After a perfect record (3 wins, no goals allowed) that resulted in winning their group, Mexico will play the Round of 16 against Puerto Rico. Mexico is overly favored against a Puerto Rico that is not only considered the weakest team, but because of the new format of the tournament, their last game was on April 6th. Mexico needs to get to the Semifinals to book a ticket to the U-17 World Cup to be held in Brazil later this year.
Mexico came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win the CONCACAF Tournament. Their start to the tournament wasn’t the best. In rainy and windy conditions, Mexico had a tough time getting their game together as they defeated Jamaica by a score of 1-0. Jamaica was supposed to be the best team that Mexico was going to face, so the toughness of the game wasn’t that surprising. Their next game came against Bermuda, widely expected to be the weakest team in the group. Mexico won easily by a score of 5-0 but their performance wasn’t ideal, especially in the finishing where they missed a couple of sitters. With the ticket to the knockout stage sealed, Mexico faced the surprising team of the group, Trinidad and Tobago, and won by the same score of 5-0. Mexico gave the best all around performance of the tournament so far and showed that they were quickly improving. Hopefully this upward trend will continue on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico is a federation that has improved in the youth categories but they will still be heavy underdogs on Wednesday. Not only are they inferior in terms of talent, but the CONCACAF format will play against them, since they will not be going with the same rhythm of play that Mexico has. This means that while Mexico has been improving after every game, Puerto Rico will play their first meaningful game in a month in a elimination game against a prime candidate to win the tournament. Still, Puerto Rico should have a do or die attitude and will be a dangerous team. If Mexico plays to their potential, they should come out with the win easily, but this is a team that historically has suffered against lower quality opposition.
In personal news, the match will become the first meaningful game between Mexico and Puerto Rico in any category in years in the men’s game (they faced each other before in women qualifiers). It’s personally a significant event, as a dual national, and a positive that Puerto Rico made history in getting to the next round and improving in the youth categories, although not reaching the level of 2013 when they qualified to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Puebla. Hopefully, this is a good sign for Puerto Rico and that the troubles of the senior team, which finished in the lowest level of the CONCACAF Nations League, will end.
Date: Wednesday, May 8
Time: 4:00pm Pacific, 6:00pm Central, 7:00pm Eastern
Venue: IMG Academy Field, Bradenton, Florida
Streaming: CONCACAF GO
Listings via LiveSoccerTV.com