ATLANTA – Patience is a virtue. It is also a big reason why Mexico defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 1-0, in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals on Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
The two-time defending champion demonstrated admirable poise when going up against goalkeeper Jan Michael Williams, who made numerous saves to thwart the Mexicans.
“The best thing we did tonight was to not get hurried,” Mexican forward Rafael Marquez Lugo said after the match. “We know we have the pressure to win and instead of getting hurried and play crazy, I think we went on the same line, we continued playing good on the ball and in the end we deserved the goal and to be on to the semifinals.”
El Tri stayed on course even when it appeared that Williams could not be beat.
“The team did not become desperate,” Mexican coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said.
“Chepo” knew the game would be complicated, that Trinidad & Tobago -- with its combination of speed, strength and height – would pose a different challenge for his squad.
What perhaps he didn’t expect was a heroic effort by Williams, who kept Mexico off the scoreboard until late in the second half.
“I want to mention their goalkeeper had a great night,” Marquez Lugo noted. “If he doesn’t have the night he had, maybe we can score one or two goals in the first half and we see a different game. Saying that, it was very tough for us to score.”
Just when it appeared that perhaps the match would be heading to extra time, Raul Jimenez put that one ball behind Williams, knocking in a superb low cross by Miguel Layun in the 84th minute from eight meters.
“This one, there were four or five minutes, there was another one he could have finished also, but that’s part of being a center forward,” de la Torre said. “It’s all about being there for the right opportunities that are created for him. It’s part of his job.”
Layun did his job, constantly pressuring the Soca Warriors from the wing, getting dangerous crosses to the forwards. In fact, he nearly connected with Jimenez for a second goal, but the young Club America forward, who also tallied against Canada in the group stage, just couldn’t latch onto it.
“I always try to make that service to my teammates to create scoring possibilities,” Layun said. “Sometimes, I wish I could score too, but to give them a chance is really comfortable for me.”
Now Mexico is onto familiar territory, the semifinals of the Gold Cup against a well-known foe in Panama. El Tri will no doubt be buoyed Wednesday by another large crowd of its supporters at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It will be anxious to put a 2-1 loss on the opening game of the group stage against the Panamanians in the rearview mirror.
“It’s going to be different because we have a few more games to get ourselves involved, to work with other teammates because we had a really short time to prepare for this Cup,” Layun said. “I think that’s really going to be the difference. It’s going to be a really interesting game.”