By Ivan Orozco
DENVER – Martinique players juggled a ball over a steel fenced rail in the underground tunnels of Sports Authority Field on Saturday.
The Caribbean island players took to an impromptu game of soccer volleyball. There was nothing else they could do.
Torrential rain and severe lightning forced players and coaches to take cover, ultimately leading to practice being canceled for both Martinique and Mexico. The teams are slated to face each other Sunday in the second game of a Group A doubleheader. For CONCACAF official notes about this game, click here.
While Martinique players made it to the field for a very brief walk through, Mexico didn’t get a chance to step on the surface. Flash flood warnings were issued in the Denver area.
Instead, members of both teams hung out in the halls of the stadium, checked out their respective locker rooms and fulfilled their media duties by giving interviews ahead of their CONCACAF Gold Cup encounter.
“It’s not a big deal, really,” Mexico striker Rafael Marquez Lugo said about not getting to walk through the field. “We practiced in the morning, so this was really just to see the field and speak with the media.”
Mexico players spoke to the press after taking a look at their locker room. Afterwards, they got on the team bus and headed back to their hotel.
With a big game looming, Martinique head coach Patrick Cavelan talked about the challenge his team faces against Mexico.
"Mexico is a complete team they have a good defense and they score," he said. "They are very good offensively. We are really proud to play against a big nation like Mexico. It’s an honor for us to play this game. Knowing that even with a draw we can qualify to the quarterfinals.”
Cavelan said that to beat Mexico, his team would have to be stout on defense. He said he plans to be cautious on defense, while looking for counter-attacking opportunities. Martinique has scored once in the Gold Cup, a last-minute goal in a 1-0 win over Canada. Cavelan saw scoring against Mexico as a tough task. He would settle for a tie. Cavelan predicted a scoreless draw.
Mexico head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, on the other hand, doesn’t like predictions.
He said that he expects an improved Martinique squad that won’t be intimidated by facing El Tri, a team that the Caribbean side typically doesn’t play.
“It is a fast, strong team, they have size, they move quickly on the field,” noted de la Torre. “They have things that can surprise you if you don’t pay attention. But it has some things that you can take advantage of.”
The last time these two teams met in the Gold Cup, Mexico took advantage of Martinique’s inexperience at this level, cruising to a 9-0 at the 1993 edition of the tournament in Mexico City.
De la Torre said his team has to be careful not to underestimate and look past Martinique. Mexico is hoping to secure a slot in the next round. Martinique is also very much alive as a third place team entering Sunday’s games.
“I prepare the team the same way against whatever opponent regardless of its hierarchy,” de la Torre said. “I prepare them the same if we are facing Brazil, Spain, it doesn’t matter.”
Mexico midfielder Jorge Enriquez could miss the match against Martinique due to a “muscular” injury. The Guadalajara player said he suffered the injury in Mexico’s 2-0 win against Canada, but didn’t elaborate.
“Fortunately it is not that serious,” Enriquez said. “The team doctors will decide if I can play or not. I feel fine. I tell them I can play but they will decide if it’s the right thing to do so that there’s nothing more serious in the future. It is frustrating but you have to face the circumstances.”