Mexico back to work ahead of Gold Cup challenge

Mexico (pictured) trains in Orlando, Florida, ahead of its friendly against Costa Rica, which will be played June 27, 2015. (Photo: Mexsport)

ORLANDO, Florida -- While Mexico may have said goodbye to the Copa America last week, another version of the Tricolor is on a path to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Head coach Miguel Herrera put together different rosters for each competition and the one widely considered to be stronger is training in Orlando, Florida, ahead of Saturday’s friendly against Costa Rica at the Citrus Bowl.

“What matters most is that the team functions,” said Herrera in reference to the match, which will take place at the Citrus Bowl. “If we do things right, we will surely have a good game.”

Many in the 47-year-old’s 23-man squad have not played since the end of May, if not longer. One of them is goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Malaga’s reserve custodian has not seen minutes since January 29, while playing in the Spanish Copa del Rey.

Defender Miguel Layun is in a similar spot. He helped Watford earn promotion to the English Premier League, but – if he gets on the field against Costa Rica -- will not have played competitively in 56 days.

The situation that could complicate matters, as the six-time CONCACAF champion bids to unseat current holder United States. If Mexico does lift the trophy after the final on July 26, it will then have to face the Americans in a playoff to earn a berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

“Winning it (the Gold Cup) does not guarantee us going to the Confederations Cup,” Herrera remarked. “It guarantees playing a final against the United States. We are cognizant of this.”

Overall, though, the former Club America manager is pleased by what he has seen in training thus far.

"They came in from vacation,” continued Herrera. “The team is very good physically. Every day, we are putting in optimal work that we want. We had 20 days to start the tournament and to reach 100% fitness. There is no excuse.”

While excuses won’t be accepted, will the team be ready to square off against CONCACAF’s best starting with Cuba on July 9 in Carson, California?

“We know that we’re going to face a competition where there is nothing more for Mexico than winning and we have to win,” Herrera finished. “Costa Rica, the United States, Panama and Honduras are doing their work well.

“Obviously, our thoughts are about winning the Gold Cup. But at this moment, we are thinking of Cuba.”