US strike Gold again
The final of the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup turned out to be an enthralling affair defined by entertaining, attack-minded football and a no-holds barred devotion to the cause from both sides. In the end, a stunner of a long-range volley from Benny Feilhaber saw the Americans bounce back from a goal down to claim their second consecutive regional title and their fourth overall - tying them with their arch-rivals Mexico. The win also sees the Americans qualify as North, Central American and Caribbean zone representatives for the next FIFA Confederations Cup to be held in South Africa in 2009.
The Mexicans, playing before what seemed a home crowd of over 50,000 in the American Midwest at Chicago's Soldier Field, dictated the play early on and picked apart their hosts, who struggled at the start without suspended workhorse Frankie Hejduk and young gun Michael Bradley. Despite the early dominance, those in the crowd wearing green had very little to shout about until minute 44 when the outstanding Nery Castillo carved out an opening down the right and fed a low cross through the penalty area for Andres Guardado. The Atlas hitman, who is being courted by some of Europe's top clubs, made no mistake hammering into the roof of the net at full stretch.
After what must have been one cracker of a half-time team talk from head coach Bob Bradley, the US proceeded to throw caution to the wind in an attempt to overhaul a Mexican outfit finally looking at full strength after a lethargic start to the campaign. Landon Donovan initiated the comeback in 66 minutes. After Hawaiian-born striker Brian Ching was hauled down in the area by Jonny Magallon, Donovan stepped up to score his fourth goal of the finals (all from the spot). The strike was also significant as it saw the 25-year-old LA Galaxy golden boy equal Eric Wynalda's US all-time scoring record of 34.
The hosts then kept the party going, pushing hard against a seemingly invincible Oswaldo Sanchez in the Mexican net. It was always going to take something special to beat the Santos Laguna man from the run of play on this day. Fortunately for the hosts and their fans, Benny Feilhaber - who was born in Brazil, plays his club football in Hamburg and was discovered quite by accident by former US U-20 coach Sigi Schmid in 2004 - struck the goal of the finals in the 73rd minute. Lining up underneath a half-cleared corner kick from Donovan, the midfield maestro loosed a thunderous volley to the top corner. Even with the aid of a stepladder, the inspired Sanchez would not have touched it.
In the closing stages, the Mexicans - without top scorer Jared Borgetti, who limped out in the first half - roared forward in search of an equaliser but the closest the affair came to another goal was when Damarcus Beasley struck the crossbar in the 90th minute. At the final whistle of arguably the best Gold Cup final ever, the Americans celebrated in a fashion befitting their status as regional kingfishers.
"This was a great game," said Donovan after playing a crucial role in the USA's only-ever Gold Cup final win over Mexico. "At half-time, we realised we were down to our last 45 minutes and we had to step it up. Then we did the things we needed to do to win the game."