The 2021 Gold Cup group stage had largely been the regular Mexico homecoming to DFW as El Tri played out of AT&T Stadium and the Cotton Bowl, but El Salvador fans turned the Cotton Bowl blue for the group finale.
The game was both energetic and far more open than Mexico’s previous games in Group A. Both teams pressured the opposition areas but neither side was able to carve out a clear-cut chance until Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez opened the scoring for Mexico in the 26th minute.
Hector Herrera spotted Chaka in space down the right and played a ball over the top for the Tigres midfielder. Rodriguez cut inside and saw his deflected shot bobble over Mario Gonzalez in the El Salvador goal.
The Mexicans piled on the pressure with Rogelio Funes Mori seeing a shot saved one-on-one and Erik Gutierrez going close in the following minute or two.
El Salvador broke forward in brief respites from periods of pressure in the defensive third. Most of the Salvadoran attacks came from dead ball situations with Mexico happy to give away free kicks closer to the halfway line. There was still a sense of calmness in the El Salvador play, likely comfortable in the knowledge that they were the team already through to face Honduras or Qatar in the quarterfinal, while Mexico still had a slim chance to be eliminated with a loss and a large win for Trinidad & Tobago.
Initially, the Cotton Bowl was due to be restricted to only the lower bowl, for an announced capacity of around 45,792. Hundreds of fans still streamed into the historic venue at halftime, forcing organizers to open the upper bowl
El Salvador still struggled to create chances but Joaquin Rivas missed a golden opportunity approaching the hour as the largely blue-clad crowd roared their team to life. The FC Tulsa forward was fed the ball from the right side of the area, attempting to side-foot the ball but couldn’t get enough on it.
Rivas certainly got enough at his next chance, shooting from the edge of the area for Alfredo Talavera to parry away into the path of Joshua Perez. Perez looked likely to place the ball away from the recovering goalkeeper, but Hector Moreno and Carlos Salcedo combined to cover the relatively open goal.
El Salvador kept the pressure on, making a strong run down the left that produced three bad fouls. Referee, Said Martinez, waved advantage twice but as the ball came centrally the third foul on Amando Moreno finally stopped the run. Chaka and Salcedo both saw yellow for their attempts to stop the play before Alexander Larin pinged the ball off Telavares’ right hand post with the Mexican keeper left static.
Both sides pushed on in the final moments, but with both teams assured a spot in the quarterfinal self-preservation became the order of the day in not risking injury or suspension.
Mexico prevailed 1-0 at the Cotton Bowl while up at Toyota Stadium Trinidad & Tobago had taken an early lead through Reon Moore. Guatemala responded 20 minutes from time through Gerardo Gordilla to split the points and provide both teams with their only goal of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup as we move into the knockout rounds.
Costa Rica and Jamaica face off in the Group C finale on Tuesday night to determine who gets the USMNT or Canada at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, July 25 in the quarterfinal doubleheader. That will be DFW’s next, and final, involvement in the competition.