Gimme Five: Mexico Regains Supremacy by Thrashing USA in Gold Cup Final
An ominous spectre seemed to loom over the Mexican bench prior to the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup final in New Jersey.
Javier Aguirre, Mexico's coach, fielded questions about the last time he faced the USA (a 2-0 loss in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16), controversial innuendos (Jimmy Conrad's comedic routine on Twitter), and no assurance that he'd keep his job should he lose.
Why such pressure?
Ten years of futility, with El Tri being unable to beat the Americans in the United States since 1999.
Then there was a reminder of the last time they had clashed under these circumstances, with the US winning 2-1 in the '07 Gold Cup final, tying Mexico's record of Gold Cup championships with four.
An American victory today would vault them into placing a historic stamp of authority on the confederation.
A tepid, muddled first half passed in which the United States seemed to be slowly luring the Mexicans into their usual trap: relying on their strong defense to bat away attacks and look for space to exploit the opposition on a counter-attack.
The second half was nothing short of unexpected. A fantastic, bludgeoning rout for Mexican fans who couldn't in their wildest dreams selected the eventual final score as a viable prediction before the game; and a painful, ugly blast from the past for US fans who recalled prior generations of American teams who were constantly crushed by El Tri.
A doubtful penalty kick call in the 54th minute opened the floodgates, which was followed by Gerardo Torrado burying the shot two minutes later.
With the Americans struggling to respond, Mexico turned the tables, pulling their offensive back and relying on the counter-attack to create chances, culminating in a strike by Tottenham's Giovani dos Santos in the 62nd minute, which felt like a dose of Bob Bradley's own medicine.
And while dos a cero would've been fitting for Mexico to end their drought on American soil, the complete collapse of the Stars & Stripes defense allowed Arsenal forward Carlos Vela to score the third goal of the game off a fantastic give-and-go with dos Santos.
Jose Antonio Castro made it 4-0 when the USA's back line was caught napping and failed to execute the offside trap.
Finally, former Villareal forward Guillermo Franco rocketed a shot outside the box to make it 5-0 in the 90th minute at Giants Stadium.
More than 2,000 miles away, in Mexico City's designated football celebration spot, El Angel, a small crowd turned into a massive party in mere minutes.
It didn't last long, though—as it literally rained on their parade, a common symptom of the Mexico City summer.
As fans scattered away, some cursing Mother Nature, the metaphor must not have been lost on others still, that while a Gold Cup championship on July 26 is nice and worthy of praise; a loss on August 12 in the World Cup qualifying match at the mythical Azteca Stadium would wash away any happy sentiment.
Time to practice that rain dance, Mr. Bradley.
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