34-4-5. The U.S. outscored their opponents 13-3 across their 2007 tournament run.
The U.S. team departs on Monday for Venezuela just three days in advance of the 2007 Copa America the regional championship of South America. The 12-team tournament will run from June 26 to July 15 in nine cities across Venezuela. The U.S. has been drawn into Group C along with Argentina Paraguay and Colombia. The U.S. will open the tournament against Argentina on Thursday June 28 at Estadio Jose "Pachencho" Romero in Maracaibo. The U.S. will then face Paraguay on July 2 at Estadio Agustin Tovar "La Carolina" in Barinas before finishing group play against Colombia on July 5 at Estadio Metropolitano de Futbol de Lara in Barquisimeto.
For the United States the appearance will mark their third entrance into CONMEBOL’s signature event. The last time the U.S. competed in the tournament in 1995 the team upset defending champion Argentina 3-0 to advance to the quarterfinals where they defeated Mexico and eventually finished in fourth place.
Match-up: USA vs. Mexico
Date: June 24 2007
Competition: CONCACAF Gold Cup – Championship Game
Venue: Soldier Field – Chicago Illinois
Kickoff: 2 p.m. CT
Attendance: 60000 (sellout)
Weather: 68 degrees overcast
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
Mexico 1 0 1
MEX – Jose Andres Guardado (Nery Castillo) 44th minute
USA – Landon Donovan (pen) 62.
USA – Benny Feilhaber (unassisted) 73.
USA: 1-Tim Howard;16-Jonathan Spector (15-Frank Simek 72’) 22-Oguchi Onyewu 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.) 13-Jonathan Bornstein; 8-Clint Dempsey (20-Taylor Twellman 69’) 5-Benny Feilhaber 4-Pablo Mastroeni (19-Ricardo Clark 46) 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 11-Brian Ching 10-Landon Donovan
Subs not used: 9-Eddie Johnson 12-Jay DeMerit 14-Steve Ralston 18-Kasey Keller
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
MEX: 1- Oswaldo Sanchez 2- Jose Jonny Magallon 3-Carlos Salcido 4-Rafael Marquez (capt.) 5-Ricardo Osorio 7- Alberto Medina (10-Cuauhtemoc Blanco 78) 8- Pavel Pardo 9-Jared Borgetti (19-Omar Bravo 40’) 16-Jaime Lozano (23- Adolfo Bautista 81’) 18-Jose Andres Guardado 21-Nery Castillo
Subs not used: 13-Guillermo Ochoa14-Fausto Pinto 20- Fernando Arce 22- Francisco Rodriguez
Head Coach: Hugo Sanchez
Stats Summary: USA MEX
Shots 13 16
Saves 5 7
Corner Kicks 2 10
Fouls 21 9
Offside 0 6
USA – Carlos Bocanegra (caution) 9th minute.
MEX – Alberto Medina (caution) 18.
USA – Pablo Mastroeni (caution) 33.
MEX – Jose Jonny Magallon (caution) 60.
USA – Brian Ching (caution) 76.
USA – DaMarcus Beasley (caution) 85.
USA – Frank Simek (caution) 86.
Referee: Carlos Batres (GUA)
1st Asst.: Leonel Leal (CRC)
2nd Asst.: William Torres (SLV)
Fourth Official: Walter Quesada (CRC)