The United States' record six-game winning streak ended Sunday in a 1-0 loss to Mexico, with Luis Hernandez scoring on a header in the first half of the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship game.
The loss before a lively, heavily pro-Mexico crowd of 91,255 at the Los Angeles Coliseum also stopped a record-tying nine-game unbeaten streak by the Americans.
The U.S. team reached the championship game by beating Brazil for the first time ever, a 1-0 victory in the semifinal.
Mexico, which played the Americans to ties in two World Cup qualifying matches last year, won the Gold Cup for the third time. The Mexicans had humbled the U.S. team 4-0 in the Gold Cup final in Mexico City in 1993.
With some three-fourths of the fans in the sellout crowd cheering the Mexicans on, their inspired defenders didn't allow the Americans many scoring chances.
Preki Radosavljevic, who came off the bench in the second half to score the deciding goals in the United States' a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica in the second round and the upset of Brazil in the semifinals, missed a chance to do it again. Shortly after entering the game after halftime, Radosavljevic had an open shot from 15 feet after a scramble in front of Mexico's goal, but he missed by inches outside the right post.
The first half was a story of two headers: Hernandez made one and the United States' Eddie Pope barely missed one.
Hernandez, who has moved up from the midfield to forward, headed in a cross by Salvador Carmona in the 43rd minute. Carmona's pass from near the goal line to the right of the net curled left and away from goalkeeper Kasey Keller, and Hernandez struck the ball solidly to beat Keller to the goalkeeper's right.
That Mexican attack began when Ramon Ramirez stole the ball from defender Alexi Lalas, who was some 10 yards in front of the box and trying to clear the ball.
The goal was the first against Keller in 405 minutes; he had shut out Brazil 1-0 last Tuesday, shortly after arriving from England, where had successive shutouts over Leeds, Manchester United and Liverpool for Leicester of the English Premier League.
Pope's shot at the 26th minute was the United States' best scoring chance of the first half, but his header off a corner kick sailed over the bar, a foot too high.
In the match for third place that preceded the championship game, Romario, frustrated in the shutout loss to the United States in the semifinal, broke a scoreless tie in the 77th minute and Brazil beat Jamaica 1-0.
Junior, a defender moving up on the attack on the left side, sent a pass across the center of the box, with Donizete, dogged by a defender, sprinting toward the left post. Seeing Donizete bearing down, goalkeeper Warren Barrett was sliding to his left.
However, rather than touch the ball, Donizete let it roll through. Romario, alone near the right post and with that side of the goal open, had only to kick the ball in.
A loss to Jamaica on the heels of a 1-0 seifinal loss to the United States and earlier ties against Jamaica and Guatemala undoubtedly would have turned up the heat back in Brazil, where criticism of the team's Gold Cup performance already was substantial.
Brazil played the tournament without about half of its regular starters, including two-time FIFA world player of the year Ronaldo.
Romario's goal against Jamaica came after he had missed numerous scoring opportunities against the United States on Tuesday, with Keller smothering or swatting away every shot the Brazilian striker took.
Keller was voted the Gold Cup's MVP, with Radosavljevic second in the reporters' balloting.
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