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Do the U.S. and Mexico care about the Gold Cup anymore?

Gold Cup
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Mexico reclaims the title of CONCACAF king after beating the U.S.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Mexico's 3-2 win over the United States was different in many ways than any previous victory over its bitter rivals, yet at the same time it felt comfortingly familiar to El Tri fans.

The Rose Bowl pregame was a rollicking festival of Mexico fans drinking and celebrating as usual, but there was a sprinkling of American fans doing the same while decked out in red, white and blue.

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Sure, El Tri fans still dominated, but the sizable U.S. contingent was a new aspect that roared to life in the stadium on both occasions when the American squad scored. It certainly wasn't enough to intimidate Mexico's players, but at least it provided vocal support for the positive things the U.S. did in the game.

The trouble was that those occasions weren't that frequent. Mexico, in another deja vu moment of many previous matches against the U.S., dominated possession and finished the game with 63 percent.

Further, despite creating many more chances than they actually finished, El Tri also displayed the contundencia, or forcefulness, that has too often eluded the squad in matches against the U.S.

Time and again in the recent past, Mexico would unravel when a bright start failed to lead to goals, allowing the American squad time to regroup and wear their opponents down via quick and persistent counterattacks.

On Saturday, though, it was Mexico that scored the early goal to lead the game and the El Tri players maintained their composure even when the U.S. caught up twice.

Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez got on the scoreboard first with a lovely finish from an Oribe Peralta cross in the 10th minute. It was the 42nd goal Hernandez has scored for Mexico but his first vs. the U.S., in his fifth game against them.

Mexico's win secures qualification for the 2017 Confederations Cup. It will be El Tri's seventh appearance in the tournament.

Sloppy marking on set plays is standard for Mexico -- and finishing off set plays well is an American tradition -- so perhaps it wasn't surprising that the next goal came off such a scenario. From Michael Bradley's free-kick, Geoff Cameron confidently powered a header into the net.

After a second half in which Mexico dominated but was unable to press home the advantage, the teams reached full-time at a deadlock and the prospect of penalties already loomed. Only once before -- at the 1995 Copa America when the U.S. prevailed 4-1 in a quarterfinal -- have the two sides gone to a shootout.

Instead, though, fans were treated to three goals in added extra time. The first was a tidy finish from Oribe Peralta and it seemed likely to be the match winner until U.S. substitute Bobby Wood conjured a goal out of almost nothing, running on to a DeAndre Yedlin pass and slotting his shot between the legs of the onrushing Mexico goalkeeper Moises Munoz.

Again, El Tri didn't get frantic.

"We suffered," said team captain Rafael Marquez. "It was tough to work so hard for a goal and then let them score on us and catch up."

Suffering makes redemption and salvation all the sweeter and relief for Mexico came through off the foot of Club America's Paul Aguilar. His 118th-minute shot was a stunning goal and secured Mexico's first win vs. the U.S. since the 2011 Gold Cup final, also at the Rose Bowl.

Mexico's success on the day was threefold. The country's Olympic team successfully qualified for Rio, while the senior squad claimed a Confederations Cup ticket.

In addition, El Tri ended another hoodoo by handing Jurgen Klinsmann his first loss to Mexico as either a player or coach. Perhaps now the persistent mythology of Klinsmann's genius will begin to fade.

On Mexico's end, their ongoing management drama has Ricardo "Tuca" Ferretti bowing out of the coaching post after one more game. He did well as interim and many will look back on this night with fondness. Indeed, fans might even insist upon his return as coach if newly-named Juan Carlos Osorio struggles early on.

But even a new coach won't destroy the standard that Mexico has consistently maintained in the face of administrative chaos and growing opposition from fellow CONCACAF squads.

As the Mexican fan banner stated when the game kicked off, quoting the old song by Jose Alfredo Jimenez, "Sigo Siendo El Rey:" Mexico keeps on being the king of the CONCACAF mountain.

Andrea Canales covers both Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter @soccercanales.

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