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Ching, U.S. Capture CONCACAF Gold Cup

June 25, 2007

CHICAGO (AP) -Long after they'd paraded the trophy around the field and received their gleaming medals, the Americans could be heard hooting and hollering in celebration.

Winning the Gold Cup title is always cause for a party. Beating archrival Mexico in history-making fashion makes it even better.

"It's big," DaMarcus Beasley said after the Americans came from behind for a 2-1 victory Sunday. "This is our tournament. The Gold Cup is our tournament."

Landon Donovan scored his 34th career goal, tying Eric Wynalda atop the career list, and Benny Feilhaber connected with a gorgeous volley to rally the United States over Mexico in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

It's the first time in 53 meetings, dating to 1934, that the Americans fell behind Mexico, then come back to win.

The victory extended the Americans' dominance over their neighbors to the south and gave the United States a berth in the 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa, an important tuneup ahead of the 2010 World Cup. The United States is 9-2-1 against Mexico since 2000, including 8-0-1 on U.S. soil.

Mexico at least managed a goal this time, snapping a streak of eight straight shutouts in the United States. Jose Andres Guardado's goal in the 44th minute was El Tri's first on U.S. soil in 797 minutes.

"When you lose doing what we did, you can't be sad," Mexico coach Hugo Sanchez said. "It bothers me, sure. But when you look at how we did in the tournament, we got a lot better and we deserved a better result. Sometimes the team that plays better doesn't always win."

Mexico had a chance to tie the game in the 89th minute, when Adolfo Bautista came up with a loose ball in front of the U.S. goal. He took a shot from close range, but goalkeeper Tim Howard reached up as he was falling and punched the ball free to preserve the win.

"Tim's save was great," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "It was a flukey play because the ball sort of bounced and Bautista was right in front of the goal. Timmy's athleticism and instincts came in handy."

The Americans could have made the final score even more lopsided, too. In the last 15 minutes, Brian Ching banged a shot off the post and DaMarcus Beasley hit the crossbar after a perfect cross from Donovan on a breakaway hit him in the shin.

The Americans had a long stretch of futility against Mexico, enduring a 24-game stretch across five decades without a single victory. But things have changed in the last decade, and now it's the United States that has the edge.

Still, when Mexico takes a lead, odds are it's not going to give it back, no matter where the game's played.

"We started a little shaky in the first half," Ching said. "At the half, we said we really need to force our will, and we did that."

And Ching was the one who got it started. In the 60th minute, he was tripped up in the box by Jose Jonny Magallon as he turned around with the ball. Compared to some of the other rough-and-tumble antics Sunday, this was pretty tame.

But it was all Donovan needed.

He took a slow jog to the ball and gave it a light kick. Mexico goalie Oswaldo Sanchez started to move to his right then hesitated, and that split second was enough to cost him any chance of getting to the ball. It hit the right corner of the net for Donovan's fourth goal of the tournament, all on penalty kicks.

As his teammates mobbed him, Donovan wiped his brow as if to say, "That was a relief."

"Awesome. Awesome," said Donovan, who still wore his champions medal when he left the locker room. "We haven't played that way, haven't played down a goal. Bob said it's going to be a different kind of win and I'm proud of us, because that's not easy."

That goal was all it took to loosen up the Americans, who got more and more aggressive on Mexico's end.

In the 73rd minute, Donovan's corner kick was flicked clear by a Mexican defender. But the ball went right to Feilhaber, who scored on a perfect right-footed volley from 22 yards out for his second goal in eight international appearances.

"They deserve to the No. 1 team in CONCACAF," Mexican striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco said. "They played well, but we had a number of chances. We just didn't take advantage of our opportunities."

It was the fourth Gold Cup title for the Americans, tying them with Mexico. It also kept Bradley's undefeated record intact at 10-0-1. Bradley took over as interim coach after Bruce Arena was let go after the World Cup, and was given the job permanently May 16.

His task gets tougher Thursday, when he leads a U.S. team without most of its regular starters against Argentina at the Copa America, South America's championship.

"Each competition, we talk about what it takes to become a really good team," Bradley said. "We're very excited about the fact we can get stronger as a group and win this. It means a lot to all of us."

Notes: Mexico midfielder Jose Andres Guardado was taken to the hospital after the game as a precaution after he complained of dizziness. He was released in time to join the team on its charter to Venezuela.