Herrera: Central American teams have closed the gap

Action from the May 30, 2015, friendly between Mexico (white jersey) and visiting Guatemala in Tuxtla Gutierrez. (Photo: Mexsport)

GLENDALE, Arizona -- Mexico head coach Miguel Herrera says regardless what opposing players or the media might claim, the Tricolor gives its Central American opponents plenty of respect.

In fact, Herrera felt that Central American sides have closed the gap on the top teams in CONCACAF.

“We give each of their national teams credit. We respect them,” Herrera said during a news conference Saturday. “I have said since I became coach or got a chance to play these teams that they have closed the gap. The teams from Central America and the Caribbean are more difficult [to play]. They are more prepared. There are fewer differences. There is no more dominant giant. There have been very close games in the tournament.”

Herrera expects a Guatemala to be very competitive at the University of Phoenix Stadium in the second Group B match for both teams at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Chapines are coming off a 3-1 loss to Trinidad & Tobago, which could serve as enough motivation to give Mexico a battle.

“There’s no longer a team that shows it is much better than another,” Herrera continued. “Cuba struggles because it doesn’t have a professional league. Guatemala has players playing abroad in the United States, in Mexico.”

“There’s no longer a team that shows it is much better than another,” Herrera continued. “Cuba struggles because it doesn’t have a professional league. Guatemala has players playing abroad in the United States, in Mexico.”

The 47-year-old added that Guatemala striker Carlos Ruiz – who scored against Mexico in the 2007 Gold Cup quarterfinals -- “played here in the MLS and he’s a good player. From our end, we have always respected them. Guatemala will be nothing easy.”

Mexico defeated Guatemala 3-0 in an international friendly on May 30.

“It did help us to see what type of functionality they have, but on our end we had a different group,” Herrera commented, referring that Mexico used a roster for that match containing players that competed in the Copa America. “But it did help us analyze some things in the game in Chiapas but it’s a completely different situation.”

According to Guatemala head coach Ivan Sopegno, that match was beneficial to his side.

“It helped us to give 17 young players experience,” he said. “The players have to figure out what works best for them at this level and as a group we need to do something that we can hold on to.”