HOUSTON — When Mexico face Honduras on Wednesday night at Reliant Stadium (10 pm ET, Univisión) for a chance to advance to the Gold Cup final, El Tri could very well be facing their toughest foe in the tournament to date.
Sure, Guatemala gave Mexico a run for their money, scoring an early goal and forcing El Tri to work for their 2-1 victory. However, Honduras have the weapons to be a bigger challenge for Mexico.
Los Catrachos boast a pair of talented and deadly strikers in Carlo Costly and Jerry Bengtson, a creative option in midfielder Wilson Palacios (likely to come on as a sub because of a mending knock), a defense that can hold its own and a team who believes in unity and plays as one.
“Honduras doesn’t have just one weapon,” said Mexico head coach José Manuel de la Torre, who is still undefeated in his short tenure with the national team. “It’s a team that has done things well, is strong, is fundamentally sound and is managed well. It’s not just about one player. It’s a good team that has gotten where they are today based on merit.”
Mexico would do well to enter the contest wary of Honduras, especially after perhaps taking Guatemala a little lightly in the quarterfinals.
An early flub led to a Carlos Ruiz goal, giving Guatemala a 1-0 lead and forcing El Tri to play catch up for the first time in the tournament. Stunned by finding themselves down, Mexico played hurriedly, resulting in bad touches and a sense of desperation that finally subsided when Aldo de Nigris tied things up in the 48th minute and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández scored the eventual winner in the 66th.
According to de la Torre, Mexico learned from their mistakes and are bound not to commit the same errors against a Catrachos squad that could capitalize on the slightest opening.
“We always analyze our games, looking to correct situations that presented themselves,” he said. “When one errs, the first thing one must do is recognize that they’ve made a mistake to be able to make a change.”
Well aware that the Mexican public won’t accept anything less than a Gold Cup trophy, El Tri has prepared for any situation that, as de la Torre said, may present itself on Wednesday night. That’s why, during training on Tuesday morning, the coach had his team practice penalty kicks.
After all, Honduras made their way into the semifinals by disposing of Costa Rica in a PK shootout.
When asked for the reason why his team practiced shots from the spot, de la Torre simply replied, “Because there’s a chance and we have to be prepared.”
With a ticket to the final on the line, there’s no way de la Torre & Co. are about to take any chances.