Costa Rica on right Gold Cup road

Costa Rica (pictured) celebrates after scoring against Mexico in an international friendly on June 27, 2015, in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Mexsport)

ORLANDO, Florida – A 2-2 draw against Mexico is always a commendable result regardless of the competitive circumstances. That scoreline for Costa Rica on Saturday had a somewhat different feel.

The Central American champion, you see, jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a David Ramirez strike and a Miguel Layun own-goal (33’). After the break, though, the Mexicans stormed back to equalize through Giovani Dos Santos and Javier Hernandez.

Both sides used the match as preparation for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. If the action at the Citrus Bowl was any indicator, the battle to unseat current holder USA will be contested fiercely.

“It was an extraordinary first half,” said Costa Rica head coach Paulo Wanchope. “We had Mexico in their half. We dominated the first half with good possession of the ball, good runs. I think that like I said to the boys at halftime: an opponent like this you cannot leave wounded, you have to finish them off.

“We had the opportunity to score three, four goals and seal the match. It didn’t happen like that and obviously came the response from Mexico in the second half with a change of system.”

Despite letting a two-goal lead slip away, Wanchope believes his team is rounding into form after losses in its previous two friendlies against Colombia (1-0) and Spain (2-1).

“Each match, we see improvement in ourselves,” noted the 38-year-old. “Against Colombia it is true that it was neither a good or bad match. Against Spain, we also had Spain in their half, which is not at all easy. Mexico has always been a tough opponent for us and nevertheless we were able to dominate them for at least a half and that gives us a glimpse into what we can do at the Gold Cup.”

Wanchope also stressed that Costa Rica will not be relying on its success at last year’s World Cup in order to achieve Gold Cup honors.

“What was done in 2014 is in the past,” he finished. “This is a new process and the boys are focused on what they want: winning this cup.”