Mexico clinched the Gold Medal at the 2023 Central American and Caribbean Games by defeating Costa Rica by a 2-1 score. They were the better team and accomplished their goal in a tournament where they went undefeated. The gold medal is the first by the men’s side since 2014, when the games were held in Veracruz where they defeated Venezuela by a 4-1 score.
The match began as a pro-Costa Rican crowd made their sound heard in the telecast. As expected, Mexico controlled possession without creating much danger. After a run in the area, Jordy Evans got off a shot that went just wide as Costa Rica had the first true chance of the match. Mexico however responded in a big way. Rodrigo Huescas got a cross into the area which was deflected into the path of Ettson Ayon, who got off a strong right-footed shot past Costa Rica’s goalkeeper Bayron Mora into the net for the 1-0 lead. They continued to control the match, with Jordan Carrillo causing a lot of trouble for Costa Rica. A flurry of opportunities couldn’t translate into a score for El Tri, and the halftime whistle blew with them taking an important one goal lead into the locker room.
The second half started with both teams hoping to improve on their performances. From outside the area, Carrillo got off a right footed shot that went wide. Bryan Gonzalez then got the ball in the area and got past two defenders before his right footed shot was saved by Mora. A longball from Rodrigo Lopez was well played by Ayon, who made a good move to get past his defender before the ball was cleared into the path of Eduardo Armenta. Armenta took advantage of the fact that Mora was coming towards him to give a return pass to Ettson Ayon, who then shot it past two defenders and into the empty net for the goal, giving Mexico had a 2-0 lead. Costa Rica then look to have scored on a free kick, but it was clearly offside and the goal was disallowed. Off of a free kick, Andrey Soto hit a left footed shot that got past the defense and also past Garcia to get into the net and cut Mexico´s lead to a 2-1 score. A mistake by Oscar Villa almost turned to an own goal but the ball went wide as Garcia was coming out. Mexico then subbed out Rodrigo Lopez for Denzell Garcia. A cross into the area looked like it was handled by Guillermo Villalobos, but nothing was given even as Mexico´s players protested. A cross into the area was headed just wide by Ayon. Another longball in the area looked to be dangerous but Garcia came out to take the ball before Doryan Rodriguez got to get off a shot. Costa Rica subbed out Matthew Bolaños for Jostin Telleria. Off of a corner kick, Rafael Guerrero got a close range header that went just wide in a bad miss. Costa Rica subbed out Alejandro Bran for Joshua Parra. Mexico meanwhile subbed out Jordan Carrillo for Zahid Muñoz. A longball into the area almost found Gonzalez but Mora cleared it with a kick. Mexico subbed out Ettson Ayon and Eduardo Armenta for Ricardo Monreal and Isaias Violante. Neither of them would play however because the referee immediately blew the whistle and Mexico won the gold medal.
For the first time since 2014, Mexico won the gold medal and fulfilled the predictions before the tournament. It wasn´t easy as nothing was throughout the tournament, but Mexico was the better side. It wasn’t the most spectacular Mexican team, but the team was the most solid in the tournament and was favored. Coach Gerardo Espinosa makes his debut as U23 coach with a win and will now have to prepare for the tougher tournament, the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, which will be the last tournament as Mexico failed to qualify to the 2024 Olympic Games. Still in a summer that has been a rollercoaster, Mexico got an important triumph.