PASADENA, California - Pablo Barrera scored a goal in each half and Mexico rallied from a two-goal deficit to a 4-2 victory over the United States on Saturday for its sixth Gold Cup title.
Giovani Dos Santos and Andres Guardado added goals for El Tri, which beat the United States for a fourth time in the final and earned a berth in the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup.
"There's no better moment than victory," Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said. "Everything else is in the past now."
Mexico won championships in 1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, and 2009 -- when it beat the Americans 5-0 in the final.
The United States played without striker Jozy Altidore who sat out with a hamstring strain. Both teams lost starters to injury in the first half: Steve Cherundolo for the United States with a left ankle sprain, while Mexico had to replace defenders Rafael Marquez (hamstring) and Carlos Salcido (heel).
Jonathan Bornstein was inserted for Cherundolo, a move that perhaps proved to be more costly, with the Tigres defender losing his mark on Barrera's second score of the night.
Barrera sparked Mexico's unanswered scoring run after the United States appeared to be taking a commanding control of the match.
Landon Donovan gave the Americans a 2-0 lead in the 23rd minute. Mexico had only allowed two goals combined in its five previous matches in the tournament.
"You're worried and you don't want to become disorganized," de la Torre said about falling behind. "The United States was playing well. They surprised us with the first goal. We pushed too far up in the second goal. Fortunately, we were able to maintain our calm."
The American's lead didn't last long, with Mexico taking seven minutes to equalize.
Mexico cut the United State's lead to 2-1 in the 29th minute when Barrera sent a right-footed blast in between Howard and his left post. Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez fed Barrera a long ball from about 30 meters. Barrera sprinted past Bornstein to get to Hernandez's pass.
El Tri tied the match in the 36th minute when Guardado poked in a lose ball from the mouth of the goal. Guardado got to the ball before Howard could pounce on it after it Eric Lichaj bocked a Dos Santos shot across the penalty area.
Mexico started the second with high pressure, and Barrera capitalized. He had a quick exchange of passes with Guardado and buried a right-footed shot into the right, lower corner of the net for a 3-2 lead.
"You have to give Mexico a lot of credit," Donovan said. "They are a difficult team to play against. They have bunch of guys that can make special plays.
"Tonight I thought Gio (dos Santos) was excellent. I can say Barrera was excellent. Actually of all things we did a good job with Chicharito, preventing his chances. They just had too much for us."
Dos Santos added the insurance in the 76th minute when broke into the area, Howard raced off his line and the Tottenham midfielder lobbed an arcing ball into the top-right corner of an empty net. United States defender Eric Lichaj lept at the back post but could not jump reach the precise shot.
"It was a great goal," Mexico defender Rafael Marquez said. "We'll forgive him for all the ones he's missed."
Dos Santos almost single handedly created the scoring play. He dribbled into the penalty box while Howard dived at his feet trying to slap the ball away. Dos Santos turned and spun to maintain control before placing the ball in the top corner.
That prompted a roar from the sellout partisan Mexican crowd of 93,420.
But that crowd grew silent eight minutes into the match.
Michael Bradley gave the United States the lead in the eighh minute when he sent Freddy Adu's corner kick into the net. Adu curled a ball to the near post, where Bradley got a glancing header on it, and Mexican keeper Alfredo Talavera was able to get a hand to it, but not stop it.
Donovan's goal - which gave him the Gold Cup's career scoring record with 13, one more than Mexico's Luis Alberto Aves or "Zague" -- appeared to humble El Tri. But it wasn't enough to control the match.
"We have to learn to keep composure," United States coach Bob Bradley said about losing a 2-0 lead. "These are learning experiences when you're playing against a skillful good team. Now you have to find a way to deal with it and tonight we didn't do a good job."
Adu began the scoring play by dashing past his defender and feeding Clint Dempsey a through ball near the top of the arc. Dempsey then found Donovan running freely to the right of Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
Donovan one-touched the ball to his left and a sent well-located shot past Talavera.
Then it all changed for the United States. Mexico took over.
"We're disappointed," Bob Bradley said. "A game like this, when you're together for a month, you feel like you've grown and put yourself in the final and let it get away…it's an empty feeling."
Howard shared a similar feeling.
The American goalkeeper said there is no room to panic despite the defeat.
"We're in a good place," Howard said. "This will hopefully motivate us. We're not running away just because of this game. Right now it all hurts. It sucks getting your (butt) kicked. That's what happened tonight."