Rodriguez: After wild opening matchday, Mexico remain Gold Cup favorites

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Raise your hand if you correctly predicted which countries would lead their respective groups after the first matchday of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Be honest: You called Canada, Martinique and Mexico?

Highly unlikely, and that's OK. Canada hadn't even scored in two entire Gold Cup tournaments prior to their 4-2 win over French Guiana on Friday. Martinique, who beat Nicaragua 2-0 on Saturday, didn't even qualify for the last tournament, and the last time they advanced to the knockout stage was 2002. It's only one group stage game of three, but Groups A and B are up for grabs so far in a way few expected, especially after Gold Cup co-favorite USA only managed a draw against Panama on Saturday.

But Mexico are the defending Gold Cup champion, and even with an almost completely different squad – midfielder Jesus Duenas is the only player to have played in both the 2015 Gold Cup final and Sunday's 3-1 win over El Salvador at Qualcomm Stadium – they showed why they are the class of the region.

With a young squad, missing all of the first-choice starters, who were of course busy last month in World Cup qualifying and then at the Confederations Cup, and even head coach Juan Carlos Osorio banned for six matches after his, well, let's say disrespectful conduct to match officials at the Confederations Cup, Mexico rolled over El Salvador. Even with El Salvador tying up the game quickly after Mexico scored in the opening minutes, El Tri proved to be too much for their Central American counterparts.

Much like the US national team, Mexico's squad is very much an experimental team, intended to give players who don't otherwise get a shot a chance to prove they can be more regular contributors. But much like the USMNT, Mexico is going for the title, every single time, regardless of the strength of squad. That may sound disrespectful to the rest of the teams at the tournament, but it's not as if the "weaker" teams continue to roll over the rest of CONCACAF.

And Mexico entered the tournament with a cloud of sorts around them, strangely enough. While a fourth-place showing in the Confederations Cup is a solid result, the decisive loss to Germany in the semifinal and the whimper of a loss in the third-place game against Portugal made this program look bad in the eyes of many.

Think about that for a moment. The best team in CONCACAF finished a tournament behind only the reigning World Cup, South American and European champions. Mexico are ambitious, and they should be, but in the order of things that's not really an unexpected result.

And so many pundits (yes, myself included) probably overlooked Mexico's squad and figured the US would have the upper hand this time around. They might still, there's a lot of soccer left to be played.

But the team that turned in the best performance after the first game in this tournament was definitely Mexico. And the win, by this group, was a challenge to the rest of the Gold Cup field – if you want this title, you're going to have to take it from us.