Team Mexico opens Gold Cup participation with a 7-goal outburst to storm into first place in Group A.
Uriel Antuna recorded a hat trick and an assist as Mexico routed Cuba 7-0 to kick off its participation in the Gold Cup. Raúl Jiménez scored a brace and Alexis Vega bagged his first goal with El Tri against their outmanned opponent.
Antuna went from being the last cut from the roster to a starting spot in the Gold Cup opener and he made the most of it. The L.A. Galaxy star was reinstated to the roster in place of injured defender Héctor Moreno, then got the start at right wing when Rodolfo Pizarro was held back to nurse a minor injury.
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Coach “Tata” Martino got an easy win in his first official match at the helm of El Tri, but he’ll likely go all Bill Belichick on his players during film study tomorrow. Mexico – with 72% possession – got off 30 shots, but only 15 were on target. Diego Reyes and Raúl Jiménez missed sitters in the first half.
Despite a 92% pass completion rate, the team (understandably) lacked crispness and occasionally indecisiveness. Mexico was also caught offside 7 times, Roberto “Piojo” Alvarado was the culprit three times and Reyes twice. No doubt, “Tata” will point this out a la Belichick who is famous for striving for perfection.
Antuna opened the scoring in minute 2, poaching a goal on the back side after a Jesús Gallardo cross was slightly redirected by Jiménez and pinged off the far post. El Tri then squandered several scoring chances before Jiménez collected his first just after the half-hour mark. An Andrés Guardado through pass was deflected by a Cuban defender right into the path of the Wolves striker and Raúl slotted home from 15 meters.
In minute 38, Reyes slipped between two Cuban defenders who were ball-watching and poked home a rebound from within 5 meters. Antuna banged home his second just before halftime when he was Johnny-on-the-spot to roof a loose ball from inside 8 meters. Jiménez had gotten free down the right wing and he hit a low cross intended for Alvarado at the back post, but a Cuban defender tackled it away. Antuna was the first to get to the ball, racing in from outside the box to blast it into the net.
Mexico made it 5-0 in minute 64 when Jiménez fired home from the right side, his 19th goal with El Tri. Eight minutes later, Jiménez was subbed out with a slight limp and his replacement, Alexis Vega, pushed the lead to 6-0 two minutes later. Antuna was sent free down the right channel and provided the assist with a lovely cross right onto Vega’s right foot.
Antuna completed his hat trick to close out the scoring in minute 80.
Mexico will travel from Los Angeles to Denver to take on Canada in their second Group A match on Thursday (June 19). El Tri finishes the group stage against Martinique on June 23 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
El Tri is now a perfect 5-0-0 under “Tata,” scoring 20 goals and allowing 6.