Carlos Vela (left) and Andres Guardado (right) celebrate after Mexico scored in a CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Trinidad & Tobago on July 25, 2015, in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Mexsport)
EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey – Without Javier Hernandez and now, possibly, without Giovani dos Santos, Mexico’s objective doesn’t change.
“Right now, in my head, is to make it to Philadelphia,” said head coach Miguel Herrera. “We want a final with the U.S. That’s how I’m thinking. We’re not thinking any other way.”
To get to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, El Tri will need to beat Costa Rica in a quarterfinal Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
The teams met in a friendly last month in Orlando, playing to a 2-2 draw.
“I think in that game there were two faces of our team,” goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said. “In the first half, we weren’t organized. We weren’t able to adapt and in the second half with the changes to the team we felt better on the field. I think that’s what happened, that feeling that we were adapting. We all felt better in our positions at that time.”
Victories have been difficult for both teams in this year’s Gold Cup. In six group-stage games between them, Mexico posted the only win, a 6-0 triumph over Cuba.
“There’s obviously things we need to work on and fix, but there’s other things that we’ve done pretty well and we are looking to be self-critical of ourselves,” Ochoa remarked. “We like to get better by playing each game. If we continue on a straight path, the results are going to come out in our favor.”
If Mexico is to progress to the next round in Atlanta, it may have to do without dos Santos, who suffered an adductor injury and was forced to leave the wild 4-4 draw against Trinidad & Tobago on Wednesday. The newly signed LA Galaxy striker worked with a fitness coach on the side Saturday morning and Herrera said he’ll be replaced by Oribe Peralta in the starting lineup.
“Giovani is not coming in as a starter,” the 47-year-old finished. “Today, he trained on the side of the field. Today, he worked really well. I saw he was stronger and he didn’t have any pain. If he has some doubt, if he’s not 100 percent, we’re going to have to wait until the next game.”
Mexico has never lost to Costa Rica in a Gold Cup match, posting a 4W-2D-0L record against the current Central American champion.