Jimenez stellar but Antuna the perfect 10 in Mexico rout
That's seven goals for the seven-time Gold Cup winners. During Saturday night's tournament-opener for Mexico, El Tri walloped Cuba through a 7-0 win at the Rose Bowl. Surrounded by a sea of more than 65,000 fans clad in red and green, Mexico's performance should be seen as a potential warning for future opponents. Next Up: Canada on June 19th.
The good news for Mexico supporters is that El Tri can find a way to demolish a parked bus. Although Cuba sat back and placed several numbers behind the ball, Mexico's overlapping runs and lofted passes did plenty to overcome the cautious approach.
Despite the fact that a performance against Cuba should also be taken with a grain of salt, noteworthy players such as Uriel Antuna, Carlos Rodriguez and Raul Jimenez were game-changers with their efforts in the final third.
Besides the immaculate showcase by Mexico on the field, the infamous goalkeeper chant yelled by certain groups of fans continues to loom over the national team. Throughout the game, the anti-gay chant was hurled by thousands towards Cuba goalkeeper Sandy Sanchez. No real effort was made by the national team or the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) to curtail its usage ahead of the summer.
Manager rating (out of 10)
10 -- It's difficult to pinpoint complaints about Gerardo "Tata" Martino. The manager found a way to breakdown a highly defensive side, maintained 71 percent possession and also scored seven goals. A perfect 4-3-3 tactical approach by the Argentine who threw plenty of numbers forward but also didn't look susceptible to counters.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Guillermo Ochoa, 7 -- Ochoa didn't have to make a single save all night. Always ready for a backpass, the 33-year-old was better suited as a focal point when moving the ball around in defense.
DF Luis Rodriguez, 7 -- As a high-pressing fullback, Rodriguez looked more like a right midfielder than a defender. The Tigres player did well to frustrate Cuba's backline and was crucial with his distribution.
DF Carlos Salcedo, 7 -- An exceptionally easy evening for Rodriguez's Tigres teammate. Salcedo had no trouble dealing with a handful of counters and spent most of his time providing conservative passes to Araujo.
DF Nestor Araujo, 7 -- Sitting alongside Salcedo, Araujo consistently connected with Reyes in the midfield or Gallardo out towards the wings. A straightforward game with very little work in the backline.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 8 -- Of the two fullbacks, Gallardo looked more proactive with his dangerous crosses and runs on the left wing. Early on, the 24-year-old helped kickstart the play that led to Mexico's first goal.
MF Diego Reyes, 8 -- Credit must be given to the lanky defender that has struggled with inconsistencies. Reyes thrived as a defensive midfielder, dished out a number of clever passes going forward and also scored in the 38th minute.
MF Carlos Rodriguez, 9 -- Time and time again, Rodriguez has stepped up as a key playmaker for Mexico in the midfield. Rodriguez's lofted crosses and passes opened up avenues that left Cuba's defenders chasing the ball. Rodriguez finished with an assist and also helped create the final goal for El Tri.
MF Andres Guardado, 7 -- With plenty of dirty work in the heart of the XI, Mexico's captain was busy as a distributor that loved to switch the field. Guardado also finished with an assist for Jimenez's first goal of the night.
FW Uriel Antuna, 10 -- Antuna was at the right place at the right time. Although it could have been any other player who knocked in those three goals, the LA Galaxy player should be given full recognition for capitalizing and finishing his short-range attempts. An assist for Alexis Vega's goal was simply the icing on the cake for the player that will likely not forget tonight, and for good reason.
FW Raul Jimenez, 9 -- There's something about the workrate of Jimenez that creates so many small moments of success and failure. Lost in the recent conversation on his finishing is his ability to quickly bounce back from his misses and score. Tonight, he responded with two goals of his own.
FW Roberto Alvarado, 9 -- In place of a Hirving Lozano or Carlos Vela, Alvarado stepped in as Mexico's playmaking and pacey winger. While regularly slipping past the opposition's fullbacks, Alvarado constantly tested Cuba's backline with his aggressive runs.
FW Orbelin Pineda, 7 -- Substituted in for Alvarado during the 66th minute. Pineda was hungry to make an impact and provided the long-range pass that helped create an assist for Antuna. An energetic evening for the player with limited minutes.
FW Alexis Vega, N/A -- Substituted in for Jimenez in the 72nd minute. Scored his first goal in a Mexico jersey minutes later.
DW Cesar Montes, N/A -- Substituted in for Salcedo during the 77th minute.