Three Points: Mexico v Cuba

Mexico's Oribe Peralta (white jersey) has 19 goals in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, but he's never played in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Photo: Mexsport)

CHICAGO, Illinois – In the second match of a Group C doubleheader, Mexico will start its campaign to reclaim the CONCACAF Gold Cup title against Cuba on Thursday night at Soldier Field.

Here are Three Points to consider ahead of the game:

1) Mexico eyeing 7th Gold Cup crown
Whenever Mexico contests a Gold Cup, the mission is to be crowned champion. The Tricolor have won six of the 12 all-time titles, a record that could be equaled if the United States lifts the trophy again this year. Under the guidance of head coach Miguel Herrera, the Mexicans have shown flashes of greatness over the past 12 months, including some memorable performances in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. An alternate squad failed to get past the Copa America’s group stage last month, so Mexico will look for a confidence-boosting start against Cuba.

2) Cuba looks to rebound
Cuba has experienced ups and downs internationally over the last few years. It won the Caribbean Cup for the first time in 2012 and followed up that success with a run to the 2013 Gold Cup quarterfinals. In an attempt to defend their Caribbean title last November, the Leones del Caribe finished three places lower than two years earlier, but it was good enough to earn a spot in the 2015 Gold Cup. Then, last month, Cuba slipped again, when it was eliminated from qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in just the second round, succumbing to Curacao on the away-goals rule. Can the Cuba of 2012-13 vintage rise again?

3) Replacing Javier
Critical to Mexico’s Gold Cup journey will be its ability to replace star striker Javier Hernandez. The 27-year-old Manchester United standout spent last season on loan with Real Madrid and is a clinical finisher when given the opportunity. However, after fracturing his collarbone in the Tricolor’s final Gold Cup tune-up against Honduras, head coach Miguel Herrera is faced with the tall task of finding a suitable replacement. Helping to fill the void will be the return of Real Sociedad winger Carlos Vela. A dynamic playmaker with a gifted left foot, Vela’s contributions will be crucial in the attacking third. Oribe Peralta, 31, is expected to be a more direct substitute for Hernandez. The 2013 CONCACAF Player of the Year – who scored a winning goal against Cameroon in the 2014 FIFA World Cup – will be making his first Gold Cup appearance.