Mexico takes on Haiti, a revelation thus far in the Gold Cup, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s final.
Mexico ended Costa Rica’s dreams in the Gold Cup by winning a dramatic penalty kick shootout on Saturday. Veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the hero, saving Keyshon Fuller’s shot in sudden death after the two teams were knotted at 4-4 after the first five shots from each team.
Costa Rica was not as inconsistent as it had been in their group stage matches, and they made El Tri work every single minute, pressing up high and taking advantage of mistakes by Mexico’s back line. The game showed coach Gerardo Martino that no matter the opponent – a low-ranked team or one that has been playing inconsistently – El Tri must play a solid game, because any team they face will want nothing more than to take down the Concacaf giant. Getting to the finals of the Gold Cup tournament is not a walk in the park.
With only three days to recover from the overtime thriller, El Tri is back in action in Glendale, Arizona, where they will face Haiti, the big surprise of this year’s regional playoff. Haiti will not go down without a fight, as demonstrated by their ability to overcome deficits. Three times Haiti has trailed on the scoreboard and all three times they have come back to win.
Bermuda, Costa Rica and Canada all established leads they could not hold, and the Canada game required an epic recovery for Haiti. Canada was leading 2-0 at the 28-minute mark and still led by two at the half. Haiti stormed back to score three times and reach the semifinal stage for the first time in Gold Cup history.
Mexico will need their veteran players to step up and lead this team. Forwards Raul Jimenez and Rodolfo Pizarro, midfielder Edson Alvarez and the defensive unit that could feature Carlos Salcedo or Hector Moreno will be expected to produce against Haiti.
I see Haiti scoring the first two goals of the game but Mexico will overcome fatigue to stage a comeback. El Tri has not had an easy time but Haiti has never gotten this far before and I think Mexico;s experience will win out. I think the difference makers will be Mexico’s midfielders, with Edson Alvarez playing a starring role.