After a scoreless 90 minutes, Mexico found the net early in overtime then held on to subdue a game Haiti.
El Tri turned in another mediocre performance, but a soft penalty in overtime allowed Mexico to sneak away with a 1-0 victory over Haiti in the Gold Cup semifinals. The sloppy win sends El Tri into the finals against the winner of Wednesday night’s Jamaica vs USA match.
Raúl Jiménez made up for his miss during the penalty kick shoot-out against Costa Rica by slotting home the spot kick after he was fouled (barely) just 70 seconds into the first overtime period. As Haiti pressed to find the equalizer, Mexico squandered chance after chance to put the match away.
This time, goalie Memo Ochoa did not have to play the hero as he faced only 1 shot on goal, although El Tri got a real scare with just one minute remaining in the second overtime period. Haiti goalie Johnny Placide sent a long free kick to the top of the box and Mexico’s defense simply watched as the ball bounced to Mikael Cantave who had time to measure his shot, then banged the top of the crossbar from 20 meters.
It’s understandable that Mexico was fatigued after playing overtime on Saturday night in Houston, but the team was maddeningly uninspired and technically sloppy. “Chaka” Rodríguez was notable for his errant passes (again), but he was not alone as skipper Andrés Guardado (subbed out in minute 68) had another sub-par game. Left back Jesús Gallardo also had a disappointing game, though he was not so error-prone, he was just invisible. Gallardo was one of six players to play the entire 120 minutes on Saturday and fatigue certainly could have been a factor in the Arizona heat.
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El Tri untidy on offense
There was a surplus of indecisiveness in the offensive third and plenty of scattershot finishing. El Tri was credited with 27 shots on the night, but only 5 were on goal. Despite so much possession around Haiti’s box, Mexico created alarmingly few good scoring chances (until the final 5 minutes when Haiti pressed forward). Too often, it seemed that a player held the ball too long, looking for the perfect pass. The result was a plethora of deflected passes and blocked shots.
Mexico was also inaccurate with its crosses throughout the game. Very few centering passes found teammates and Haiti’s defense headed a score of passes clear. El Tri had 11 corner kicks but most were wasted (goalie Placide caught at least four of the corner kicks without having to extend himself).
Coach “Tata” Martino was forced to watch the match from a box seat, serving a one-game suspension after getting his second yellow card of the tournament on Saturday night. The “‘Tata’-cam” showed the coach grimacing and gesturing throughout the match.
Mexico will have three full days of rest to prepare for Sunday’s final in Chicago. Five players in particular will need that rest after they played all 240 minutes (the equivalent of 2-and-two-third games) in a three-day span. They are Raúl Jiménez, Rodolfo Pizarro, Carlos Salcedo, Jesús Gallardo and “Chaka” Rodríguez, El Tri’s ironmen.