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Gold Cup Recap: Clenbuterol, Defecting Cubans, And Goals A-Plenty

First off, apologies for missing out on the coverage of the United States/Canada and whatever other match was played on Tuesday night. With that out of the way, let’s get to the real (contaminated) meat and potatoes of what transpired yesterday in and around Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The biggest thing, obviously, is the news that five Mexican players–starting goalkeeper Guillermo “Paco Memo” Ochoa, Francisco “Maza” Rodriguez, Edgar Dueñas, Christian “Hobbit” Bermudez, and Antonio “Zinha” Naelson– tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance often used to treat breathing disorders. As a result of this failed test, the five doping Mexicans were removed from the squad that faced Cuba (more on that yesterday).

The Mexican soccer federation–via their Secretary General Decio De Maria– is claiming that the players likely ingested the the substance through some contaminated beef they may have eaten. This, of course, is the same strategy that Tour de France winner Alberto Contador employed when he himself tested positive for clenbuterol. Because, hey, if it worked for Contador, why not make it work for the Mexicans right?

As a fan, we want to give Ochoa & Co. the benefit of the doubt. As the cynical spectator, however, we’re not too surprised if they did end up cheating. Athletes will do whatever they can get away with to gain a competitive advantage, so while we don’t condone cheating, we understand why it happens. Why the players in the Mexican squad thought cheating now, at Gold Cup, is beyond us, however. It’s not like the CONCACAF tournament is the FIFA World Cup. The fact of the matter is, more people will remember that Memo Ochoa and Maza Rodriguez tested positive for clenbuterol than the two teams who will play in the final on June 22nd.

Enough with the rant, let’s move on to the actual matches:

Costa Rica 1 – El Salvador 1

The clash between these two Central American squads can best be defined as the undercard of the Charlotte doubleheader. Let’s be real, here. Very few people doled out cash to see these two teams play against each other. Still, despite playing in front of a crowd that was rooting for neither of them, Costa Rica and El Salvador gave the fans a decent match with two very amazing goals.

The first one came courtesy of a Rodolfo Zelaya free kick from 25-yards out in the waning seconds of the first half. Zelaya’s beautiful shot sailed into the top left corner of the net, well out of the reach of Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

It looked like El Salvador– the underdog team who had lost 5-0 to Mexico on Monday– would squeak out the Group A win and the three crucial points. But the Ticos equalized thing in the nick of time (and then some). With the game clock reaching the fifth minute of what was supposed to be a four minute second-half stoppage time, Randall Brenes made it 1-1.

The Ticos will face Mexico on Sunday, and can advance to the next round with a tie or a win. El Salvador is almost in a must-win situation if they want to move on to the quarterfinals. This isn’t entirely an impossibility, given that they’ll be playing Cuba, a team that has given up a total of ten goals in the last two matches while not scoring one themselves.

Mexico 5 – Cuba 0

Speaking of Cuba, prior to their start against Mexico, rumors were circulating that up to four players had defected in between their Monday night match in Arlington, Texas. These proved to be false, but after the 5-0 beating Mexico gave them, we wouldn’t blame them if the entire team defected on Sunday.

Much like their first match, Mexico started slowly. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez opened up the score in the 35th minute of the match, and El Tri would be stopped defensively until the 62nd minute when Giovani Dos Santos made it 2-0. Two minutes later, Jesus De Nigris made it 3-0 (64′), and to add insult to injury, Gio Dos Santos (67′) and Chicharito (75′) would score another won to give them a two a piece.

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