The U.S. came up with two goals in the first 22 minutes of their third straight Gold Cup final against Mexico, but Mexico, which was the better team throughout, proved it by piling on four goals after that to win 4-2. Six minutes after Landon Donovan followed up Michael Bradley's goal with one of his own to put the U.S. up 2-0, Pablo Barrera began Mexico's comeback.
Some 93,420 fans -- the most for a Gold Cup match in the U.S. -- packed the Rose Bowl for the game, with the vast majority cheering for Mexico and creating a hostile atmosphere for the U.S. even though it was the host.
A mere four minutes after starting the second half at 2-2, Barrera scored again to give Mexico a lead it wouldn't lose and its sixth Gold Cup title -- perhaps its most bittersweet considering the five players it had sent home during the tournament for failing drug tests (which they blamed on tainted meat). And with the win, Mexico earned a place in the 2013 Confederations Cup -- a spot that went to the U.S. in 2009.
It wasn't quite as bad as the U.S.'s 5-0 loss to Mexico in the last Gold Cup final, but that, of course, isn't saying much. An early injury to Steve Cherundolo, giving Bob Bradley the chance to put the panic-inducing Jonathan Bornstein into a shaky U.S. defense, didn't help at all. The terrible defending on display in the video above gives a sample size of what Tim Howard had to work with.
Scoring the game's final goal with a flourish, Mexico's Gio Dos Santos controlled the ball in the box as Howard flopped around behind him before finally chipping it over Eric Lichaj's head and into the far corner of the goal. Dos Santos made a number of threatening runs throughout the match, only to come up with nothing, so for him to finish one like this was a dagger.
Mexico also lost two defenders to injuries in the first half (Carlos Salcido and captain Rafa Marquez), but that didn't do anything to hurt its comeback.
This marks the second time in three years that the U.S. squandered a 2-0 lead to lose a cup final (the other being in the 2009 Confederations Cup against Brazil). If you're an optimist, you could just say it's great that the U.S. is reaching cup finals. If you're not, you might find that embarrassing. And if you're just interested in Freddy Adu, you'll be happy to know that he started this game and set up the first goal and had a hand in the second after not even dressing for the group stage and playing less than 30 minutes for the U.S. in the last two years.