East Rutherford, NJ - Mexico needed two second-half goals to rally from a one-goal deficit to defeat Guatemala 2-1 on Saturday night. With the victory, Mexico will face Honduras on Wednesday, June 22nd at the Reliant Stadium in Houston.
For the first half, Mexico stunned the majority of the Pro-Mexico crowd of 78,807, when they allowed Guatemala to jump to a 1-0 lead thanks to Carlos Ruiz's goal in the fifth minute of match. Ruiz, who seconds earlier accepted a long "Hail Mary" pass from teammate Elias Enoc Vasquez, closed the deal when he defeated Mexican defender Hector Monreno and GK Alfredo Talavera for the score.
With the goal, Guatemala continued to aggressively attack Mexico for the remainder of the first half where they tried to make the most of their opportunity to upset El Tri. While Mexico may have possessed an 11-6 shots on goal advantage, they appeared lethargic as Guatemala continued to press the ball for a second net.
If the first half was the opportunity where Guatemala punched this year's Gold Cup "Big Man on Campus" in the mouth, then it's sad to report that they were unable to mount another critical punch in the second half.
Before Guatemala could muster the energy to grab a 2-0 lead in the second half, Mexico had enough as El Tri's Aldo De Negris tapped in the equalizer in the 48th minute. While Guatemala's GK Ricardo Jerez's monstrous effort to block Hector Monreno's header was sensational, Jerez made the mistake of not holding the ball as it bounced towards Moreno's way. As a result of Jerez's mistake, Moreno's attempted to tap in only to have Guatemala's Carlos Gallardo prevent the equalizing goal—until De Negris shattered whatever chance Guatemala had of winning with his goal.
Following De Negris' goal, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez continued his MVP Gold Cup performance as his scored his sixth goal in four games in the 66th minute. Accepting a pass from Pablo Barrera, Chicharito finalized the deal when he simply tapped lightly with his right heel to give Mexico a 2-1 lead.
Following Chicarito's game winner, Mexico continued to attack until the game concluded in their favor. With Saturday night's victory, Mexico has continued to demonstrate why they're currently the best team competing in the Gold Cup 2011.
Registering a 16-2 goal advantage through four games, Mexico is currently undefeated in this year's Gold Cup. With the United States, Panama and Wednesday's opponent Honduras competing in the semifinals, it's clear that Mexico is the favorite to win the Gold Cup where they would advance to the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil should they win the tournament.
For a team that had five players suspended from the Gold Cup for failing out-of-competition doping tests, Mexico hasn't appeared affected by it. With the tournament play of "Chicharito" Hernandez, Giovani dos Santos and Aldo De Nigris, along with the defense of Rafa Marquez, Hector Moreno and GK Alfredo Talavera, Mexico hasn't demonstrated any ill-effects of their recent player's suspensions.
However, this will hold true if they're able to eliminate Honduras from the Gold Cup on Wednesday to face the winner of the United States/Panama research on Sunday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Cesar Diaz covers Soccer for LatinoSports.com. He also writes for 5 Points Press & USSoccerPlayers.com; your source for American Soccer news brought to you by members of the U.S. National Team. Easily accessible, you may reach Cesar at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Twitter at @CoveringSoccer.