Mexico started the U23 CONCACAF Championship with an expected win after a Sebastian Cordova hat trick helped the team get a 4-1 result over the Dominican Republic. Mexico completely dominated the match against the team most consider to be the weakest in the group, and yet the level of play didn’t seem to have pleased all the fans. Coach Jaime Lozano must now pay attention to Costa Rica in the second match, with the Central American team looking at a possible elimination after losing their opener to the United States by a 1-0 score on Sunday. The Dominican Republic will also look to stop an elimination most people expect to happen when they face the United States.
The first half started with Mexico not going out with Jose Juan Macias, who had some muscular problems. Surprisingly, Coach Jaime Lozano didn’t start with Santiago Muñoz but instead went with Alexis Vega as the lone forward. Besides that there were few surprises, maybe an exception being that Jesus Angulo got the starting spot over Gilberto Sepulveda. It was less than a minute in when Alexis Vega got the first chance, a header that was saved easily by the Dominican Goalkeeper, Johan Guzman. The Dominican Republic almost had a good chance when a long ball forced Mexico’s goalkeeper Luis Malagon to come out and clear the ball with a header. Mexico wasted a great opportunity when after the Dominican Republic lost the ball Uriel Antuna tried to pass the ball and found Sebastian Cordova, but his close range shot went wide. Mexico would later on have another chance when a ball in the area found Vega, but his shot was saved by Guzman. Guzman would come up big again off a corner kick when Johan Vasquez rose to make a great header that Guzman acrobatically saved. Mexico came close again when Cordova rose to head the ball, but it hit the post, bouncing into the head of Carlos Rodriguez and going wide. Then in a great play, Roberto Alvarado got wide open and made a great low cross that found Carlos Rodriguez, who connected with a shot past Guzman for the 1-0 lead.
After the goal, Mexico continued to completely dominate the game as the Dominican side started to get desperate in their defensive clearances. The Dominican Republic started to settle and were able to defend better, but their attack was non-existent even when they were trailing. Mexico had another chance after Alvarado got into the area and found Vega, but his shot was blocked by a Dominican defender. Mexico continued to attack as Antuna went past his defender Jose de la Cruz every time. The Dominican Republic would make their first substitution by subbing out Fabian Messina for Kelvin Martinez. The Dominican Republic would get their first shot through Martinez, a shot that went well wide. The halftime whistle blew and although Mexico completely dominated they only had a single goal, too little for so much possession.
The second half started with the Dominican Republic making their second substitution, replacing Juan Pineda with Rafael Mata. Minutes into the half a good play from Mexico was cut by a foul to Sebastian Cordova. In the ensuing free kick, Alexis Vega sent a great cross that Cordova would volley with left footed shot past Guzman for the 2-0 lead. Mexico had a good counter attack opportunity that Vega wasted by trying to dribble past a defender and just crashing the ball into his feet. After a great play by Antuna, his cross was headed by Cordova and it hit the post but the rebound fell to a Dominican player instead of Vega, who misjudged it. Mexico would made their first move when Roberto Alvarado was subbed out for Jesus Ricardo Angulo. In a great combination play, Alexis Vega went to his normal position and got off a great cross that Sebastian Cordova rose to head it past Guzman for the 3-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Mexico, Johan Vasquez seemed to have brought down a Dominican player and a penalty was given. Edison Azcona stepped up to take it and converted it with a right footed shot past Malagon to make it 3-1. Mexico almost came back immediately when Antuna got a chance in the area, but his shot was cleared by a defender. Mexico subbed out Joaquin Esquivel for Alan Cervantes. Then off a counter, Uriel Antuna dove to cut a ball and looked to have hurt himself. Antuna would however be able to continue in the match. Mexico would sub out Carlos Rodriguez and Alexis Vega for Alejandro Mayorga and Santiago Muñoz. Minutes in, Mayorga hit a left footed shot from outside the area that forced Guzman to make a save. Mexico then had a counter attack with Muñoz, who got knocked over by Guzman and the referee gave a penalty kick. Sebastian Cordova stepped up to take it but his shot would be stopped by Guzman. Unfortunately for him, his rebound was just left there for Cordova to get to it and lob the left footed shot over him for the 4-1 lead. It closed a great performance from Cordova, who got a hat trick to give Mexico the last goal as the ref blew the whistle.
Mexico got a strong result, although their level of play wasn’t the best. While Mexico was the better team all game and had complete domination of the match, they looked to be dependent on individual play and there was a big lack of cohesion. Doubts will grow, especially since the team barely had two camps, neither of which were with the complete team until this past week. Mexico will have a big jump of quality in their opponents when they face Costa Rica and the United States, although both of those teams also showed a inferior level of play to what was expected coming into the tournament. Still Coach Lozano will need to work a lot since they can’t afford a single stumble in the next games. The Dominican Republic did give a performance that was better than expected. Coach Jacques Passy, who is Mexican, studied the team well and had a good plan which they just didn’t have the players to pull off. It looks this was the most important match as Passy will now have to leave the tournament to prepare the senior team from the Dominican Republic, who starts their World Cup qualification next week. Thus it was an inspired performance but just not good enough for the Dominican side.