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Mexico Gold Cup Preview: Depleted Squad, New Coach — Is There Hope?

We have ourselves an international tournament this summer! The 2019 Gold Cup is almost here! It begins Saturday with Canada and Martinique kicking us off. The tournament is played every two years and includes 12 teams that qualify through regional tournaments in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.

It is routinely dominated and won by the United States and Mexico, with Canada being the only other team that has won it since 1991. Mexico has seven Gold Cup wins and the U.S. has six Gold Cup wins. Over the last few years Mexico has had to decide whether to send its top team to the Copa America (another tournament that often happens over the summer that includes South American teams) or the Gold Cup, leaving El Tri to play weakened sides for one of the tournaments. Last time around in 2017, it was the Confederations Cup and El Tri decided to prioritize that tournament and instead sent an alternative side to the Gold Cup.

The 2017 Copa de Oro (Gold Cup) was a tournament to forget for El Tri. Even though they went through the group stage undefeated, they still lacked the dominance that the national team fans expect and ended up being knocked out at the semifinal stage by a resurgent Jamaica team. Jamaica's performance spoke highly of the increasingly competitive nature of the Gold Cup, given the rise of quality in various national teams, but also spoke of a lack of creativity from the players and El Tri coaches. It was also a tumultuous tournament for Mexico. The build up to the Gold Cup was marred in controversy with Juan Carlos Osorio serving a six-match ban for his abuse of a ref during the Confederations Cup match between Mexico and Portugal. Mexico would go on to lose that match 2-1 but there was more to the aftermath of that loss than just being knocked out of the Confederations Cup: It spelled an unsteady road to the 2017 Gold Cup.

El Tri went into the tournament with an alternative side and also the lack of Juan Carlos Osorio on the bench. The embattled El Tri coach was still able to lead training sessions before matches but wasn’t able to communicate to his players during matches, with his assistants taking the lead in doing that. They would kick off the group stage with a 3-1 win over El Salvador, courtesy of goals from Hergardo Marin, Oberlin Pineda and Elias Hernandez. The result of the second match against Jamaica was foreshadowing. They ended the match tied 0-0, unable to breakthrough the Reggae Boyz. They wrapped up the group stage with an unconvincing win against Curaçao, 2-0. Goals from Angel Sepulveda and Edson Alvarez showed that they were a side with multiple match winners but at the same time showed they lacked a consistent goal threat. They would still their group, but their lack of cutting edge showed in the knockout stages. Mexico barely managed a 1-0 win in the quarterfinals against Honduras before ultimately being knocked out by finalist Jamaica. Jamaica would go on to lose to the United States in the final 2-1. It was a sad showing for Mexico and one that was compounded by the fact that its archrival won the tournament.

It's been two years and arguably Mexico has a better squad but questions still exist regarding squad depth, Mexico going into the tournament with a new coach and whether they have the ability to put defensive teams to the sword.

Mexico is undefeated in four matches with new coach Tata Martino but its last two matches have resulted in injuries to key players, and with an already weakened side, we shall see whether or not El Tri can reclaim the cup. Hector Moreno was the most recent casualty and was subbed off during Mexico’s last warm-up match against Ecuador. They would go on to win 3-2, but Moreno will most likely miss the tournament. Raul Jimenez is probably the most consistent player Mexico has on its side and the Wolves star will be hungry to finally get to shine as the undisputed striker for his team. Javier Hernandez, Chucky Lozano, Miguel Layun, Carlos Vela and Hector Herrera are just a few of the players who are either injured or decided to forego going to the tournament for personal reasons.

"Personally, I've never won (the Gold Cup)," said Jimenez in an interview with ESPN in Wolverhampton before the end of the Premier League season. "I've only been once and we finished in the semifinal, so I'm coming in with passion, pride and the drive to win it... it is something that I'm missing."

Edson Alvarez will also be a key player to keep an eye on throughout the tournament. Veterans like Jonathan Dos Santos and Andres Guardado will have to push the players around them to step up.

The tournament starts on Saturday, June 15, with Mexico being in group A with Canada, Martinique and Cuba. El Tri's first match will be against Cuba. Let’s see what comes about. Don’t miss the tournament!

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