Mexico is on to the 2019 Gold Cup semifinals after knocking out Costa Rica 1-1 (5-4) in the quarterfinal round Saturday night before 70,788 fans at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The tight matchup needed extra time and then a penalty-kick shootout to determine a winner. The two sides were still knotted after the initial five rounds, which meant sudden death. It was there that Carlos Salcedo made his attempt, but Costa Rica's Keysher Fuller was blocked by Mexican goalkeeper and captain Guillermo Ochoa.
It's an especially sweet victory for El Tri, as there was controversy surrounding the Costa Rica equalizer that came on a penalty kick and necessitated extra time in the first place.
Costa Rica earned a penalty kick in the 50th minute when Luis Rodriguez tripped Joel Campbell from behind. Bryan Ruiz took the penalty in the 52nd and snuck the equalizer past Ochoa.
However, Fox Sports 1 rules analyst Joe Machnik disputed the ruling on the broadcast.
"I believe it's a foul," Machnik said, "but I believe the contact is outside of the penalty area—first contact—and only if we had [video assistant referee] would we see all the angles that would've perhaps given us the best opportunity to be 100 percent sure that was a clear and obvious error."
There is no VAR in this year's Gold Cup.
Mexico opened up a 1-0 lead just before halftime in the 44th minute when Raul Jimenez collected a cross from Rodolfo Pizarro in the middle of the box and kept with the ball after Oscar Duarte blocked his initial shot.
The goal marked Jimenez's fourth of the tournament, which tied him with Uriel Antuna for the club lead.
The game was defined as much by back-and-forth chances as yellow cards. There were 11 total yellow cards handed out by the official, including one apiece for Costa Rica head coach Gustavo Matosas and Mexico head coach Tata Martino.
Martino's yellow card was his second of the tournament and resulted in the rookie head coach being suspended for El Tri's semifinal match against Haiti.
While Haiti still has a daunting task ahead of it in it first-ever Gold Cup semifinals appearance, Mexico showed vulnerability against a scrappy Los Ticos squad and gave the Haitians a blueprint to work with.
This match marked the first time in eight games under Martino that El Tri scored fewer than three goals. Not to mention the fact that an already-depleted Mexico side will be without Martino on the sideline.
Mexico is still the favorite to win its eighth Gold Cup championship, but this particular team is weaker than past Mexican rosters.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Hector Herrera, Carlos Vela, Hector Moreno, Hirving Lozano, Jorge Sanchez and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona are among star players absent from Martino's Gold Cup roster for various reasons.
If there were a year to pounce on Mexico, it's this one.
If there were ever an underdog to get the job done, it's the Haitians—fresh off their first Gold Cup group win and upsetting Canada 3-2 in the quarterfinals.
It won't be easy to knock off Mexico, but Costa Rica proved it's possible outside of Ochoa's heroics.
Mexico will face off with Haiti on Tuesday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.