Tata Martino's Mexico remains Gold Cup favorite despite heavy losses

The 2019 Gold Cup kicks off on Saturday with a doubleheader at the Rose Bowl, where a crowd of at least 60,000 is expected for the main attraction, Mexico's opening game against Cuba, the second game in a doubleheader that also features Canada-Martinique.

Mexico has won seven of the 14 previous editions and is favored over the USA, the host and defending champion. Both teams enter the tournament with new coaches plucked from the ranks of MLS -- Mexico's Tata Martino (Atlanta United) and the USA's Gregg Berhalter (Columbus Crew) -- and new teams.

In Mexico's case, it has been decimated by player withdrawals. But what separates Mexico from the USA is its depth of talent that has allowed Martino to put together an exciting new team after the disappointment of Mexico's exit in the second round of the 2018 World Cup.

For a variety of reasons, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hector Herrera and the LAFC's Carlos Vela -- all starters on the 2018 World Cup team -- pulled out as did Porto's Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, a reserve in 2018.

An knee injury forced PSV's Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Mexico's top attacking talent a year ago in Russia, to pull out while defender Miguel Layun is sitting out the Gold Cup because of his treatment for a cancerous tumor. And on Friday, Jorge Sanchez was replaced by the LA Galaxy's Uriel Antuna after sustaining an injury to his right foot.

Still, Martino has gotten great results since he took over and introduced a 4-3-3 formation. El Tri has won all four games in 2019, all against South American opposition and scored at least three goals in all four games: Chile (3-1), Paraguay (4-2), Venezuela (3-1) and Ecuador (3-2).



Strikers Raul Jimenez, who scored 13 goals in his first season with Wolves in the Premier League, and playmaker Rodolfo Pizarro, who helped Guadalajara and Monterrey win Concacaf Champions League titles in 2018 and 2019, lead El Tri's attack.

Martino's midfield could consist of 22-year-old Carlos Rodriguez, who beat out Mexican-American Jonathan Gonzalez for a starting spot at Monterrey, 20-year-old Roberto Alvarado of Cruz Azul and 21-year-old Edson Alvarez of Club America. Alvarez started on Mexico's backline at the 2018 World Cup but Martino has converted him to a defensive midfielder.

“Mexico naturally always has to be a candidate to win the Gold Cup,” Martino said after El Tri beat Ecuador, 3-2. “The absences haven’t modified my thinking and we need to continue in our role as candidates or one of the candidates. And so we need to play like one of the candidates.”

5 comments about "Tata Martino's Mexico remains Gold Cup favorite despite heavy losses".
  1. Bob Ashpole, June 15, 2019 at 10:43 a.m.

    What I wanted to happen for the USA is happening for Mexico. 

    The unanswerable question is why can't USSF get its act together?

    From the performance of the US MNT it is clear to me that the last thing the successful WNT program needs is USSF managers telling the WNT coaches how to run the program. USSF should select the best head coach available, let the coach run the program, and then support that coach. 

    Not going to happen. Too much politics and business, not enough sport.

  2. Ben Myers replied, June 15, 2019 at 11:52 a.m.

    It takes little hindsight to realize that Klinsmann, for all his standoffishness, was onto something, namely the infusion of Americans trained abroad into the USMNT mix.  Now we have Berhalter regressing to his MLS roots, relying on experienced players proven unable to perform at the world-class level.  And he is disregarding the young talent mined by Ramos and others, fielding a somewhat sclerotic USMNT.  This does not bode well for either short term or long term.  And the USSF does not want to take the challenge head-on of improving what we pretend to do for soccer development in this country, with the crazy-quilt mix of DA and ECNL, plus college soccer with its own unique set of American football-ish rules and many ill-qualified coaches.

  3. R2 Dad replied, June 16, 2019 at 3:59 a.m.

    Bob, the problem with giving freedom to WNT coaches: Michelle French. There is no way I’d want to support that kind of retrograde coaching and give her more freedom. She’s gone now, but what is to prevent USSF from picking more from that 80’s barrel of kickball coaching? So for every Tab, I think we have 2 or 3 Michelle Frenchs in the coaching pool. We need a better filter for our coaching requirements for the Nats. It’s still a free-for-all.

  4. Ben Myers, June 15, 2019 at 11:45 a.m.

    People!  Please stop using the hackneyed phrase "converted"!  So Edson Alvarez had brain surgery or something to transform into a defensive midfielder?  These are professionals who have learned the game well.  If the high school age players I have coached can easily make the mental adjustment needed to play a different position and do it well, why can't a pro adjust just as easily?  Answer: They can and do, all the time.  But soccer pundits marvel at the idea that a pro is playing a "new" position.

  5. Bob Ashpole replied, June 15, 2019 at 3:42 p.m.

    Ben, "convert" in this sense simply means to "change" the player's role or position. It is not metaphorical, but rather literal. It does not imply that the player is "new" to the position (per Websters: "to change from one form or function to another.") It doesn't imply that the change is difficult or unusual.

    I don't see anything wrong with using "convert" instead of change. Some variety in vocabulary is welcome. It also is not a phrase, just a single word. I don't see it possible for the verb "convert" to be a hackneyed phrase.

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