Mexico is back.
After years in the wilderness, the red, white and green is once again a force to be reckoned with on the soccer field.
Coach Javier Aguirre's team won a memorable victory in front of a largely pro-Mexico crowd of 79,156 at Giants Stadium on Sunday afternoon, trouncing the defending champion United States, 5-0, to win the CONCACAF Gold Cup for a record fifth time.
Inspired by England-based stars Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, "El Tri" ran rampant in the second half, scoring five times in the space of only 34 minutes.
After playing Mexico on even terms in the first 45 minutes, the U.S. fell apart after the break.
"We ran out of gas, to tell you the truth," U.S. forward Brian Ching said in a postgame television interview.
"It's frustrating. There's nothing else to say. It's a little embarrassing."
The loss ended a 58-game unbeaten streak for the U.S. at home against opponents from soccer's North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) region. The last team in the region to defeat the American side in the U.S. was Honduras, in Washington on Sept. 1, 2001.
It was also the first time in more than a decade that Mexico has beaten the U.S. on American soil. The last time that happened, was in San Diego in a March 13, 1999 friendly. Since then, Mexico had gone 0-9-2 against the Americans in the U.S.
"They took their chances well," midfielder Stuart Holden told the Fox Soccer Channel. "They ran the score up a little bit.
Five players scored for Mexico, but it was Dos Santos and Vela, two members of the Mexico team that won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Peru in 2005, who orchestrated the triumph.
Dos Santos, the former Barcelona player now with Tottenham Hotspur, was everywhere, pulling the U.S. defense out of shape, setting up teammates and generally causing havoc.
The 20-year-old was justifiably named the player of the game.
Vela, another 20-year-old who plays for Arsenal, also in the English Premier League, came on as a second-half substitute and he and Dos Santos immediately clicked.
Only a series of excellent saves by U.S. goalkeeper Troy Perkins kept the score from being even higher. Even so, the onslaught underlined the gulf in class between the teams.
The U.S. chose to field a second-string lineup in the Gold Cup, which it has won four times, most recently in 2005 and 2007. Coach Bob Bradley rested the players who had reached last month's Confederations Cup final in South Africa, where it lost to Brazil.
Still, the Americans performed well in this 12-nation tournament, going 4-0-1 before Sunday's game against Mexico. On Sunday, however, the roof fell in.
Aguirre's side looked to be hungrier, and after the first half had ended up 0-0, Aguirre sent Vela on in place of Alberto Medina and the move changed the game completely.
In the 56th minute, with the U.S. defense already tiring, Jay Heaps was judged by Jamaican referee Courtney Campbell to have fouled Dos Santos in the penalty area.
Gerado Torrado, Mexico's captain, blasted his shot past Perkins and the rout was on.
"The penalty kick took the wind out of our sails a little bit," Holden said.
After Perkins, under heavy fire, had denied Israel Castro, Miguel Sabah and Vela with consecutive outstanding saves, Dos Santos made it 2-0 when he banged in the rebound of his own shot after Perkins had blocked the first.
It quickly became 3-0 when Vela scored off a Dos Santos pass that split three U.S. defenders, and 4-0 when Jose Antonio Castro scored off a Vela pass. Only 15 minutes separated the second, third and fourth goals.
Heaps was ejected from the game after collecting his second yellow card, this one for a foul on Vela, and Mexico responded by Guillermo Franco grabbing the fifth goal off a pass from Vela in the final minute.
All in all, it was a comprehensive victory for Mexico and should do much to restore the confidence that was shattered by "El Tri's" unsuccessful performances under former coaches Hugo Sanchez and Sven-Goran Eriksson.
The U.S. is now 15-30-11 all-time against Mexico in a series that dates from 1934. Sunday's game also will have lit the fuse for the next match, a crucial World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on Aug. 12.
"We get another crack at them in two weeks," Ching said.
Bradley's team will be at full strength then, but so will Mexico, which fielded a mix of first- and second-team players in the Gold Cup but ran off with the trophy.
Jones reported from Los Angeles