El Tri has reached the knockout round with its sights set on a record eighth Gold Cup trophy, but first it must get past Costa Rica.
Mexico faces its first must-win game of the “Tata” Martino era when the Gold Cup quarterfinals kick off on Saturday night in Houston. Costa Rica – ranked No. 39 in the FIFA rankings – for world No. 18 El Tri.
Getting to this stage was not unexpected (El Tri went 3-0-0 in Group A, posting a 13-3 goal differential), as Mexico has advanced out of the group stage in each of the previous 15 Gold Cup tournaments.
El Tri has won its last three quarterfinals matches by the same 1-0 scoreline and the goal-scorers from those three games are on El Tri’s current roster. Rodolfo Pizarro scored to defeat Honduras in 2017, Andrés Guardado converted a penalty kick in overtime against Costa Rica in 2015, and Raúl Jiménez scored late to beat Trinidad & Tobago in 2013.
Mexico has advanced out of the quarterfinals in six consecutive Gold Cup tournaments. Overall El Tri is 7-1-2 in Gold Cup quarterfinals matches (the tie came in the 2002 tournament and Mexico was knocked out on penalty kicks by South Korea). Colombia edged Mexico 2-1 in the 2005 tournament and Canada defeated El Tri 2-1 in overtime in the 2000 Gold Cup.
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El Tri vs ‘Los Ticos’
Mexico has never lost to Costa Rica in the Gold Cup, posting a 5-2-0 record (12 goals for, 3 goals against). One of those two ties (in the 2009 semifinals) was decided in favor of Mexico in a penalty kick shoot-out and the other draw came in a 1993 group stage match.
The only time these two teams faced each other in a quarterfinal match, the game was decided by a controversial penalty call. That game was played in Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Friday’s game will be staged at NRG Stadium in Houston and Costa Rica will be led by a familiar face – coach Gustavo Matosas. The Costa Rica manager spent five successful years in Mexico where he coached Querétaro, León, América and Atlas.
Matosas started his Mexico peregrination in December 2010, but lasted only 8 months with the second-division Gallos Blancos before signing with another Ascenso MX team, León, in September 2011. Matosas led the Esmeraldas to the Clausura title and then won promotion to Liga MX by defeating the Correcaminos.
Matosas earned legendary status with León fans by leading La Fiera to back-to-back league titles (Apertura 2013 and Clausura 2014). One of his star players was midfielder Luis Montes who will be suiting up for El Tri on Saturday.
When León failed to reach the playoffs in the Apertura 2014, Matosas was fired, but he was not unemployed for long, taking the América job.He lasted three seasons with the Aguilas, guiding the team to the 2015 Concacaf Champions League, but was let go after the Clausura 2015 season.
Matosas then signed a contract with Atlas less than two weeks later. The Apertura 2015 campaign went sour quickly and Matosas was fired before the season ended.
The Costa Rica job was handed to Matosas in October of last year. The Ticos are a disappointing 3-0-4 under their current coach.