Mexico vs. Honduras
2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup – Quarterfinals
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.
Thursday, July 20 – 10:30 pm ET
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With a youthful squad showing some shaky moments throughout group play, all while suspended coach Juan Carlos Osorio watched helplessly from the suite level, circumstances suggest Mexico could be ripe for an early upset.
Less credible is the idea Honduras could pull it off.
Los Catrachos may have a better Gold Cup resume than most against El Tri, playing to a 1-2-2 record in five matches. And on paper, this Honduras generation is one of the deeper ones, even if it lacks the star power of teams a decade earlier that featured Wilson Palacios, Carlos Pavon and Carlo Costly.
But a group that includes Houston Dynamo trio of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia, as well as FC Dallas' Maynor Figueroa, have reached the knockout phase despite failing to score in the tournament -- at least on the actual field of play.
Were it not for French Guiana coach Jair Karam playing the ineligible Florent Malouda, the Hondurans might've been sent home early for a second consecutive tournament in favor of a definitively more offensive Martinique squad. Instead, Karam's choice gifted Los Catrachos a 3-0 forfeit victory and an almost-certain group passage.
That's not to say Mexico are guaranteed of victory, especially after an unimpressive 0-0 draw vs. Jamaica and a 2-0 victory over Curacao that was not nearly as comfortable as the final score indicated.
Two years ago, they were rescued by referee Mark Geiger's controversial decisions, defeating Panama 2-1 in extra time in the semifinals after Los Canaleros reached that stage despite failing to win a single tournament game.
Could coach Jorge Luis Pinto's men shake off their scoring woes and make a moment rivaling those Costa Rica had under his guidance at the 2014 FIFA World Cup? Sure. But the CONCACAF Disciplinary Committee won't be playing center forward Thursday.
Not only has Osorio opted to go with a younger squad after taking his first-choice players to last month's Confederations Cup, but the former Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls manager has rotated his squad aggressively, fielding close to a completely changed team in each of his three group games.
That has led to some disjointed moments, but may be worth it for Mexico when it takes the field against a Honduras team that has had two days more rest and has been able to stay in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And although Houston's Erick "Cubo" Torres has yet to find the net yet, five different players have contributed a goal apiece, showing that even a second-choice national team from south of the Rio Grande has no trouble fielding offensive talent.
MEXICO 23-PLAYER SQUAD
Goalkeepers (3): Jesus Corona (Cruz Azul / MEX), Miguel Angel Fraga (Atlas / MEX), Moises Munoz (Puebla / MEX)
Defenders (9): Hugo Ayala (Tigres UANL / MEX), Raul Lopez (CF Pachuca / MEX), Hedgardo Marin (Chivas Guadalajara / MEX), Alejandro Mayorga (Chivas Guadalajara / MEX), Jesus Molina (CF Monterrey / MEX), Cesar Montes (CF Monterrey / MEX), Jair Pereira (Chivas Guadalajara / MEX), Luis Reyes (Club Atlas / MEX), Luis Rodriguez (Tigres UANL / MEX)
Midfielders (5): Edson Alvarez (Club America / MEX), Jesus Dueñas (Tigres UANL / MEX), Jesus Gallardo (Pumas UNAM / MEX), Jorge Hernandez (CF Pachuca / MEX), Rodolfo Pizarro (Chivas Guadalajara / MEX)
Forwards (6): Martin Barragan (Club Necaxa / MEX), Erick Gutierrez (CF Pachuca / MEX), Elias Hernandez (Club Leon / MEX), Orbelin Pineda (Chivas Guadalajara / MEX), Erick "Cubo" Torres (Houston Dynamo / USA), Angel Sepulveda (Monarcas Morelia / MEX)
Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio (Colombia); assistant Pompilio Paez in charge during match play
Almost a full week between matches may be just what Los Catrachos need to forget their finishing frustrations after outshooting their opponents in all three matches. Then again, perhaps a look at the club form of Honduras' MLS contingent could've suggested this would be a problem.
For Houston, Quioto has hit the net only once in the league since March, and Elis has grown somewhat quiet after a May flurry while seeing his role change from starter to sub. Garcia is a deeper sitting midfielder who hasn't scored in MLS since 2015, and Figueroa as a defender has other priorities, though he did have four shots in the scoreless draw-turned-forgeit against French Guiana.
HONDURAS GOLD CUP 23-PLAYER SQUAD
Goalkeepers (3): Ricardo Canales (CDS Vida), Donis Escober (Olimpia), Luis Lopez (Real España)
Defenders (8): Ever Alvarado (Olimpia), Brayan Beckeles (Necaxa / MEX), Felix Crisanto (Motagua), Henry Figueroa (Motagua), Maynor Figueroa (FC Dallas / USA), Marcelo Pereira (Motagua), Carlos Sanchez (Honduras Progreso), Allans Vargas (Real España)
Midfielders (8): Bryan Acosta (Real España), Jorge Claros (Real España), Carlos Discua (Motagua), Boniek Garcia (Houston Dynamo / USA), Ovidio Lanza (Juticalpa FC), Alex Lopez (Olimpia), Alfredo Mejia (Xanthi FC / GRE), Sergio Peña (Real Sociedad)
Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto (Colombia)