The Gold Cup returned to the Cotton Bowl for the first time since 1993, with Mexico making a first competitive appearance – and third overall – at DFW’s other big venue. But first, Frisco.
The afternoon’s Gold Cup action saw El Salvador increase its lead at the top of Group A with a 2-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago.
The Soca Warriors weren’t able to repeat the weekend’s heroics from AT&T Stadium with Nicklas Frenderup replacing Marvin Phillip in goal. Frenderup seemed to be unsighted by the sun Jairo Henriquez’s opening goal. The T&T stopper couldn’t have done much more with El Salvador’s late second goal, having deflected the ball onto both posts, then pushing the ball away from goal before Walmer Martinez finished the playoff to give the Salvadorans a maximum six points and the first spot in the knockout phase.
Down in Dallas, a sudden thunderstorm delayed the start by 38 minutes. For those who enjoy following local youth soccer alumni, Rogelio Funes Mori once again started for Mexico. Former FC Dallas Homegrown Moises Hernandez got the start at left back for Guatemala, just a handful of miles from where he grew up in Seagoville.
The Stop-start warm-up may have taken its toll on the game, as neither side threatened to break into anything beyond a slow build-out. Guatemala had the first shot on target – technically – with a weak lob over a crowd of players that looked more of a pass back to Alfredo Talavera in the Mexican goal. That would be their only shot on goal.
El Tri did threaten in the early stages from dead ball situations. An Erick Gutierrez free kick looked set to be a Jesus Corona tap-in at the far post until Alejandro Galindo stole the ball off the foot of the Porto man. Corona later flashed a free kick across goal.
The first solid chance came in the 25th minute as Rogelio Funes Mori popped up with the ball in the box, opting to pass to the better-positioned Gutierrez. The PSV Eindhoven midfielder shot low between two attempted tackles, but Nicholas Hagen did well to get down to the ball and retain possession after his initial stop.
Mexico increased the tempo and caught Guatemala on the break in the 29th minute, naturally through the former Frisco resident Rogelio Funes Mori.
The Argentine-born forward had caught some flak in Mexican soccer circles with El Tri legend Luis “El Matador” Hernandez and former coach Tuca Ferretti both stating that naturalized players should have no place in the team, let alone ahead of the currently exiled Chicharito. He may have them both walking back on some of those words after beating the offside line to take a long ball down from Hector Herrera at the very left corner of the area. Funes Mori turned the challenge of Kevin Garcia and curled the ball gracefully into the far corner of the net for Mexico’s first goal of the tournament.
The hometown kids almost combined for a play as Mexico came close to a second in the opening moments of the second half. A pass out of the back intended for Moises Hernandez was intercepted and directed towards Funes Mori. The Rayados forward found Corona on the right side of the Guatemala area, in a two-on-one situation with Orbelin Pineda. Corona squared the ball across the box, narrowly evading an outstretched Gerardo Gordilla on its way to Pineda, but Hagen came up with a big save in the Guatemala goal.
The second would come before the hour mark, once again from the local lad looking to shut some critics up. Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez played a low ball through a crowd from the right wing, which was flicked into the path of Pineda on the right side of the area. Pineda made it to the end line before cutting back to Funes Mori who made no mistake from just beyond the six-yard box.
One notable absence from Saturday’s game was any ill-natured fan action and a certain banned chant aimed at goalkeepers. Whether it was the sparse 15,000 crowd from the weather delay, the large proportion of Guatemalan fans, the game certainly going Mexico’s way, or just a better behaved set of fans from Arlington, it was a relief to see after the weekend’s game produced three warnings and two stoppages.
Twelve minutes from time, Mexico made it three with the goal once again starting on the foot of Chaka. A cross from the right hand side came into the box with Orbelin Pineda rising to head the ball home before celebrating with an acrobatic flip. Tata Martino took the moment to give some minutes to MLS duo Efrain Alvarez and Alan Pulido in a flurry of late substitutions.
The result sets up the third round of matches in Group A as both Mexico v El Salvador at the Cotton Bowl, and Trinidad & Tobago v Guatemala at Toyota Stadium, kick-off simultaneously. Although both teams to have recorded wins will headline things in Fair Park, T&T could play spoiler with a sizable win and an El Salvador upset.