Los Angeles Soccer: Francisco Javier Rodriguez
Mexico's roster is back at full strength, sort of, for its CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal Wednesday in Houston against Honduras after its federation replaced the five players suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.
El Tri coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre called in Guadalajara goalkeeper Luis Michel, Mexico's starter at the 2010 World Cup, Pachuca defender Paul Aguilar, who also played in South Africa, and rising Guadalajara defender Hector Reynoso and forward Marco Fabian de la Mora and Monterrey defender Hiram Meir.
Aguilar, Mier and Reynoso are expected to be available Wednesday. Michel and de la Mora departed Monday with Mexico's “under-22” team for Colombia to begin final preparations for next month's Copa America, South America's nations championship. They would join the Gold Cup team only in an emergency.
Starting goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodriguez, plus reserve defender Edgar Dueñas and midfielders Antonio “Zinha” Naelson and Christian “Hobbit” Bermudez were suspended following Mexico's tournament opener after the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol announced they had tested positive for clenbuterol, a drug designed to treat breathing disorders in horses that also can add muscle, during El Tri's pre-tournament camp outside Mexico City.
FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said in a news conference in Mexico that the quintet, which tested positive for banned muscle-builder clenbuterol in May 21 tests, won't be allowed to rejoin El Tri for the remainder of the CONCACAF Gold Cup after second tests, conducted last week at UCLA's drug-testing laboratory, came up negative.
"There’s a certain level of drug in the bloodstream, and FIFA’s decision to agree with [the World Anti-Doping Agency] is that that these players can’t play at this time," Valcke said, according to a report on Major League Soccer's website. "FIFA will authorize, if [the Mexican federation] so wishes, that the five players be replaced because it's very difficult to see if this was a question of tainted food or if it was intentional."
Mexico, which meets Guatemala in a Gold Cup quarterfinal Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., has had just 17 players available since starting goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodriguez and reserve defender Edgar Dueñas and midfielders Antonio "Zinha" Naelson and Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez were suspended by Federacion Mexicana de Futbol after the first group game. Defender Ricardo Osorio left the team because of a urinary-tract infection and has not returned.
El Tri officials initially suggested tainted beef or chicken could have caused the positive tests during Mexico's pre-tournament training camp outside Mexico City.
Valcke said there would be further investigation of the tests, and director of national teams Hector Gonzalez Iñarritu told Medio Tiempo, a sports website, that no changes to the roster could be made until Federacion Mexicana de Futbol received written confirmation of Valcke's remarks.
Demar Phillips scored 13 minutes apart in the second half to lead Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts and the Reggae Boyz to a 2-0 triumph over Guatemala in the first game of the doubleheader at Florida International University. Carlo Costly had a hat trick and set up another goal in Honduras' 7-1 romp.
Jamaica, which will make its first quarterfinal appearance since 2005, lost Toronto FC defender Dicoy Williams to an eighth-minute leg injury.
CATRACHOS AWAKEN: After failing to score despite a two-man advantage in its group opener Monday night against Guatemala at Home Depot Center, Honduras overcame an early deficit to destroy Grenada behind Costly and Jerry Bengtson, who netted two. Oscar Boniek Garcia assisted goals by both and the stoppage-time finale by Alfred Mejia.
Grenada, 4-0 losers to Jamaica on Monday, looked ready for an upset early, with Clive Murray providing a 19th-minute lead by knocking in his rebound after firing off the right post, the first Gold Cup goal in Spice Boys history. But it was over by halftime -- Bengtson tallied in the 26th, Costly in the 28th and Bengtson again in the 37th -- and the Hondurans added four more, primarily from through balls, from the 67th on. Two of Costly's goals were simple tap-ins.
That's five four-goal-or-worse romps in the Gold Cup's first 10 matches, two by Mexico (5-0 over El Salvador and Cuba), another by Costa Rica (5-0 over Cuba) and the Grenada defeats.
REGGAE BOYZ ON SONG: Looking for an outsider that could reach the June 25 final if the U.S. or Mexico slips up? How about Jamaica, which followed a dominant showing against the Grenadians with another impressive victory. This one was much more difficult, but Phillips scored in the 65th and 78th minute, tucking the ball inside the right post from feeds by Keammar Daley and then New York Red Bulls winger Dane Richards.
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.
Mexico's roster for its end-of-March friendlies, including the March 29 date in San Diego, has been released, and sure enough, Carlos Vela and Efrain Juarez are on it.
No surprise: The pair did their penance following the fallout from their roles in an "unauthorized" party after a victory last September over Colombia in suburban Monterrey.
Vela, a forward who plays for West Bromwich Albion in England on loan from Arsenal, and Juarez, a defender on the books at Celtic FC in Scotland, were tagged with six-month suspensions, which kept them out of only one match, Jose Manuel de la Torre's debut as head coach last month in Atlanta.
Both return just as preparations begin in earnest for the June 5-25 CONCACAF Gold Cup, and that's no coincidence. The suspension, along with fines to other players, sparked a player protest that led to national teams director Nestor de la Torre's resignation; substantial punishment, deserved or not, was never an option.
They're among 23 players, nine based in Europe -- yes, Manchester United's Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Racing Santander's Giovani Dos Santos are included -- headed to California for friendlies March 26 against Paraguay in Oakland and March 29 against Venezuela at Qualcomm Stadium.
Also back is defender Ricardo Osorio, from Monterrey, who is aiming for his first appearance since last summer's World Cup. Osorio's gaffe in the round of 16, his last game for Mexico's national team, helped Argentina to a 3-1 victory.
Veteran goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (America), defenders Rafa Marquez (New York Red Bulls) and Francisco Javier Rodriguez (PSV Eindhoven), and winger Andres Guardado (Deportivo La Coruña) are in their first camp with de la Torre, a former national team midfielder who guided Guadalajara and Toluca to Mexican Primera Division titles.
Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's first Mexico roster features a healthy share of the regular crew -- the Chicharitos and Giovanis and Torados -- a couple of newcomers among those looking to cement their spot in the player pool, and two old standouts returning to El Tri after absences of almost two years.Zinha, Toluca's Brazilian-born playmaker, and Luis Perez, a midfielder for Monterrey, were part of Mexico's 2006 World Cup team and contributed during the qualifying campaign for last year's World Cup in South Africa, and their presence for Wednesday's clash against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Atlanta (TeleFutura/KFTR Channel 46, 5 p.m. PT) restores international careers that elapsed when Javier Aguirre took charge in April 2009.
Zinha last suited up for El Tri in a 5-1 romp over Bolivia on March 11, 2009, in Commerce City, Colo. Perez made his last appearance in a World Cup qualifying loss at Honduras on April 1, 2009, two days before Aguirre replaced Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson.
De la Torre, a former Mexican national team midfielder, was hired Oct. 18 to succeed Aguirre, who resigned after guiding Mexico to the World Cup round of 16. Wednesday's match is his first as El Tri manager.
His roster includes 11 players from the team in South Africa -- including star forwards Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos, both based in Europe, and captain Gerardo Torrado, the veteran (three World Cups) holding midfielder from Cruz Azul -- and a half-dozen who were on the roster four years earlier in Germany.
A half-dozen players based in Europe have been called in, but not forward Carlos Vela, who was just loaned from Arsenal to fellow English Premier League team West Bromwich Albion, or midfielder Efrain Juarez, who plays for Scottish powerhouse Celtic FC. Their six-month suspensions, for their involvement in a team party following a Sept. 7 match against Colombia in Ciudad Juarez, expire next month.
Hernandez (Manchester United), Dos Santos (Racing Santander, on loan from Tottenham), midfielder Pablo Barrera (West Ham United) and first-choice defenders Carlos Salcido (Fulham), Francisco Javier Rodriguez (PSV Eindhoven) and Hector Moreno (AZ Alkmaar) comprise the foreign legion.
Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera and Monterrey midfielder Jesus Zavala hope to make their international debuts. Talavera is expected to back up Cruz Azul's Jose de Jesus Corona, who was a backup at the 2006 World Cup. Five others on the roster have played just once or twice for the full national team.