Players from Mexico (pictured) head happily to their dressing room after defeating Honduras in the CONCACAF Men's Olympic Qualifying Championship on October 7, 2015, in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo: Mexsport)
COMMERCE CITY, Colorado – While goals didn’t fly into the net like some would have liked, Mexico finished the group stage in the CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship with maximum points from three games and is now one win away from booking a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Tricolor found the back of the net seven times, a number that was good for second on the scoring table, six behind the United States.
“Each game we played different and we managed to adjust,” said head coach Raul Gutierrez. “However we prepared, I like how they came across. They did everything they could to prepare. We used all our ideas, but in the end it’s on the field. We struck hard, with authority. We tried and tried, but had an issue scoring goals.”
After striking for four goals in their opener against Costa Rica, the Mexicans converted a penalty kick in a 1-0 win over Haiti and then scored twice against 10-man Honduras (both goals came after Allans Vargas’ second-minute ejection).
Defensively, the defending CONCACAF and Olympic champion allowed only a single goal, which was tallied by Alberth Elis, Honduras’ outstanding 19-year-old forward.
“The defense has played really well,” Gutierrez noted. “We will continue to play with the same line, but it was the defense’s overconfidence that might have allowed the goal.”
Gutierrez has been impressed with his team’s ability to evolve throughout the tournament, applying what was established in training into each match.
“Even though we missed chances, we executed pretty well,” remarked the 48-year-old, who guided Mexico to the 2011 FIFA U-17 World Cup title. “I think that all the situations that came our way can be addressed and the players can continue to grow as they continue to play. The team continues to be solid.”
Currently riding a nine-game winning streak in the competition, Mexico meets Canada in the semifinals on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, with the winner clinching a place in the final and a berth in the Olympics.
“Clearly, it becomes more difficult the further you advance in the tournament, but the team is doing a really good job of playing football,” Gutierrez added. “They’re doing really well to apply what they’re learning training and executing it on the field successfully. Every match is different for every team we play against, but I expect everything to continue to evolve and for the team to continue to succeed.”