Mexico used a second-half goal by Jonathan dos Santos to defeat the United States 1-0 in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night in Chicago.
The win gave Mexico its eighth Gold Cup title, extending its record as the most successful side in the continental competition.
Fast Start Doesn’t Bear Fruit for USA
The United States was the defending champion, but came into the final as a slight underdog to a Mexico team that had been the far stronger side between the two top teams in the region over the past two years.
But the USA had been looking stronger as the tournament progressed, and went into the final feeling fully capable of winning the Gold Cup for the second straight time and the seventh time overall.
In the first 15 minutes of the game, it looked like the Americans might just get the better of their southern neighbors. Christian Pulisic ripped through the Mexican defense five minutes into the game, forcing a tough save from Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
An even better chance presented itself just moments later, when Tim Ream fired a pass over the top of the Mexico defense to find Jozy Altidore alone on goal against Ochoa. But Altidore pushed the ball wide of the target, failing to challenge Ochoa to bail out his team yet again.
Mexico Dominates Second Half to Win Gold Cup
The United States came out strong again in the second half, with Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado heading a Jordan Morris header off the line on what looked to be a sure goal.
But soon thereafter, Mexico began to control the match, generating all of the chances and constantly keeping the United States on the back foot. Finally, dos Santos broke through in the 73rd minute, floating a ball into the top corner past Zack Steffen to give the Mexicans a 1-0 lead.
The USA had a few chances late, as the team frantically pressed forward looking for the equalizer. But El Tri’s defense held firm to bring the Gold Cup back to Mexico.
“This is what we came here for,” Guardado said after the match. “We did it and in an unforgettable setting. We’re very happy. The whole team was spectacular.”
The result was disappointing for an American team that was hoping to bury the memory of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. It also denied the United States a chance to win two trophies in the same day, following the USA victory over the Netherlands in the final of the Women’s World Cup.
“Over the course of 90 minutes, Mexico was the better team,” USA manager Gregg Berhalter told reporters after the match. “What we lacked was I think some of the calmness, some of the composure.”
But while the United States will be disappointed not to retain the Gold Cup, the team did show signs of significant improvement during the tournament. The brightest star was Pulisic, with the 20-year-old scoring three goals and adding three more assists to win the award for the best young player at the competition.
“His contribution to the team this tournament was fantastic,” Berhalter told reporters. “Both sides of the ball. Off the field.”