A sold-out Cowboys Stadium will host the opening doubleheader of the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night with Group A taking the spotlight in the tournament curtain raiser (5:30 p.m. ET, Univision).
Costa Rica vs. Cuba (6 p.m. ET)
Real Salt Lake forward Álvaro Saborío is expected to get the start as Costa Rica enters its first Gold Cup tournament with Argentine Ricardo La Volpe at the helm.
“We’re very motivated and conscious that we have to take an important first step and look to win,” Saborío told FutbolMLS.com. “We want to make history and get to the final stages and fight for a title. Hopefully we can start well and win.”
Cuba has designs on an upset. In the lead-up to the match, manager Raul González Triana said his team will rely on its speed to create havoc for La Volpe’s men.
“Cuba has been improving and has a more refined style of play,” Triana told CONCACAF’s official site. “We have fast players and we’ll try to use the wings to attack and try to do some damage. If we stick to our tactics, we can come out with a favorable result.”
Mexico vs. El Salvador (8 p.m. ET)
The big match of the night features Group A favorites Mexico as they open against El Salvador, a team that has given El Tri fits in the past.
New York Red Bulls defender Rafael Márquez is projected to start for Mexico while El Salvador will be without Real Salt Lake forward Arturo Alvarez, who still hasn’t recovered from a left hamstring strain suffered during a practice session last week.
“Mexico and the USA are always going to be the favorites in this region but we have a good team to surprise anyone,” Alvarez said. “It starts with us showing we’re good soccer players and we can beat anybody.”
Providing hope to El Salvador is last week’s 2-2 result in a friendly against Honduras in Houston. It was a match that Portland Timbers right back Steve Purdy was hoping would mark his debut, but an illness kept him on the sidelines. He told FutbolMLS.com that he’s ready to be called on for the opener against Mexico.
“Our group is very difficult but we have a lot of quality and potential to do a lot of good things in this tournament,” Purdy said. “If we fight together and if we’re united, we have the potential to win matches.”
No injury worries for Mexico and every player will be available for selection, according to manager Jose Manuel de la Torre, who will make his debut in an official competition at the helm of El Tri.
“I experience friendly matches and official matches with the same intensity and concentration and this won’t be an exception,” he said in his pregame press conference. “The pressure is the same. This is the national team, no matter what the game is. We represent a country and we have to do it in the best way possible.”