Los Angeles Soccer: Marco Fabian
Mexico heads to the Olympics as CONCACAF's under-23 champion. Honduras goes to London with two players suspended.
That's the upshot from Monday's title game in the region's Olympic qualifying tournament, in which El Tri prevailed, 2-1, on Miguel Angel Ponce's volley late in overtime in Kansas City, Kan.
Marco Fabian de la Mora also scored for Mexico, which rallied from a deficit after Romell Quioto's header gave the Hondurans a 48th-minute lead.
Both sides qualified for the Olympics with semifinal victories Saturday.
Keeping tabs on the road to London:
- WHAT HAPPENED?
Mexico fell behind early in the second half, then took over, sending attacking wave after wave at the Honduran defense to net a 75th-minute equalizer and score the winner 26 minutes into overtime.
Quioto gave the Catrachos the advantage by nodding home Alexander Lopez's cross, but they were under heavy pressure the rest of the way. Marco Fabian tied the score with a brilliant blast from 28 yards that bent just inside the right post -- his fifth goal of the tournament -- and Mexico failed to win in regulation when the star forward shot wide with an open shot inside the box in the 83rd minute and his Guadalajara teammate Erick Torres put a looping header off the crossbar in the 86th.
Honduras goalkeeper Jose Mendoza was heroic on several occasions. He required medical attention after appearing to hurt his knee and signaled at least twice to bee substituted off.
Ponce, a Sacramento-born midfielder for Guadalajara, got open at the left post to finish Israel Jimenez's cross from the left flank in the 116th minute. The seven-pass sequence occurred when Mexico failed to return the ball to Honduras, which had knocked it out of bounds so a player could receive medical treatment.
CARSON -- Alan Pulido picked up where Marco Fabian de la Mora left off, scoring a hat trick to lead Mexico's under-23 national team into the semifinals of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament.
A victory March 31 in Kansas City, Kan. -- likely against the United States -- sends El Tri to London.
Pulido tallied in the 13th and 40th minutes, then netted a third just 41 seconds into the second half as Mexico (2-0-0) routed Honduras, 3-0, Sunday in front of 16,184 cold, wet fans at Home Depot Center to assume command of the Group B race with one last set of doubleheaders remaining.
Panama and Trinidad & Tobago drew, 1-1, in the opener, keeping alive their diminishing hopes to advance.
Keeping tabs on the road to London:
- WHAT HAPPENED?
Pulido, from UANL Tigres, scored two superb individual goals in the first half, then first-timed a cross from Cruz Azul's Javier Aquino following Monterrey defender Hiram Mier's long ball up the right flank as Mexico, sharp and explosive, dominated its stiffest group rival.
The victory should be enough to give El Tri the B title -- their goal difference, at plus-9, is too much for Hondurans (1-1-0, with a minus-1 difference) to overcome, even with a lopsided win over Trinidad & Tobago in Tuesday's opener -- and that likely means a showdown with the U.S. (1-1-0), which after Saturday's shocking loss to Canada needs to beat El Salvador (1-0-1) in the Group A finale to ensure a final four berth.
Neither Mexico nor Honduras would relish a winner-takes-all clash with the Americans, but El Tri's form -- and the U.S.'s loss of star striker Juan Agudelo -- makes them a substantial favorite if that's the way things play out.
Four Mexicans limped off with injuries during a 7-1 dismantling of Trinidad & Tobago in a Group B opener Friday night, and that's not going to help in Sunday afternoon's showdown with Honduras at Home Depot Center.
The Hondurans also won their opener and have a team, Tena noted before the tournament kicked off, that's capable of winning the group and claiming one of CONCACAF's two berths in the men's soccer event at this summer's London Olympics.
“The team played well,” Tena acknowledged after El Tri's under-23 national team, filled with Primera Division standouts, dominated every phase of the match with T&T, opening up huge advantages in shots (35-7), shots on goal (15-2), corner kicks (14-2) and, most important, goals, behind Guadalajara star Marco Fabian de la Mora's hat trick. “We had good possession, a good situation. A lot of times we were unable to finish, but we attacked well.”
Unfortunately, Mexico also dominated in players injured. T&T goalkeeper Andre Marchan, without whom the scoreline might have been 15-1, suffered a mild concussion when Toluca's Nestor Calderon, frantically chasing a ball with a 5-0 lead, leapt high in the air and kicked him in the head.
Calderon, perhaps justly, was hurt when he landed, although Tena did not identify the injury nor its extent. Three other midfielders -- Pumas UNAM's David Cabrera and Javier Cortes and Cruz Azul's Javier Aquino -- also “suffered knocks,” as Tena put it, and their statuses also are unknown.
“Unfortunately, we did have a lot of knocks,” Tena said. “That's going to make us wait until the last minute to see who we can count on [Sunday]. Honduras is obviously the toughest opponent in the group. The game will be very different from today's.”
Tena admitted the injuries “make us worry and leave us with a bitter taste.”
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:
- WHAT HAPPENED?
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.
CARSON -- The Ghost of Olympic Qualifiers Past haunts Mexico, so to speak, only when the media is around. And so it was Thursday, when Luis Fernando Tena, head coach of El Tri's under-23 national team, was greeted by cameras and tape recorders in a room deep in the bowels of Home Depot Center.
Mexico has failed to qualify for two of the past three Olympic Games' men's soccer tournaments, shockingly so just four years ago, and so the pressure has been amped considerably for this CONCACAF qualifying tournament.
Tena, whose team opens Group B play in the nightcap of a doubleheader Friday night at HDC, tries not to take notice.
“This 'ghost' arrives only when you ask about it,” Tena said in response to a question during a 15-minute news conference. “We don't pay a lot of attention to it. We're aware of history, of what happened four years ago, but a lot has changed. Four years is a long time in soccer. We want to focus on now and what this tournament is.”
This tournament, which kicked off Thursday night in Nashville, will determine the region's two entrants for men's soccer at this summer's London Games. Mexico, along with the U.S., is expected to snag one of the berths, and the roster Tena and full national team coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre has put together appears can't-miss.
All but one of 20 El Tri players is in the Mexican Primera Division -- CONCACAF's best league, hands down -- and most of them play key roles for big clubs. More than half have played for the national team. There are a few big stars (Guadalajara's Marco Fabian de la Mora is the name to remember) and major up-and-comers (Guadalajara's Erick Torres has drawn “Chicharito” comparisons).
And Mexican soccer, riding a golden generation that just might contend for a World Cup title in a couple of years -- no, really -- has unprecedented confidence.
It might not be enough. Tena, whose coaching career has included stints in charge at America, Cruz Azul, Morelia and Santos Laguna, already has tipped Honduras to win the group, a little psychology at play, perhaps, but a popular pick. The Catrachos have played in two of the last three Olympics, joining the U.S. at the 2000 Games in Sydney and four years ago in Beijing.
Panama, which faces Honduras in Friday's 6 p.m. opener, has four players from its semifinal team at last year's Gold Cup, CONCACAF's nation's championship. Trinidad & Tobago, the Caribbean's top team, faces Mexico at 8:30.
CARSON -- The rosters for CONCACAF's Olympic qualifying tournament are finally out, and just in time: Group A, which includes the United States, kicks off this afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.
We're concerned more with Group B in these parts. Mexico, with a dynamic side starring rising Guadalajara stars Erick Torres and Marco Fabian de la Mora, is the marquee team at Home Depot Center, where the first of three under-23 doubleheaders is slated for Friday night.
Mexico's roster is filled with Primera Division talent: 14 of the 22 players on El Tri's roster are regular starters in the country's top league, and several -- Marco Fabian, Toluca midfielder Nestor Calderon, Pumas UNAM midfielder Javier Cortes, Monterrey defender Darvin Chavez and UANL Tigres defender Israel Jimenez -- are downright veterans. A dozen have seen time with Mexico's full national team, and a half-dozen played for Mexico's U-20 team at last year's World Cup.
Calderon, who turned 23 last month, has been a first-choice player for Toluca since 2008 and has scored 22 goals in 133 Primera Division games. Marco Fabian netted 17 goals in last two tournaments and has 27 in 123 games for Guadalajara.
One Amercan-born player on the roster, too: Guadalajara's Miguel Angel Ponce, a Sacramento-born, Tijuana-raised left back who played in San Ysidro during his development.
Mexico is looking to qualify as simply as possible after its stunning failure to advance from group play in the Beijing qualifiers four years ago.
The top two teams advance to this summer's London Games, and the U.S. -- which has 14 MLS players, five from Europe and Club Tijuana's Joe Corona -- and Mexico are expected to fill the slots.
Honduras, which includes D.C. United's Andy Najar, the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year, figures to test Mexico in Group B. The teams meet in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader. Panama, also in Group B, features four players from the Gold Cup semifinalists last summer.
El Salvador, in Group A, includes Panorama City's Richard Menjivar (Monroe HS), a senior last fall at Cal State Bakersfield. He played for the U.S. under-18 national team in 2008.
Here are the rosters for the Group B teams:
Marco Fabian de la Mora's hat trick and another pair from Erick Torres -- his first two of the Apertura -- sparked Chivas' 5-2 rout of Zapopan rival Estudiantes Tecos, the Goats' first win in six games and their first under new coach Fernando Quirarte's guidance.
America ended a seven-game winless streak with a 3-0 romp at Monterrey, the Aguilas' first win since Fernando Tena took charge last month.
Guadalajara, which had scored five goals in its previous 7½ games, vaulted to third in the standings, just one point off the lead. America is still 16th but sits just three points from the playoff zone.
The Clasico, contested since 1943, is set for Sunday afternoon at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. America leads the all-time series, 73-69-63, but Chivas has won five of the last seven and has the better record in Mexican league play: 51-48-43.
Northern Mexico's biggest rivalry -- the Clasico Regiomontano, between crosstown rivals Monterrey and UANL Tigres -- also is this week, on Saturday at Tigres' Estadio Universitario.
- THE TOP 3
Former Galaxy standout Herculez Gomez has scored in four straight appearances and has six goals in just 577 minutes of action this season for Estudiantes Tecos.
He netted another in the Owls' 5-2 loss Saturday to Guadalajara and would have a dozen, scoring at this rate, if he were a full-time player.