Brian Ching: “We just lost our composure. They punished us.” (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

By Michael Lewis

EAST RUTHEROFRD, N.J. — At around 5 p.m. Sunday at Giants Stadium, referee Courtney Campbell blew his whistle to mercifully end one of the most embarrassing results in recent U.S. national team history.

Mexico 5, U.S. 0 — in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final.

Yes, that’s no mistake — 5-0.

The Americans offered no excuses. They got pounded, embarrassed and punished, allowing a stunning five second-half goals on their home turf before a soccer-record crowd of 79,156 at Giants Stadium July 26, 2009.

“We just lost our composure,” forward Brian Ching said. “They punished us.”

“That’s not what we’re all about,” coach Bob Bradley said. “We have to look hard at ourselves.”

The win was significant for several reasons. It was the worst American home loss since a 5-0 defeat to England in L.A. in 1985. It was the first Mexican win on U.S. soil since a 2-1 result in San Diego March 13, 1999, snapping a 9-0-2 American domination.

The Americans will remind the Mexicans they did not deploy their A team, which finished second at the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa on June 28. They essentially used a side that was relatively inexperienced internationally. The Mexicans used five starters from their full squad yesterday, the Americans one — Ching.

These two teams will meet again in a much bigger confrontation — an Aug. 12 World Cup qualifier in Mexico City that the Mexicans desperately need to win to stay alive. They’re in fourth place, the U.S. in second.

“If they think the next game is going to be like this, they have another thing coming,” Ching said.

Ching and his teammates will use the loss as motivation for that WCQ.

“You look at anybody in the United States, this loss has got to anger you,” he said. “I’m pissed. If you’re an American and you’re not pissed, There’s something wrong with you. You just got to channel this anger, use it, and bring it with us on Aug. 12.

“It’s not going to be hard to carry over those emotions. Standing on the field there, watching them accept the trophy, it’s pretty much etched in the back of my mind for a long, long time to come. I’m not going to need any more motivation than that.”

Mexican Giovani dos Santos, the man of the match, saw it differently.

“The fans, like the media, will now believe in the National Team towards our Aug. 12 game,” he said. “We’ve been working hard despite all the criticism.”

The wheels started to fall off the U.S. wagon in the 56th minute when captain Gerardo Torrado converted a penalty kick into the upper right past goalkeeper Troy Perkins after defender Jay Heaps dragged down dos Santos in the penalty area.

“I wish I would get that call, sometimes,” Ching said with a laugh.

The goal certainly emboldened the Mexicans, who used counterattacks to pad their lead. Dos Santos converted a rebound of a Miguel Sabah shot in the 64th minute. Carlos Vela chipped the ball to the far right post in the 70th minute. Jose Antonio Castro (79th minute) and Guillermo Franco (90th minute) closed out the scoring.

“You just see our body language. It just goes down,” Perkins said. “We didn’t pick ourselves up. We’re men. We should be able to say, its one, ok. Fair enough. Bad mistake. Bad call. We’ve got to be able to move on. We’ve got to be able to push and fight back and we were just weren’t there.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at