Friday, March 23, 2012
OLYMPICS: Mexico, Honduras set showdown
By Scott French
Mexico celebrates one of its seven goals Friday night at Home Depot Center.
CARSON -- Honduras needed a half to find its game. Mexico was on the accelerator from the start. Both posted impressive victories Friday night in CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers at Home Depot Center to set up a showdown Sunday afternoon, likely for the Group B title.
The Hondurans' under-23 national team used a goal early in the second half to take command and another near the finish to nail down a 3-1 triumph over Panama in the opener. Marco Fabian de la Mora had a hat trick and played a crucial role on another strike as Mexico buried Trinidad & Tobago, 7-1, in the nightcap.
Keeping tabs on the road to London:
How good is Mexico? It bettered United States' six-goal start in the region's qualifying tournament for this summer's London Olympics, and it could have been far, far worse.
Mexico spent the entire match in and around the Soca Warriors' box, scored three brilliant goals and might have had another half-dozen or more if not for the efforts of T&T goalkeeper Andre Marchan and center back Daneil Cyrus.
Marco Fabian, the biggest name on El Tri's roster, and Sacramento-born winger Miguel Angel Ponce spearheaded a vibrant attack that expertly and repeatedly maneuvered through T&T's defense, hammering 35 shots. With better fortune, Mexico might have scored 15.
Marco Fabian enabled Alan Pulido's opener by getting in Marchan's path for a flicked-on corner kick, then doubled the advantage with a powerful header from Guadalajara teammate Ponce's superb cross from the left wing.
El Tri added five in the second half, the best Marco Fabian's precise finish from the top of the box in the 69th minute and Israel Jimenez's 30-yard free kick in the 74th. They padded their lead with three goals from the 85th minute.
The opener wasn't nearly as entertaining, but the match was far more important, likely determining the side that will advance to the semifinals along with Mexico. The Hondurans were worthy winners, taking charge once they began stringing passes after halftime.
Eddie Hernandez provided a 19th-minute lead, finishing Hilder Colon's header from Anthony Lozano's free kick, and Mario Martinez made it 2-0 two minutes into the second half with a 35-yard blast that skipped past Panama goalkeeper Luis Mejia and inside the left post. Alexander Lopez's finale in the 87th, a 32-yard rocket, was best of the lot.
The U.S., 6-0 winners over Cuba in its opener Thursday, will clinch an expected berth in the all-important semifinals with a Group A victory Saturday over Canada. El Salvador and Cuba meet in the opener.
Sunday afternoon's doubleheader at HDC is highlighted by the Mexico-Honduras match. Panama and T&T face off in the first game, both looking to keep hope alive.
The semifinal winners March 31 in Kansas City, Kan., join the 16-nation field at the London Games.
GROUP A (Nashville) 1. United States 1-0-0 (6-0 GF-GA) 3 points
2. Canada 0-0-1 (0-0) 1 point
2. El Salvador 0-0-1 (0-0) 1 point
4. Cuba 0-1-0 (0-6) 0 points
Canada 0, El Salvador 0
United States 4 (Corona 11, 40, 88, Agudelo 37, og Diz Pe 43, Adu 62), Cuba 0
Cuba vs. El Salvador, 1:30 p.m. (Telemundo)
United States vs. Canada, 4 p.m. (Universal Sports/Mun2)
Canada vs. Cuba, 3:30 p.m. (Mun2)
United States vs. El Salvador, 6 p.m. (Universal Sports/Mun2)