Once upon a time… the giants of CONCACAF met in the final game of the 2007 Gold Cup final. It just doesn’t get any better than a Mexico/USA final and on June 24, 2007, the fans in Chicago’s Soldier Field witnessed one hell of a game.
After disappointing World Cups, both teams were led by new managers who were anxious to get their teams back into regional glory. Bob Bradley’s U.S team won their group with a perfect record but didn’t quite dominate against the likes of Trinidad and Tobago and squeaked by a 1-0 victory against Guatemala thanks to Clint Dempsey’s winner. Mexico also suffered during the group stage. A defeat against Honduras saw them qualify in second place in their group with a goal differential of just +1.
Despite the close games throughout the knockout stages, the CONCACAF rivals met in the final for another chapter of their rivalry. Hugo Sanchez’s Mexican team wanted to dethrone their northern neighbors who had claimed the title in 2005.
In the 40th minute, Mexico’s prolific goal scorer Jared Borgetti would be subbed off for Omar Bravo after a nasty injury which would impede his continuity in the game. Just three minutes later, youngster Andres Guardado dressed up as Borgetti himself as he slid in to put away a Nery Castillo cross to put the Mexicans up just before halftime.
The hosts were 45 minutes away from 2nd place and Bob Bradley knew he needed to find a solution for his team with urgency. In the second half, the U.S came out needing a big play and savior but Mexico’s Oswaldo Sanchez was as great as ever and protected his country’s goal even against United State’s clear cut chances.
In the 62nd minute, Brian Ching attempted to turn on Jonny Magallon inside the box but the Hawaiian native was blatantly taken down for a penalty. Up came the legendary #10 for the United States, Landon Donovan. After his traditional pre-penalty kick ritual of the knuckle kissing, he stepped up and slotted it past a frozen Sanchez to tie the game. Donovan would come back to admit that it was the toughest penalty he had ever taken as he was aware and frankly terrified of the mexican keeper knowing what he was capable of.
Mexico quickly responded and continued to attack in search of regaining the lead. They would end the game with 16 shots to U.S’s 10. But it was one of the United State’s seven shots on target which changed the game completely. In the 73rd minute, Mexico attempted to clear a corner kick but the ball ended up right in front of Benny Feilhaber who didn’t hesitate and took a chance. And what a chance it was. His shot rocketed straight side-netting past a diving Sanchez to give the hosts the lead for good.
Despite Hugo Sanchez’s desperation subs late in the game, the United States somehow held onto the lead until the final whistle to reclaim their title.
On Friday, we’ll have yet another chapter to this great rivalry as they meet up in Columbus, Ohio for a World Cup qualifier. As intense as qualifiers can be, it is not a Gold Cup final. And it’s certainly not the 2007 Gold Cup final where Feilhaber missile gave his country not just a victory against their greatest rival but a Gold Cup trophy.