Gold Cup 2013: Mexico Desperately Needs to Improve After Opening Loss
As international competitions go, this year's Gold Cup isn't exactly high up on the order of relevance.
Teams like the United States that are embroiled in World Cup qualifying haven't brought their "A-squads," while the winner of the tournament won't even be guaranteed a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup. Instead, they'll play the winner of the 2015 Gold Cup to determine which team earns that spot.
But for Mexico, you get the impression that this year's Gold Cup is pretty dire.
El Tri's A-listers have struggled in the hexagonal stage of World Cup qualifying, winning just one game, drawing five and scoring a paltry three goals in the process. With eight points, Mexico is currently in third place behind the United States (13) and Costa Rica (11).
And Mexico's U-20 squad disappointed at the U-20 World Cup, bowing out in the round of 16 after coming in as one of the tournament's favorites. There's been a lot of disappointment for El Tri since winning Olympic gold in London last summer.
Meanwhile, doubts about whether Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre is really the man for the manager's role with the World Cup a year away have crept to the surface. After Sunday night's 2-1 loss to Panama, chants of "Fuera Chepo" (rough translation: Out with Chepo) could be heard throughout the stadium.
And that's why this team must recover from the opening loss to Panama and come out of this tournament with positives to take away from the experience.
For one, at this point Chepo is close to managing for his job, if it hasn't already reached that point. Mexico has won the last two Gold Cups and, before Sunday evening, had never lost an opening game at the tournament.
Expectations for this tournament are fairly high, and El Tri is already disappointing. If they do the unthinkable and fail to advance to the knockout stage, calls for Chepo's head may be taken seriously.
But there are also players competing for Mexico in this tournament that could help the A-listers and are fighting for a chance to do so.
Players like Marco Fabian, for instance—who was one of the bright spots against Panama—must show up in a big way. Once considered a star with a trajectory that would rival that of Javier Hernandez's, injuries have derailed a promising career.
But at the Gold Cup, he has the chance to prove he belongs on the World Cup squad next year. And after scoring a goal in the first game, he's off to a fine start.
Same for a player like Raul Jimenez, who is hoping to pair with Hernandez next summer at forward. Mexico needs these young players to shine and hopefully inject some life into the A-squad.
At the end of the day, that is what this tournament is really about, giving Mexico something positive to build on with four more qualifying matches. Remember, Mexico is just a point ahead of Honduras and two above Panama in the Hex.
El Tri's place in Brazil is far from secure.
In other words, the country needs some good news. It needs something positive to build from. It needs this Gold Cup squad to restore hope in its manager. It needs them to do far, far better than the 2-1 loss to Panama.
And it needs them to do it quickly.
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