By Ivan Orozco
CARSON, California -The handshake went like this: high five, high five and a right handed salute.
It was Mexico striker Alan Pulido's celebratory gesture Sunday after his third goal in El Tri's 3-0 win against Honduras at that sent it to the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying semifinals.
Pulido and teammate Marco Fabian completed the handshake as they ran back to midfield after Pulido sent in the final goal of the match in the 46th minute.
With the win Mexico secured a slot in Saturday's knockout round in Kansas City and moved a step closer to winning the group.
And Pulido has cemented himself as one of Mexico's stars and probably one of its more dangerous strikers.
"I am honored and happy to score three goals, but I am happier that we won," the 21-year-old Tigres forward said.
Pulido put on display his right-footed cannon.
His first goal of the night came 12 minutes into the match when he sprinted into the area with Honduras defender Johnny Leveron. He looked up at the goal, then down at the ball and fired from about 15 meters.
Pulido showed off his right-footed shot again, finishing a blast with style in the 40th minute. He took a pass a few yards from the left sideline, dribbled laterally to the top of the restraining arc. With Leveron in front of him and Ever Alvardo closing from the other side, Pulido pivoted and hit a powerful shot into the opposite corner of the net.
This time, he celebrated by sprinting to the far sideline where teammates corralled him in jubilation.
Honduras did not have an answer for Pulido and the rest of Mexico's speedy and fluid attack.
It took only a minute after the break for El Tri to score again. And it was Pulido once more. Javier Aquino sprinted up the right side before crossing a ball into the area where Pulido met it near the penalty spot and volleyed it past Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza.
It gave Pulido a tournament-leading four goals and Mexico six points atop Group B.
Pulido probably has earned a slot in the starting line up for the remainder of the qualifiers But don't expect Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena to single him out.
"He's beginning to play well with his club. He played in Copa Libertadores and some in the league," Tena said. "That's helped him a lot. He is at a better level. We've seen him grow. He has a lot of confidence. He looks loose and he is putting in some nice goals. He is doing well just like all of our players. I don't typically speak about one player but I am doing so because you asked me."
There were many questions coming from the Mexican media about Pulido being in the starting line up for this tournament.
Many said Jeronimo Amione and Erick Torres were considered to see action instead of Pulido.
"That didn't bother me," Pulido said. "I'm pleased that I have two good teammates that I communicate well with. I just work hard so when I am given the opportunity, I take advantage of it."