In Thursday’s second match, Costa Rica defeated Mexico, 1-0, in Group B play of the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The win is Costa Rica’s first against Mexico and sets up a showdown against Jamaica, which defeated Martinique earlier in the evening.
Mexico dictated play early, but Costa Rica struck first in the eighth minute as a long ball out to the right side saw Costa Rican winger Daphne Herrera stay onside and get behind the Mexican defense. Though Herrera’s shot struck the far post, Carolina Venegas was there to pounce on the rebound and give the Ticas a 1-0 lead. Costa Rica spent the next 15 minutes exposing the Mexican back line as wide flank play gave the Central American side several more good scoring chances. While Mexico was able to find its way back into the match, Herrera gave Mexico’s right back Paulina Solis fits with her pace, forcing Mexican Head Coach Leo Cuellar to bring in Alina Garciamendez before the half.
Coming out of halftime, Mexico went back on the front foot possession-wise but still lacked a finishing touch. The best chance for Mexico came in the 63rd minute when Veronica Perez fired a left-footed shot from outside the box, forcing Costa Rican goalkeeper Dinnia Diaz to parry the effort over the bar. That would be all Mexico could muster on offense on the night. Costa Rica nearly got a second in the last minutes as they caught Mexico with too many numbers up but a Lixy Rodriguez shot off the crossbar denied the second goal.
Costa Rica’s speed, most notably Herrera and Wendy Acosta, exposed Mexico’s back line. Mexico tried to clog the midfield; however, when players such as Cristin Granados and Shirley Cruz were given time to send the ball wide, more often than not it was a ball played into space giving Herrera and Acosta something to run onto. Herrera did a lot of the dirty work later on in the second half, holding the ball up and allowing her other forwards to join the attack.
Physical play was another major factor. Both sides were called for their share of hard fouls and two Mexican defenders, Ari Romero and Solis, will be playing with yellow cards for the rest of the group stage — a huge factor going forward for a Mexican side that lacks defensive depth.
Mexico made a quality change at the start of the second half, bringing in Tanya Samarzich for Liliana Mercado. Samarzich added fire to the side attacking-wise and was able to send in good service from out wide, though the forward players were unable to get on the end of it. Samarzich’s wide play and the introduction of Monica Ocampo, who put in a nice shift for Cuellar on the far left flank, were the positives for Mexico. Ocampo proved she can be a shifty player with the ability to cut in from the flank, which at times, caused problems for Costa Rican defenders.
Going forward, Costa Rica has Jamaica on Saturday in Chicago with the knowledge that any sort of result should give them a good chance of qualifying for the semifinals with Martinique as their last opponent in the group stage.
Mexico will play Martinique and will not only have to win but also need to produce a similar result to Jamaica’s earlier 6-0 win. If Mexico can match or better the six-goal difference Jamaica posted, a win and maybe a draw will be enough to make it through despite the loss in Kansas City.