Mexico claimed the CONCACAF U-20 Championship with a 3-1 victory over the United States in extra time on Sunday night.
Jesus Corona provided a glimpse into the thrilling affair to come by opening the scoring after four minutes. Benji Joya equalized for the Americans from the spot in the 10th minute to restore parity.
The two teams battled through the remainder of regular time on essentially level terms, but Mexico took control of the match over the fatigued Americans in extra time.
Julio Gomez scored the winner with a wonderful bicycle kick in 100th minute before Jorge Espericueta sealed the triumph from the spot seven minutes from the end.
A couple of promising early American forays yielded to disaster as Mexico opened the scoring after just four minutes. Corona provided the breakthrough after a long hoof up field as he navigated through the U.S. defense and tucked home to send the Estadio Cuauhtemoc crowd to its feet.
In the face of difficult circumstances, the Americans engineered an immediate response from the penalty spot. The visitors had referee Enrico Wijgaarden to thank for the rather suspect handball call, but the resulting equalizer – an emphatic, low drive inside the left post by Joya – ensured the U.S. pulled level and took advantage of their good fortune.
Luck played little part in the events that follows as the U.S. dictated the rather ragtag terms of this affair and stopped Mexico from establishing its usual rhythm on the ball. The play flowed from end to end as both teams attempted to take advantage of apparent defensive frailties, but U.S. goalkeeper Cody Cropper and Mexico counterpart Richard Sanchez played their parts to ensure the match entered halftime on level terms.
Mexico made one change at the break in a bid to assert control over the game, but the U.S. started the half as the better of the two sides. Sanchez rushed off his line to poke the ball away from Mario Rodriguez four minutes after play resumed. Wil Trapp then lashed wide five minutes later as the search for a second goal continued.
The endeavor should have yielded a penalty kick on the hour mark. A clever free kick on the edge of the penalty area resulted in a series of neat touches to play Rodriguez through on goal. He saw his progress interrupted near the penalty spot by a challenge from behind, but referee Wijgaarden waved away the incredulous cries from the U.S. technical area.
Even with that penalty shout turned away and Mexico starting to gain control of the proceedings, the U.S. generated a golden chance to snatch the winner after 77 minutes. Joya curled in a cross from the right that caught out the Mexican center backs. Rodriguez climbed high and nodded his header down into the ground, but Sanchez somehow scrambled it to safety.
Marco Bueno experienced similar frustration down the other end five minutes from time as Mexico tried to break the deadlock. Bueno found himself in good position to put his header on goal, but his effort was deflected on its way to goal and ended up landing over the bar to usher in extra time.
Second-half substitute Gomez finally handed the home side the advantage it craved with a sublime piece of skill ten minutes into extra time. Gomez adjusted properly to the corner served by Espericueta and thumped his bicycle kick into the American net to incite wild celebrations.
Espericueta ensured Mexico would retain its title by converting from the spot after 113 minutes. Jesus Escoboza procured the foul inside the area and prompted Wijgaarden to belatedly dismiss Shane O’Neill. The former U-17 World Cup winner drove his low, left-footed effort inside the right post to decide this gripping affair and hand Mexico yet another title.