Paul Aguilar’s goal in extra time gives Mexico a wild 3-2 win over U.S.

Mexican defender Paul Aguilar celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the U.S. in the second overtime period of the CONCACAF Cup game at the Rose Bowl.

Mexican defender Paul Aguilar celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the U.S. in the second overtime period of the CONCACAF Cup game at the Rose Bowl.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Ricardo Ferretti never really wanted to coach the Mexican national team. And he took the job six weeks ago only after he was promised it was an interim position.

But Saturday he pulled off one of the bigger wins in the country’s long soccer history, with Paul Aguilar’s goal with two minutes remaining in overtime giving Mexico a 3-2 win in a wild CONCACAF Cup, played before a crowd of 93,723 at the Rose Bowl.

With the victory, Mexico earned the right to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup, an important eight-team tuneup for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Nearly as important, however, is the fact that Ferretti’s first victory with the national team ended the Mexicans’ six-game winless streak against its chief rival dating to 2011, the last time the two teams met in the Rose Bowl.


They had to score twice in overtime to do it, though, allowing Ferretti to write one of the more dramatic chapters in the passionate U.S-Mexico rivalry. And the Brazilian-born coach, a naturalized Mexican citizen, thanked his adopted country for the opportunity.

“I don’t think I will ever feel even. I will always be in debt,” he said in Spanish after the first extra-time match between the U.S. and Mexico since the semifinals of the 1999 Confederations Cup. “Mexican soccer, Mexico, has made me a little bit better as a human being.

“I’ll never been able to pay them back. I will always be thankful.”

The country’s soccer fans might be tempted to write off that debt after Aguilar’s goal capped an entertaining 30 minutes of extra time that started with Oribe Peralta scoring what looked to be the game-winner early in overtime, only to see Bobby Wood tie it for the U.S. in the 108th minute.

Mexico’s other goal came from Javier Hernandez in the 10th minute, while Geoff Cameron got the first U.S. score in the 15th minute.

Despite boasts from organizers that the sold-out stadium would be evenly split, the Rose Bowl was a sea of green and red, with Mexican fans outnumbering the Americans 2 to 1 in the second-largest crowd for a U.S. national team game at home, trailing only the Americans’ final group-play game from the 1994 World Cup.

“It was very, very, very pro-Mexican,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said of the crowd. “That’s just reality.”


And the emotions of the heated rivalry boiled over in the 34th minute after Peralta’s cleats and the ball arrived in U.S. keeper Brad Guzan’s midsection at the same time.

Guzan and defender Matt Besler took exception and angrily pushed Peralta, igniting a shoving match that quickly grew to include more than a dozen players from both teams. It took referee Joel Aguilar two minutes to sort out the melee before he gave Peralta a yellow card and Guzan a brief scolding.

That only reflected the high stakes both teams were playing for.

With the slumping U.S. coming off its worst Gold Cup finish in 15 years and Coach Juergen Klinsmann fielding questions about his job security, the Americans approached Saturday as a must-win game. And the veteran roster Klinsmann chose for the game underscored that.

But it didn’t work.

“A loss is always difficult to swallow, especially when there’s a lot at stake. It means that you have to work harder. There’s not much time in between,” said Klinsmann, whose team, which begins World Cup qualifying next month has won just one of its last five games.

“Obviously, there will be a lot of conversations coming in the next couple of days.”

Mexico, meanwhile, played as if it had nothing to lose, going with an unusual lineup that featured just two natural midfielders and three play-making forwards. So while the U.S. played conservatively -- and poorly -- for long stretches, the Mexicans were fast, flashy and creative.

And that paid off on all three Mexico goals.

“What I like very much is what the team did. Their personality, what they tried to do on the field,” Ferretti said. “So I’m very happy for everything. The boys did a great job. It’s a result we earned.”


On the first goal, Peralta spun away from a pair of defenders and sprinted into the penalty area to take Raul Jimenez’s slick back-heel pass. Peralta then pushed the ball across the front of the six-yard box to Hernandez, who one-timed it past Guzan for his 42nd international goal -- and his first in five games against the U.S.

Peralta got the second midway through the first overtime period, latching on to a loose ball redirected into the penalty area by Aguilar, then driving a low right-footed shot by Guzan.

Wood came off the U.S. bench two minutes later and wound up evening the scoring, running on to a low lead pass from DeAndre Yedlin -- another late sub -- and one-timing it into the net.

But Aguilar finally ended the back-and-forth two minutes before the teams would have gone to penalty kicks, taking a pass from Jimenez and driving a right-footed blast into the net from about 15 yards out. Aguilar celebrated by throwing himself into an advertising board along the sideline.

Klinsmann, who had never lost to Mexico as a player or coach, said he began planning for penalty kicks several minutes earlier by telling backup goalie Nick Rimando, a stout keeper against penalty shots, to get ready to replace Guzan. But when defender Fabian Johnson came up lame with nine minutes to play, the U.S. had to use its final substitution to replace him instead.

When it was over the 61-year-old Ferretti, who will be replaced as national team coach by Colombian Juan Carlos Osorio next week, was asked whether he’d reconsider and come back, perhaps after the World Cup.


“No, I’m too old for that,” he said with a smile. “I can’t think about that. Osorio is coming and he’s going to have all of our support.”

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11