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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gold Cup Final: USA 2 x Mexico 1

In an excellent game at Soldier Field in Chicago, the USA defeated Mexico, 2 x 1, for their fourth championship of the CONCACAF region, the Gold Cup. As with most of the American team's home games against a Mexican opponent, the raucous crowd was predominantly in favor of our Southern neighbors.

Mexico played their best game in this tournament, and created more goal-scoring opportunities. But as is often the case in international football, the team that converted fewer chances won the game. I was very impressed by Nery Castillo, a very quick forward who created havouc in the American defense for the entire game. Rafael Marquez, who returned from an injury suffered in Barcelona, also played very well for El Tri. He had three headers from corner kicks that could have changed the outcome of this game. The American defense, as has been the case in this tournament, has suffered lapses in consistency. Especially in man-to-man marking on set pieces. But overall, the US team played very well, and came from behind to defeat their historic rivals.

Mexico scored in the 44th minute of the first half on a precise pass from Castillo to Andres Guardado who roofed the ball with his left foot past Tim Howard. Before that, Castillo came within inches. He beat Howard, but his shot went past the right post.

In the second half, a controversial penalty on Brian Ching in the box was converted by Landon Donovan in the 62nd minute. That seemed to give the Americans much more confidence. A few minutes later, Ching, on an excellent solo move, chipped a ball with an open goal that grazed the right post. In the 73rd minute, a corner from Landon Donovan was headed out directly into the path of Benny Feilhaber. He blasted a volley from just outside of the right penalty box that left Osvaldo Sanchez, the Mexican keeper, with no chance. On a breakaway, DaMarcus Beasley, with another open goal, struck the crossbar after a great pass from Donovan. Mexico fought to the very end, and an impressive save by Tim Howard kept Adolfo "el Bofo" Bautista from equalizing.

Coach Bob Bradley should be congratulated for his first tournament championship, and remains unbeaten in his short tenure: Ten wins and one draw. He targeted the Gold Cup as his prime summer objective, and now the USA will represent CONCACAF at the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

For an excellent game report by Steve Goff of the Washington Post, please click here.

For a video clip of Benny Feilhaber's great volley, please click here.

Game statistics courtesy of ESPNSoccernet:

The USA is listed first.


Shots (on Goal) 10(9) 15(8)
Fouls 13 6
Corner Kicks 2 10
Offsides 0 2
Time of Possession n/a
n/a
Yellow Cards 5 2
Red Cards 0 0
Saves 5 6

Notes:
  • Landon Donovan became the all-time scorer in the Gold Cup with 12 goals.
  • Landon Donovan also tied Eric Wynalda as the all-time scorer for the US Men's National Team with 34 goals.
  • Mexico scored a goal on North American soil for the first time since 1999.
  • Mexico has not won a game in North America versus the USA since 1999. The Americans have won eight and tied once.
  • Mexico again refused to shake hands or exchange shirts after the game. They have a bad habit of poor sportsmanship against the USA that I haven't seen exhibited against other opponents.
  • The USSF needs to play final games, along with other competitive matches, in locales where the opponent is not the beneficiary of a home field advantage. No other country is subjected to the type of hostile environment that is commonplace for the US team on their own soil.
  • FIFA President Joseph Blatter did something that he refused to do last summer in Germany for the Italians. He handed the Gold Cup trophy to the Americans.

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