No two teams opened Gold Cup play in more disappointing fashion than Mexico and Canada. Mexico was upset by Panama, 2-1, in a game that had many calling for Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's head, while Canada lost to tiny Martinique by giving up a 93rd-minute goal.
Now, each needing three points, these teams will meet in a vital Group A match.
Can Mexico regain its form and live up to its talent? Can Canada remain sturdy defensively and steal a point?
Let's break it down.
When: Thursday, July 11 at 11 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle
Watch: FOX Soccer
Streaming: FOX Soccer 2Go
What They're Saying
It's no secret that El Tri have struggled mightily in the past year. It may be enough to eventually get Chepo axed, as the coach doesn't seem to be getting enough out of a talented crop of players.
From Andrea Canales of ESPN:
However, part of the reason that there has been so much pressure on Chepo is because the coach should be coping with a wealth of riches—at least as far as talent is concerned. Besides the Liga MX pipeline of talent, Mexico has players in Europe, two generations of youth World Cup winners, and Olympic gold medalists to choose from. A few might be injured or disgruntled here and there, but in the main, there are numerous options. There's even the possibility—if one has the guts to cope with the controversy that would ensue—of bringing in naturalized players.
With the talented options on hand, it's difficult to understand why Mexico has won only once this year versus CONCACAF opposition. Moreover, it's hard to see that the team needs a savior at all, just a coach who can put the pieces into place for the team to come together and perform well as a unit.
Mexico Player to Watch: Raul Jimenez
One of the key factors in Mexico's 2-1 loss to Panama was Chepo's decision to open the game in a 4-3-3, with Raule Jimenez playing in a role unfamiliar to him, right-winger. His discomfort out wide showed, as he was hardly a factor in the contest.
Jimenez is one of the most promising young players El Tri has and will be looking to earn a regular gig at next summer's World Cup, but he's really only effective when played centrally, often paired with a second forward.
Against Canada, it will be interesting to see how Mexico approach the game tactically and where Jimenez is utilized on the pitch. There will be goals to be had, and if Jimenez is used correctly, he should be able to bag one or two.
Canada Player to Watch: Will Johnson
One way or another, Will Johnson is the key to this game for Canada. If he plays, he'll be the lynchpin in a midfield that is sure to be tested against a skilled Mexican side.
And if he can't play—he's been battling a stomach bug—well, it's hard to imagine Canada being very competitive in this contest.
Much like he has done for the Portland Timbers, Johnson is the veteran presence and leader on a young Canada team in transition. While he can't will Canada to an upset over Mexico by himself, if he doesn't play a cracker of a match—or at all—you can bet Mexico will glide to an easy win.
Which team wins?
As disappointing as Mexico's loss was to open this tournament, at least it came against Panama, one of six teams fighting to qualify for the World Cup. But Canada lost to Martinique, which isn't even a FIFA member.
That's pretty bad.
And this one could end up being quite bad for Canada, which will be overmatched against Mexico. Canada will try to park the bus, but they won't keep Mexico off the board.
El Tri get the win, 2-0.