For the third consecutive Gold Cup final, bitter border rivals and the class of CONCACAF, the United States and Mexico battled in a rubber match where the winner of Saturday's contest would not only have bragging rights, they would automatically qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
Playing at a soldout Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a crowd of 93,420 where the chants of "Ole" serenaded the majestic sporing venue, the pro-Mexico crowd anticipating for their beloved El Tri to be coronated as Gold Cup champions for the second consecutive time.
Mexico has been the Gold Cup's juggernaut team as they initiated an onslaught on their competition as they went 5-0 while outscoring their opponents 18-2 (13 second-half goals) prior to Saturday's final against the United States. With Chicharito leading the way, El Tri has been sensational as their goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera has filled in nicely for the suspended Guillermo Ochoa defensively while Giovani Dos Santos has been breaking defenses with his dribbling and penetration in advancing the ball.
After being upset by Panama 2-1, the United States has won three straight games while shutting out their last three opponents while holding a 4-0 goal advantage. While Landon Donovan has been silent for most of the tournament, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard have played excellent. Much to the fans' delight, Freddy Adu and Jozy Altidore (prior to injury) have elevated their performances.
Unlike their previous Gold Cup 2009, this Gold Cup final lived up to its expectations as both teams were at full strength. In a contest of speed versus power, offense vs. defense, both the United States and Mexico gave their fans a memorable first half in their bitter rivalry as both squads scored two goals apiece in the first half.
Opening the scoring register was the United States when Michael Bradley successfully accepted Freddy Adu's corner kick for an early 1-0 lead in the eighth minute of the match. Prior to the score, Mexico had come out aggressive and almost scored in the second minute when Chicarito and Giovani Dos Santos.
For Chicharito who's been the best player in the Gold Cup with seven goals over five games wanted to add another goal as he tried to tie the match when he misfired his header in the 11th minute, and his strike hit the post in the 14th minute.
Despite the aggressive ball advancement from Mexico, the United States took a 2-0 lead in the 23rd minute when Freddy Adu advanced the ball before passing it to Clint Dempsey, who instinctively passed it to Landon Donovan whose blast found the back of the net.
Many were surprised when Freddy Adu was selected as part of the current U.S. squad. Making the most of his return to the U.S. squad after a two-year absence, Adu has justified Bob Bradley's decision through his fantastic play.
Once the United States took a 2-0 lead, the team made the mistake of choosing to strictly play defensive because Mexico tied the game in less than 10 minutes in the second half. Pablo Barrera reduced the deficit to one goal when he accepted a pass from Chicarito and blasted the ball for a 2-1 score. Moments later, in the 36th minute, Dos Santos slanted a pass to Andres Guardado who leveled the game at 2-2.
After a first half which featured a four-goal scoring blitz, it was all Mexico in the second half. No matter how hard the United States attacked the net, they were simply outclassed by El Tri and couldn't muster the necessary goals to upset Mexico.
The best player for El Tri today was Giovani Dos Santos as he continually broke down the United States defense while making brilliant passes to help Mexico retain their Gold Cup status as champions.
Scoring his second goal of the match, Pablo Barrera gave El Tri a 3-2 lead when he accepted a pass from Andres Guardado who beat an off-placed Tim Howard in the 50th minute. The United States best chance of tying the game came in the 60th minute when Clint Dempsey's blast hit the crossbar.
Minutes later, Giovanni Santos sealed the victory for Mexico when he scored potentially "The Goal of the Tournament" when he impressively dribbled the ball and handled the United States defense as if they were a junior varsity team before floating it to a Tim Howard-less goal post.
For the remainder of the game Mexico controlled the game and despite last attempts by the United States, Mexico held on to win 4-2. With the win, Mexico repeats as Gold Cup winners and automatically qualify for the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.
For the tournament, they throttled their opponents as they went 6-0 while outscoring their oppositions 22-4 with 15 goals coming in the second half.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez was coronated as CONCACAF's best player when he was named Most Valuable Player of the Gold Cup.
A fantastic ending to a fantastic young El Tri team who added a sixth Gold Cup trophy to their team.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com ; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.