Gold Cup: Mexico show focus in win against tough Cuba

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Even though Mexico head coach José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre managed to evade questions about the doping scandal after El Tri’s 5-0 win over Cuba on Thursday, he confessed that his team will be at a considerable disadvantage due to the loss of five players.

“Obviously, you have more options when you have a full team,” said de la Torre during his postgame press conference, adding that despite the unfortunate event, “the team‘s purpose and objective remains the same.”

Against Cuba, the suspensions of starting ‘keeper Guillermo Ochoa and and first-choice defender Francisco Rodríguez, as well as those of reserves Antonio Naelson “Sinha", Cristian Bermúdez and Édgar Dueñas had no effect on the outcome.

Mexico, expected to blow Cuba out of the water, did just that after putting up with the Caribbean nation’s early threats.

“We saw a tough rival that closed down in the back, that were waiting for us to make a mistake to hurt us, and we tried to open things up,” said de la Torre. “We couldn’t finish many of our chances in the first half, but in the second half, I think our pressure wore [Cuba] down and we were able to take advantage of that to amplify our lead.”

El Tri were unable to find the net until the 35th minute, when Javier “Chicharito” Hernández nodded home a cross from Andrés Guardado. Holding a slim 1-0 lead at halftime, Mexico finally exploded in the second half, scoring the remaining four goals in a 14-minute span in the second half.

Giovani dos Santos hit for a double, and the striking pair of Aldo de Nigris and Chicharito again worked wonders for Mexico, as both players each scored in the second stanza.

“You can’t always score in the first minute. Sometimes you score in the last minute because you worked, because you looked for it, because the players put forth efforts in one area so that another can take advantage of that,” he said. “It’s all part of the circumstances of a match.”

With their second straight 5-0 result in the Gold Cup and an early ticket to the quarterfinals booked, de la Torre has been pleased with the productivity of his front line.

Now, he’s looking ahead to the match against Costa Rica, who salvaged a tie against El Salvador in the first match of Thursday’s double-header at Bank of America Stadium.

“There’s always a great rivalry with the Costa Ricans,” de la Torre said. “I think they have a good team. [Manager Ricardo La Volpe] knows the Mexican team well, he knows our soccer, and it’ll definitely be an attractive match for the fans.”