El Tri not only lack their star players as they attempt to defend their trophy, but they will also be missing their head coach, who was banned
Reigning champions Mexico kick off their 2017 Gold Cup campaign against El Salvador when the teams face off at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
The most successful team in the competition’s history, Mexico will be aiming to add a record eighth title to their honours list, but they will face stern resistance in Group B, which also features 2015 runners-up Jamaica and Caribbean champions Curacao.
Mexico were dealt a blow before the tournament even began after coach Juan Carlos Osorio was hit with a six-match ban following his conduct during the Confederations Cup third-place play-off defeat against Portugal.
The suspension means that the under-fire Osorio will miss the entirety of his country’s involvement in the tournament, even if they manage to reach the final. His assistant, Luis Pompilio Paez, will continue to preside over the team in his absence.
El Salvador qualified for this year’s competition after clinching third in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana and it will be their 10th time participating. It will be the first major tournament for La Selecta coach Eduardo Lara, who succeeded Ramon Maradiaga at the end of 2016.
|Game||Mexico vs El Salvador|
|Date||Sunday, July 9|
|Time||18:00 local, 22:00 ET|
TV CHANNEL & LIVE STREAM
In the United States, the match will be available to watch live on television on FOX Sports 1 and by stream via Fox Sports Go. It can also be watched in Spanish on Univision.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|FOX / Univision||Fox Sports Go|
In the United Kingdom the match will occur at 2 a.m. on July 10 and will not be broadcast live on television.
SQUADS & TEAM NEWS
|Goalkeepers||Corona, Fraga, Munoz|
|Defenders||Rodriguez, Pereira, Ayala, Alvarez, Montes, Marin, Lopez, Reyes, Mayorga|
|Midfielders||Molina, Pineda, Gutierrez, E. Hernandez, Pizarro, J. Hernandez, Gallardo, Duenas|
|Forwards||Torres, Barragan, Sepulveda|
The Mexico squad for the Gold Cup is very much a reserve panel, with the first-choice players allowed time off following the Confederations Cup.
Alan Pulido was forced to withdraw from the squad after he suffered a broken arm in El Tri‘s tournament warm-up game against Paraguay in Seattle and the Guadalajara attacker is expected to miss four months of action due to the injury.
The 26-year-old has been replaced by Houston Dynamo forward Erick Torres, who will be hoping to stake a claim for a continued run in the team if he is called upon to lead the Mexican front line during the competition.
In the absence of Guillermo Ochoa and Alfredo Talavera, Cruz Azul goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona should take his place in goal, while Tigres centre back Hugo Ayala is one of the more experienced players in the experimental squad with 31 caps to his name
Potential starting XI: Corona; Pereira, Marin, Rodriguez, Ayala; Molina, Duenas, E. Hernandez, Pizarro, Pineda; Torres
|Position||El Salvador players|
|Goalkeepers||Arroyo, Carrillo, Villalobos|
|Defenders||Molina, Dominguez, Romero, Mancia, Larin, Tamacas, Marroquin|
|Midfielders||Menjivar, D. Ceren, Pineda, Mayen, Orellana, Flores, Burgos, O. Ceren, Garcia|
|Forwards||Bonilla, Zelaya, Sanchez, Alas|
La Selecta will be led out in San Diego by San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Darwin Ceren and they will look to the 27-year-old for inspiration in the middle of the park as they attempt to upset the holders.
Rodolfo Zelaya is El Salvador’s most prolific player in this competition, having scored a total of eight Gold Cup goals in his career and the Alianza man will be keen to add to his tally of 20 international strikes.
While the majority of the squad are home-based, striker Nelson Bonilla boasts experience of playing in Europe, having lined out for clubs in Romania, Portugal, Turkey and Azerbaijan, while midfielder Denis Pineda plays on loan at Portuguese second tier side Santa Clara.
Potential starting XI: Villalobos; Molina, Romero, Dominguez, Larin; Menjivar, Flores, Pineda; D. Ceren, Zelaya, Bonilla
BETTING & GAME ODDS
Mexico are 1/4 favourites to beat El Salvador in their opening game of the tournament, according to Oddschecker. El Salvador are rated 19/2 to triumph and a draw is given at 9/2.
Houston Dynamo forward Erick Torres is 15/4 favourite to open the scoring, followed by Club Necaxa’s Martin Barragan, who is given at 10/3.
Being the most successful country in the history of the Gold Cup, Mexico have a reputation to uphold and they come into the tournament with warm-up wins over Paraguay and Ghana under their belts. However, with a largely unproven reserve squad and their head coach banned for six games, it may prove difficult to mount a strong defence of their title.
Nevertheless, El Tri‘s Gold Cup panel will be determined not to let such distractions affect them as they bid to force their way into the reckoning ahead of the World Cup in 2018.
While Erick Torres is one of the only out-and-out strikers in the squad, his last-minute addition means that he is by no means a guarantee to start against El Salvador but, with 12 goals in 18 Major League Soccer games for Houston Dynamo, he is certainly in form.
Rodolfo Pizarro and Elias Hernandez are Mexico’s chief attacking threats, with the pair scoring the goals in their pre-tournament warm-up friendly victories over Paraguay and Ghana.
The gap of 87 places between Mexico and El Salvador in the latest FIFA ranking aptly illustrates the gulf between the teams and the Salvadorans will have to work extremely hard in order to secure a result, even against a second-string side.
Eduardo Lara’s side last tasted victory back in January when they defeated Nicaragua 1-0 in the Copa Centroamericana. Since then they have drawn twice (against the higher-ranked Curacao and Honduras) and lost once (to Ecuador), but they can take plenty of positives from their performances into their clash against Mexico.