MEXICO CITY - Once again, the United States failed to hold a lead in a key game - and failed to earn its first win south of the border.

Leading 1-0 after nine minutes on Charlie Davies' goal in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Mexico, the U.S. lost 2-1 with Israel Castro equalizing in the 19th on a wicked 27-yard shot, then Miguel Sabah driving home the winner from short range in the 82nd.

In the Confederations Cup final in June, the U.S. led five-time World Cup champion Brazil 2-0 at the half, and lost 3-2.

"To be a great team, you have to learn how to control the lead," Davies said. "Unfortunately, we were unable to do that."

Forward Landon Donovan attributed the loss partly to fatigue and fighting Mexico City's altitude of 7,400 feet. The Americans had no time to adjust, arriving in Mexico just 24 hours before the match.

"It's hard to play here man," Donovan said. "It wears you out. It's just exhausting."

The victory eased the pressure on Mexico, which has been struggling in World Cup qualifying. The loss for the United States was almost expected. The U.S. has played 24 times in Mexico and lost 23. The other result was a 0-0 draw in 1997.

Despite the setback, the Americans remain in good shape to reach next year's World Cup in South Africa.

In other CONCACAF qualifiers on Wednesday, Trinidad and Tobago defeated El Salvador 1-0, and Honduras beat Costa Rica 4-0. After six games, Costa Rica leads with 12 points followed by the United States and Honduras (10), Mexico (9) and El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago (5).


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