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Saturday, June 25, 2011
GOLD CUP: 5 great L.A. games

By Scott French

USA, Mexico
Frank Klopas of the U.S. leaps in front of Mexico's Ramon Ramirez during a 1994 friendly at the Rose Bowl.

The U.S. and Mexico haven't met in the L.A. area since a 2000 friendly at the Coliseum, and if you want to lay blame for that, target CONCACAF (just one Gold Cup final in L.A., until this one, and Mexico didn't make it) and U.S. Soccer (no desire to play in front of 85,000 or so El Tri fanaticos).

So Saturday's Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl hearkens back to a tradition that went strong for a decade -- seven meetings here from 1991 through 2000, four of them friendlies) -- and dates to 1957, when Mexico drilled the Yanks, 7-2, in a World Cup qualifier in Long Beach.

In all, they've played a dozen times in L.A., Pasadena or Long Beach. Here are five of the best showdowns:

Nov. 6, 1960
United States 3, Mexico 3
Salvador “Chava” Reyes
, the great Mexican hero of the 1950s and '60s (later part of Chivas USA's academy administration), scored twice as El Tri took a 3-0 lead in the first 21 minutes of a World Cup qualifier first leg before 8,000 at old Wrigley Field. The U.S. rallied as Helmut Bicek, Carl Fister and Al Zerhusen scored goals, then fell, 3-0, a week later in the second leg in Mexico City.

July 5, 1991
United States 2, Mexico 0
The Americans' triumph in the first Gold Cup was fueled by a surprise victory in a Coliseum semifinal as John Doyle (now GM of the San Jose Earthquakes) and Peter Vermes (head coach of Sporting Kansas City) netted second-half goals in front of 41,103 fans. El Tri's lineup included Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, now its coach.

June 4, 1994
United States 1, Mexico 0
The Yanks' final prep before the game-changing 1994 World Cup was a classic played before 91,123 at the Rose Bowl -- most, of course, in green. The goal was scored by Roy Wegerle, but the work was all by Eric Wynalda, whose intricate weaving run through Mexico's box remains one of the golden moments in American soccer. Wegerle just had to deposit the feed.

June 16, 1996
United States 2, Mexico 2

Maybe the best afternoon of soccer in L.A.'s annals, with a stirring opener hinging on two stoppage-time goals: Cuauhtemoc Blanco's, deflecting off Marcelo Balboa, to give El Tri the lead; and Thomas Dooley's, a header after Balboa nodded Tab Ramos' corner kick his way, to even things for good. (A tie was enough for Mexico to win the exhibition U.S. Cup '96 tournament.)  Many among the 92,216 at the Rose Bowl on hand stuck around for the nightcap and saw Jorge Campos -- straight off 90 minutes in Mexico's nets -- start in goal and finish at forward for the Galaxy, a shootout winner over the Tampa Bay Mutiny.

Feb. 15, 1998
Mexico 1, United States 0

El Tri won their third straight Gold Cup championship in front of 91,255 at the Coliseum on future Galaxy forward Luis Hernandez's goal at the end of the first half. It made for a bittersweet tournament for the Americans, who stunned reigning World Cup champ Brazil, 1-0, in the semifinals -- the only U.S. victory in 16 meetings -- thanks to Kasey Keller's brilliance (Romario shook his hand after one amazing save) and future Chivas USA head coach Preki's magic left foot. Only 12,298 showed up for that one.

ALL-TIME L.A.-AREA MEETINGS
U.S. 3 wins, Mexico 4 wins, 5 ties

April 28, 1957
World Cup qualifier, Veterans Stadium (Long Beach)
Mexico 7, United States 2

Nov. 6, 1960
World Cup qualifier, Wrigley Field (Los Angeles)
United States 3, Mexico 3

March 7, 1965
World Cup qualifier, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
United States 2, Mexico 2

Sept. 10, 1972
World Cup qualifier, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
Mexico 2, United States 1

Oct. 3, 1976
World Cup qualifier, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
United States 0, Mexico 0

March 12, 1991
North American Nations Cup, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
United States 2, Mexico 2

July 5, 1991
CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
United States 2, Mexico 0

June 4, 1994
Friendly, Rose Bowl (Pasadena)
United States 1, Mexico 0

June 16, 1996
Friendly, Rose Bowl (Pasadena)
United States 2, Mexico 2

Jan 19, 1997
Friendly, Rose Bowl (Pasadena)
Mexico 2, United States 0

Feb. 15, 1998
CONCACAF Gold Cup final, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
Mexico 1, United States 0

Oct. 25, 2000
Friendly, Coliseum (Los Angeles)
United States 2, Mexico 0