Had Mexico scored, the goal would have come against the run of play, for the Americans had dictated the tempo for most of the first half. Yet few good chances had been created and for all their work on a rather soft grass field installed over the Giants Stadium artificial surface, in hot and humid conditions, the Americans had expended energy they would sorely miss in the second half.
A rather young collection of U.S. players hadn't bothered to pace themselves, which wouldn't have been so critical had they scored a goal or two in the first half and thus forced Mexico to chase and work. Yet a maddening tendency to foul up the final pass deprived them of good shooting opportunities. Crosses and diagonal balls were over-hit, through balls slid all the way through, offside flags went up, and both Kyle Beckerman and Stuart Holden betrayed crisp buildups by missing the target from distance.
Mexican coach Javier Aguirre replaced Medina with Carlos Vela for the second half, and the electrifying young Arsenal player would soon torment the Americans. Yet still the USA worked the ball forward effectively, but left back Heath Pearce clipped a cross over everybody, and Holden scythed inside on the dribble to play a ball that Robbie Rogers collected nicely but then blasted a yard over the crossbar.
Vela and Dos Santos kept running at the USA and its desperate, scrambling defenders kept them at bay. Meanwhile, Davy Arnaud shot weakly right to Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa, and Pearce couldn't chase down a long ball from defender Clarence Goodson, another indicator that fatigue and the conditions were taking its toll.
When Heaps got tangled up with dos Santos in the penalty area and grabbed his jersey as they scrapped for the ball, the Mexican threw a right forearm into Heaps' face as they both fell backward. Referee Courtney Campbell whistled immediately and after a brief protest as Heaps gestured incredulously, Gerardo Torrado sent the ball straight into the net as keeper Troy Perkins dived his right.
A team that couldn't score suddenly couldn't be stopped. No American seemed capable of tackling or keeping pace as through balls and dinks cut their back line to shreds. Perkins repelled thumping shots or one-v-ones on several occasions before a good save on Miguel Sabah rebounded to dos Santos, who struck it home for a second goal.
U.S. coach Bob Bradley brought on Kenny Cooper for Arnaud and Santino Quaranta for midfielder Logan Pause, who'd been overrun playing alongside Kyle Beckerman in the middle. Michael Parkhurst, whose quickness and anticipation might have shored up the back line, stayed on the bench as the green waves came forward again and again.
Vela scored the third goal in the 70th minute by running onto a ball rolling through the goalmouth and chipping it over Perkins, who had no chance to get in a block and came off his line a second too late. The USA gained a few minutes of possession in the Mexican half, with Rogers and Holden sparking the sequences, but the lone shot - and the only U.S. shot on goal in the entire match - went from the head of Brian Ching straight to Ochoa from a long ball by Goodson.
Sam Cronin replaced Beckerman in the 81st minute, after Israel Castro had pounced on a ball slipped through by Vela and steered it past Perkins. Heaps picked up a second caution in the 87th minute and Mexico added a final insult when Fausto Pinto flew up the flank and centered the ball to substitute Guillermo Franco, who met no resistance as he fired a low shot past Perkins and inside the post.
Mexico ended an 11-match winless streak against the Americans in the USA and snapped a U.S. streak of two straight Gold Cup triumphs. The nations meet again at Estadio Azteca Aug. 12 in the sixth game of the Hexagonal with both teams expected to field stronger squads than those that took part on Sunday.
2009 GOLD CUP FINAL
July 26 in East Rutherford, N.J.
USA 0 Mexico 5.
Goals: Torrado (pen) 57, Dos Santos 64, Vela 70, Castro 79, Franco 90.
USA -- Perkins, Heaps, Marshall, Goodson, Pearce, Holden, Pause (Quaranta, 64), Beckerman (Cronin, 81), Rogers, Ching, Arnaud (Cooper, 64).
Mexico -- Ochoa, Castro, Valenzuela, Magallon, Pinto, Torrado, Juarez, Castro (Esquivel, 89), Dos Santos, Sabah (Franco, 70), Medina (Vela, 46).
Yellow Cards: USA -- Heaps 24, Pause 27, Heaps 88, Cooper 90+; Medina 45+, Sabah 64, Franco 73, Castro 80.
Red card: USA - Heaps 88.
Referee: Courtney Campbell (JAM)
Shots on Goal: 1/10
Corner Kicks: 4/2