Mexico came in short-handed, but it made little impact in El Tri's second game in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a 5-0 dismantling of Cuba on Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C., that sent them through to the quarterfinals -- as if that were ever in doubt -- and left them on the verge of the Group A title.
Five players, including starting goalkeeper Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodriguez, were dropped from Mexico's squad after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, but Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos scored two goals apiece to lead its second successive five-goal romp.
Costa Rica needed a last-second goal from Randall Brenes to draw, 1-1, with El Salvador in the first game of a doubleheader that drew 46,000-plus to Bank of America Stadium.
DRUG CHEATS?: A Mexican federation official said it was likely Ochoa, Rodriguez and three other players -- defender Edgar Dueñas and midfielders Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez and Antonio "Zinha" Naelson -- ingested tainted chicken or beef before testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol.
All five were dropped from the team, pending an investigation, with Alfredo Talavera stepping into the nets for Ochoa and captain Rafa Marquez returning to the starting XI in place of Rodriguez.
Cuba kept things close for the first hour, but three goals in six minutes -- Dos Santos strikes sandwiched around substitute Aldo de Nigris' finish from Hernandez's feed -- gave Mexico command, and Manchester United star Hernandez's second of the night (and 18th and 19th in 25 international appearances) completed the rout.
Rumors that as many as four Cuban players had defected between Sunday's 5-0 loss to Costa Rica in Texas and Thursday's game proved to be false.
TICO TIME: Costa Rica, which used superior speed to dominate the Cubans in the group opener, struggled to assert itself against El Salvador and needed Brenes' finish deep into second-half stoppage to claim a point.
Rodolfo Zelaya gave the Salvadorans a lead just before halftime on a 26-yard free kick toward the upper-right corner that just cleared leaping goalkeeper Keilor Navas' fingertips.
Brenes goal came nearly five minutes into stoppage after American referee Jair Marrufo had designated four minutes of extra time.
DAY 6 HIGHLIGHT: Guatemala stunned Honduras by holding on, despite being down to nine men, for a scoreless draw in a Group B opener Monday night at Home Depot Center. Can the Chapines pull off another upset against fast, athletic Jamaica?
Group A (at Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.)
Costa Rica 1 (Brenes 95+), El Salvador (Zelaya 45)
Mexico 5 (J. Hernandez 35, 76, Dos Santos 63, 68, de Nigris 65), Cuba 0
Group B (at FIU Stadium, Miami)
Jamaica vs. Guatemala, 4 p.m. TV: TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Grenada vs. Honduras, 6 p.m. TV: Galavision
Group C (at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.)
Canada vs. Guadeloupe, 3 p.m. TV: Galavision
United States vs. Panama, 5 p.m. TV: Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
x-Mexico 2-0-0 (10-0) 6
Costa Rica 1-0-1 (6-1) 4
El Salvador 0-1-1 (1-6) 1
Cuba 0-2-0 (0-10) 0
Jamaica 1-0-0 (4-0) 3
Guatemala 0-0-1 (0-0) 1
Honduras 0-0-1 (0-0) 1
Grenada 0-1-0 (0-4) 0
United States 1-0-0 (2-0) 3
Panama 1-0-0 (3-2) 3
Guadeloupe 0-1-0 (2-3) 0
Canada 0-1-0 (0-2) 0
x -- advances to quarterfinals
Key: W-L-T (Goals for-against) Points