Note to every team in the Gold Cup: if you play Mexico build a big first half lead if you want to win the match. For the second straight match El Tri played a close first half – this time taking a 1-0 lead over Cuba into the locker room – only to explode in the second half for their second straight 5-0 victory.
Before El Tri took care of business against another over matched opponent, fellow group A favorite Costa Rica needed a stoppage time bailout goal from Randall Brenes to rescue a point from El Salvador and keep their hopes of winning the group alive.
Brenes to the rescue
After the opening round results the match between El Salvador and Costa Rica looked to be a foregone result for the Ticos. But El Salvador had other ideas disrupting the Costa Rica attack with their usual “chippy” tactics.
Those tactics worked as Costa Rica failed to generate many chances and with talented FC Twente man Bryan Ruiz starting on the
bench for the second straight game, the Ticos had trouble breaking down the stingy El Salvador defense early.
To make matters worse for Costa Rica, El Salvador took a late first half lead when Rodolfo Zelaya scored on a free kick to give the Salvadorians the lead heading into the locker room.
Despite a better second half from the Ticos, El Salvador’s strategy of playing with a strong back four and killing the flow of the game in the midfield looked to have them headed towards victory. But in the fifth minute of stoppage time Brenes came through and kept Costa Rica within a victory over Mexico of winning the group.
Shorthanded Mexico routs Cuba
After a rough day filled with talks of failed drug tests and suspensions El Tri came out and once again did what good teams do: beat up on the little guy.
Led once again by Manchester United starlet Chicharito – who has five goals in two Gold Cup matches – El Tri put their doping troubles behind them and hammered Cuba in the final 45 minutes to notch an astounding +10 goal differential. Gio Dos Santos (2) and Aldo De Nigris joined Chicharito on the score sheet as Mexico simply dominated Cuba down the stretch.
It was not all roses for Mexico as they struggled to finish in the first half prior to the 33rd minute goal from Chicharito. But once the machine got rolling it was all El Tri in route to them taking control of group A.
Now the favorites will take a significant step up in competition when they face each other Sunday night. The winner will claim group A and a match up against either group B or C’s third place team.
The loser is likely headed to a match against either Jamaica or Honduras in the quarterfinals. El Salvador will be fighting to become one of the two third place teams to make the quarterfinals as Cuba is eliminated from the tournament.