Monday, June 25, 2007

US Men thrill, seize Gold Cup over Mexico

If you were lucky enough to see it, you witnessed one of the greatest US MNT matches in history.

The 2-1 victory over across the border rival Mexico gave millions of US Soccer fans hope that the nightmare of last year's World Cup can finally be replaced by the American triumph that occurred on a sunny and warm Chicago afternoon.

During the past 365 days, the US MNT has endured a humiliating early exit from the World Cup, the termination of Bruce Arena as manager, a five month period of managerial limbo followed by another five month period of the same. And yet, all of the distractions, follies and bad fortune were put on the backburner after a beautiful two-hour Sunday afternoon affair between two biting rivals.

After Mexico took a 1-0 lead in the waning minutes of the first half, the Americans found themselves in unfamiliar territory during Gold Cup action: trailing an opponent. More importantly, the Mexicans looked recharged at the beginning of the second half; ready to purchase goal number two as they maintained possession for lengthy spells.

It wasn't until Brian Ching was brought down in the box that led to the American answer. Landon Donovan converted the ensuing penalty kick - his 35th career MNT goal, tying him with Eric Wynalda as king of the mountain - and the Americans finally came alive. On paper, it was simply two sides pitted against each other for a shiny golden trophy. On the battlefront, it was a fierce battle for bragging rights of North and Central American football superemacy.

Although the Mexican crowd clearly dominated the Soldier Field seats, with the Americans effectively playing in front of a hostile crowd, the sudden hush that overcame the pro-Mexican crowd after Benny Feilhaber's 73rd minute cruise missile the was absolutely priceless. It was a seminal moment in US Soccer history.

If this game didn't make you a believer in US Soccer, at least temporarily, then you missed a wonderful display of what this team - and by extension, American soccer - can accomplish.

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