SEATTLE — With one dazzling display of skill, Mexico was, well, Mexico again.
The play came in the 42nd minute of a scoreless game Thursday against Canada, beginning when Luis Montes curled in what seemed to be a routine corner kick. That’s when ordinary became something extra, as Jorge Enriquez delicately flicked the ball in front of goal with the back of his heel and Raul Jimenez slammed it in with a powerful diving header.
The riveting combination at CenturyLink Field brought a Mexico-partial crowd of 28,354 to life, as El Tri cruised to a 2-0 win in the main event of a CONCACAF Gold Cup doubleheader.
Mexico (1-1-0) moved into a second-place tie on points with Martinique in Group A behind undefeated Panama. More important, the regional powerhouse restored some good vibes within a federation that had been foundering after a loss in the tournament opener and yearlong struggles in World-Cup qualifying.
“It’s always important to win in all aspects: you go up in the table ... and confidence keeps improving,” said coach Jose Manuel de la Torre through an interpreter. “Even when the team is working hard, it’s always important for us to see that manifested in the results. We keep adding and we keep growing step by step with a lot of patience and a lot of focus.”
Canada (0-2-0) faces dire prospects of advancing to the quarterfinals despite the fact that just four of 12 teams are eliminated after the group stage, but coach Colin Miller was proud of the performance regardless of the score.
“It speaks volume to their character,” Miller said.
Mexico came out the aggressor, as expected, and held a 7-3 advantage on shots at halftime. It looked like nothing was going to get past Canada goalkeeper Milan Borjan early on, however, especially after a sensational diving stop on Marco Fabian in the 42nd minute.
The first goal would come on the ensuring corner kick, however. Then the lead became 2-0 in the 57th minute, when Fabian converted a penalty kick after being taken down in the penalty box. Contact on the play looked slight, at best, and Miller thought Fabian took a dive.
“It’s an element of the game ... that I despise,” the coach said.
Thursday’s crowd was a record for the Gold Cup in Seattle, breaking the previous mark of 15,831 set in 2005.
Canada was playing without a pair of MLS midfielders, Will Johnson (Portland) and Russell Teibert (Vancouver), who were out sick.
Mexico, which has won the Gold Cup a record six times, is 39-7-7 all-time in the tournament with a 128-30 goal differential.