Mexico shines in Gold Cup debut

Eddie Velazquez, Entertainment Editor

Amid a brewing coaching controversy, the Mexican team led by coach Juan Carlos Osorio showed on Sunday why they are one of the usual favorites to take home the biennial Gold Cup. Playmaker Elias Hernandez contributed to a 3-1 victory over El Salvador with two assists and a goal.

The heavy-hanging pressure on the team came after a disappointing showing at the FIFA Confederations Cup earlier in the summer. To add even more adversity, Osorio had to sit at a suite in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego as part of a six-match ban imposed by FIFA for insulting the officials at the Mexico v. Portugal game.

Assistant coach Luis Pompilio Paez took the reigns of the team for the afternoon, and will continue until the ban is lifted.

After a dominant nine-minute-stretch by El Salvador, Mexico found a way to open up the scoreline on a set piece. Winger Elias Hernandez assisted defender Hedgardo Marin who connected on a strong header beating Salvadoran keeper Benji Villalobos to make it 1-0.

The Salvadoran squad would respond immediately by stealing the ball at their own half, right before midfield. Winger Rodolfo Zelaya linked up with striker Edson Bonilla on a precise through ball, leaving Bonilla in the box to slot it past Mexican keeper Jose de Jesus Corona on a first-touch strike. It was all leveled after 10 minutes of play.

The game opened up more after the first two scores. It became physical, with both teams resorting to a more rugged style of play in the midfield and drawing more meaningless fouls.

The back four still remain a concern for the Mexican squad. El Salvador had their way on long balls and through balls in space, knocking on Corona’s door on more than a few occasions. At the 26 minute mark, Corona gave away a ball to Zelaya who chipped him just a few inches high of a 2-1 lead.

Hernandez gave Mexico the lead at the 29th minute on a booming volley inside the box. The Salvadoran defense looked paralyzed as midfielder Jesus Gallardo’s cross landed at the center of the box for a looming Hernandez to put away and give Mexico the lead.

One of the more interesting stats of the night was 66 percent possession for “El Tri.” The shift to a game plan that enhanced build up of play and possession proved to be an accurate decision for the coaching staff since El Salvador was looking to tear through the field with their pacey forwards.

Mexico would put an end to the game on the 55th minute after a cross from Hernandez hit super-sub Orbelin Pineda in the shin to tuck-in the third goal for the Mexicans.

Group C after today’s matchups:
Mexico 3 points and a +2 goal difference (would qualify for the next round)
Jamaica 3 points and a +2 goal difference (would qualify for the next round)
El Salvador 0 points and a -2 goal difference
Curaçao 0 points and a -2 goal difference

Next up, Mexico will face Jamaica on July 13 at Sports Authority Field in Denver.