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Mexico vs. Cuba, Gold Cup: What we Learned

Mexico v Cuba: Group A - 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It was easy peasy for the Mexico National Team as El Tri opened their 2019 Gold Cup campaign with a 7-0 victory over Cuba. Here is what we learned from Mexico’s goal fest in Pasadena.

Uriel Antuna took his chance

To put it simply, Cuba never had enough quality to compete with a team like Mexico. In particular, their defense was a real problem, and as you’d imagine, Mexico took complete advantage.

One of the players that benefited the most was LA Galaxy forward Uriel Antuna, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the final 23-man squad before Jorge Sanchez’s injury. Antuna finished the match with three goals and an assist in what proved to be an eventful evening for the 21-year-old winger.

It wasn’t just the goals that earned Antuna all the attention from this match. Antuna remained in great positions throughout the course of the game, pushing forward energetically with every attack, and his constant running ultimately paid off with a man of the match performance to remember.

Antuna’s future playing time could depend largely upon Rodolfo Pizarro’s fitness. However, coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino must now be wondering if Antuna should be El Tri’s permanent right-winger moving forward in this tournament.

Mexico’s midfield remained quite effective

It wasn’t always pretty and it’s debatable how much the rival played a part of things, but the Mexican midfield turned in another impressive performance.

For starters, it’s good to see Martino bringing on a young midfielder like Carlos Rodriguez. A typical piece of Martino’s system has been his play in between lines, and “Charly” has been an ideal player for that. Here, however, with Cuba sitting deep, Charly looked most comfortable in space and sending diagonal passes to the forwards, as exemplified in goals number four and five.

Meanwhile, Andres Guardado looked more involved in between lines, something you can clearly see in Mexico’s second goal.

This sort of intelligence from the Mexican midfielders to adjust to their situation inside the game has been one of the defining characteristics in El Tri’s first five games under Martino.

Injuries still a concern for Martino

Naturally, all the headlines will be around Uriel Antuna and the lopsided scoreline, but something has to be said about El Tri’s injured players. Before the game, Martino mentioned that Edson Alvarez and Rodolfo Pizarro were available off the bench in case of an emergency, and perhaps in a more traditional matchup we would have seen both players get the start.

But you have to wonder just how fit somebody like Edson Alvarez is after missing each of Mexico’s last two matches. While Diego Reyes wasn’t terrible in his start as defensive midfielder, it is obvious El Tri are a better side with Alvarez in the frame.

Pizarro, on the other hand, was a late scratch, and it looks like he will be ready to go versus Canada. Understandably, Mexico have reason to be overly cautious with the Monterrey forward, and with Antuna’s meteoric one-game rise, Martino and his coaching staff have to be feeling really good about their final decision to leave Pizarro out. That said, there is no doubt that Mexico need Pizarro to be 100% for this tournament, and the fact that he has already had to miss one game is at the very least worrying.