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Saturday, June 18, 2011
GOLD CUP: Day 14 recap

By Scott French

Mexico rallied to keep its Gold Cup title hopes alive and Honduras survived at the spot as CONCACAF nations championship produced its first two semifinalists.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez's tournament-best sixth goal, a nifty little backheel in the 66th minute, sent El Tri to a 2-1 triumph over surprising Guatemala. The Chapines scored early and bunkered in, but they couldn't keep Mexico's high-power attack dormant beyond halftime in front of 78,807 in East Rutherford, N.J.

Honduras prevailed in the best game so far in the Gold Cup, clipping fellow Central American giant Costa Rica on penalties after a 1-1 draw. Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio takes the brunt of blame for the Ticos after missing a second-half spot kick and again in the tiebreaker.

A quick look at the 14th day in the region's championship:

CHICHARITO, OF COURSE: Hernandez, the Manchester United star who just turned 23, is CONCACAF's biggest star and best player, and his cheeky winner was his 20th goal in just 27 international matches.

Former Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz, now with the Philadelphia Union, gave Guatemala a fifth-minute lead, but the Chapines' defensive tactics couldn't close off the Mexicans, who dominated most of the action to advance to Wednesday's semifinals in Houston against Honduras.

Ruiz volleyed over goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera as he fell at the top of the box, a superb use of his body to place the ball inside the right post after beating Rafa Marquez to a long ball into the box.

Aldo de Nigris, a halftime substitute, scored the equalizer less than three minutes into the second half, slipping home a rebound after goalkeeper Ricardo Jerez rejected Hector Moreno's header and defender Carlos Gallardo swept Moreno's follow-up off the goal line.

COSTA RICA SPOT OFF: Honduras reached the final four primarily because its exactness at the penalty spot couldn't be matched by Costa Rica. The Catrachos weathered one penalty kick in regulation and prevailed on the PK shootout at the end when their Central American rival twice struck the crossbar.

Saborio could have put Costa Rica ahead in the 76th minute, but Noel Valladares dived to his right to knock the penalty kick aside, and the game went to 30 minutes of overtime when Dennis Marshall saved a sharp shot in stoppage.

Marshall scored the Ticos' goal in the 56th minute, a header off a Cristian Bolaņos corner kick. Jerry Bengtson finished a rebound in the 49th to give Honduras the advantage.

The Honduras went 4 for 4 with the tiebreaker, with Bengtson's shot securing the semifinal berth. Victor Bernardez and Saborio rattled the crossbar as Costa Rica fell behind, 3-1, after three rounds.

DAYS 15 HIGHLIGHT: Is it really possible Jamaca could oust the U.S. from the Gold Cup? In the quarterfinals? You bet, unless the Yanks get their act together. Panama and El Salvador meet in the second all-Central America quarterfinal in the D.C. nightcap.

SATURDAY
Quarterfinals (at New Meadowlands Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.)
Costa Rica 1 (Marshall 56), Honduras 1 (Bengtson 49), OT (Honduras advances on penalties, 4-2)
Mexico 2 (de Nigris 48, J. Hernandez 66), Guatemala 1 (Ruiz 5)
Att.: 78,807

SUNDAY
Quarterfinals (at RFK Stadium, Washington)
Jamaica vs. United States, noon. TV: Fox Soccer Channel and Univision (KMEX/Channel 34)
Panama vs. El Salvador, 3 p.m. TV: Univision (KMEX/Channel 34)

SEMIFINALS
June 22 at Reliant Stadium, Houston:
Honduras vs. Mexico, 4 p.m.; Jamaica/United States vs. Panama/El Salvador, 7 p.m.

FINAL
June 25 at Rose Bowl, Pasadena:
Semifinal winners, 6 p.m.

1. Javier Hernandez (Mexico) 6
2. Jerry Bengtson (Honduras) 3
Carlo Costly (Honduras) 3
Aldo de Nigris (Mexico) 3
Luis Tejada (Panama) 3
Rodolfo Zelaya (El Salvador) 3
5. Jozy Altidore (USA) 2
Dwayne De Rosario (Canada) 2
Giovani Dos Santos (Mexico) 2
Gabriel Gomez (Panama) 2
Andres Guardado (Mexico) 2
Ryan Johnson (Jamaica) 2
Brice Jovial (Guadeloupe) 2
Demar Phillips (Jamaica) 2
Carlos Ruis (Guatemala) 2
Marco Ureņa (Costa Rica) 2