By JOHN BOSCHINI
Charlotte, NC- Late heroics and an offensive clinic were on display at Bank of America Stadium as Costa Rica and El Salvador tied 1-1 and Mexico thrashed Cuba 5-0 in the second round of matches in Group A.
Kickoff was delayed for 36 minutes due to lightning in the Charlotte area. Once play started, El Salvador looked like a different team to the one that was thrashed by Mexico on Sunday. Costa Rica controlled possession but El Salvador had the majority of chances and eventually took the lead just before halftime.
Rodolfo Zelaya curled a free kick from 25 yards out past the outstretched arms of Keylor Navas for El Salvador's first goal of the tournament.
Costa Rica was energized with the introduction of Bryan Ruiz in the second half but couldn't capitalize on its chances. The goal finally game deep into stoppage time when Allen Guevara found a streaking Randall Bernes who collected the ball and slotted it into the far corner. The final whistle was blown just a few seconds later leaving both teams with a point.
Mexico made a loud statement in its Gold Cup credentials with a second-straight 5-0 victory, this time over the minnow Cuba.
Cuba managed to keep the game scoreless for the opening 36 minutes until Javier Hernandez broke the deadlock. Hernandez found space in the box and headed home a Mexican corner kick. The first half ended with Mexico dominating the game but only carrying a one-goal lead.
After the break, Cuba's defense broke down and Mexico ran rampant, scoring four goals. Giovani Dos Santos scored the first of his two goals with a simple tap in off a Pablo Barrera cross in the 63rd minute. The next goal came just two minutes later when Hernandez's cross was put in by Aldo De Negris.
It was a four-goal lead in the 68th minute when Dos Santos completed his brace with a laser shot from 10 yards out. Hernandez completed the rout just eight minutes after that with a simple finish from eight yards out.
Mexico finished the game with 27 shots and 15 corners as opposed to six shots and one corner for Cuba.
After the game, Mexican official Hector Gonzalez reiterated their story that the five players banned for testing positive for Clebuterol ingested the drug through contaminated meat. Gonzalez contacted the Mexican secretary of agriculture to look into what the players ate and when but admitted it might be difficult to pin point the exact point of ingestion. The five players will fly to Los Angeles tomorrow to undergo additional tests.
Team doctors denied Mexican medical staff gave the players the drugs. Doctors said Clebuterol, while illegal in Mexico, is common in the country and suggested that if most of the Mexican staff was tested the result would also be positive. Mexican national coach Jose Manuel de la Torre wouldn't address the doping allegations.
Gonzalez also flatly denied El Salvador had a claim to overturn the result of Sunday's game in which some of the five suspended players played.
What did you think of tonight's games? Did Cuba deserve a point? Can anyone stop Mexico? How long before Cuba can become competitive in CONCACAF?
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