Just 84 seconds after kickoff, Mexican striker Henry Martin was wheeling away from goal toward the corner flag and leaping into the arms of teammates.
Martin’s goal set the tone for Mexico, which cruised to a 3-0 win over Jamaica in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium. Midfielder Luis Chavez scored a free kick in the 30th minute, and midfielder Roberto Alvarado added a tap-in goal to seal the game.
El Tri will try to win a record ninth Gold Cup title against Panama in the final Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. Panama defeated the U.S. on penalties 5-4 after a 1-1 tie Wednesday in San Diego in the other semifinal.
“They decided they want to bring the Cup home, that they wanted to be the best team,” Mexico interim coach Jaime Lozano said through an interpreter. “We had one very big step today, a very important step toward that.”
Mexico had been on defense seconds before Martin’s opening goal. However, a clearance and a miscommunication by Jamaica’s defense led to a Mexican counterattack, as midfielder Luis Romo charged down the right flank.
His early cross overshot his targets in the Jamaica penalty box, but the ball was collected by midfielder Jesus Gallardo, who patiently waited for his teammates to catch up before firing a low cross back into the penalty box.
Mexican forward Erick Sanchez charged toward the ball, then let the ball roll through his legs to draw the Jamaican defense’s attention. He paved the way for Martin, who took a touch and clinically scored past Reggae Boyz goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake to give Mexico a perfect start to the game.
“Teamwork is a decision,” Lozano said, “not a virtue.”
Mexico simply outmatched Jamaica for most of the game. The Reggae Boyz started their English Premier League attacking trio of Michail Antonio, Leon Bailey and Demarai Gray, but struggled to provide any of them service. They also missed EPL defender Ethan Pinnock, who was called up for the Gold Cup but departed the tournament early because of a family emergency.
Jamaica’s best chance came from Gray on the left wing. A long switch in the 24th minute found left back Amari’i Bell in space. He moved the ball ahead to Gray, who cut inside and dribbled toward the middle of the penalty box before unleashing a shot with his preferred right foot. However, it went right at Mexican goalkeeper and captain Guillermo Ochoa, who made the easy save.
Buoyed by Gray’s attempt on goal, Jamaica began to grow into the game. But its momentum was ripped away by Chavez. A foul by Reggae Boyz defender Damion Lowe led to a yellow card and a free kick in a dangerous position just outside the penalty box in the 30th minute.
Chavez, who scored one of the goals of the 2022 World Cup from a free kick against Saudi Arabia, lined up his shot and beat Blake at his near post to double Mexico’s lead.
The rest of the game passed without much incident. Antonio whipped a shot that had Ochoa scrambling to protect his goal in the 46th minute, but went just wide right. The West Ham United striker threatened again in the 70th minute, shedding a defender during a counterattack to free up space for another shot, but saw his attempt easily saved by Ochoa.
Alvarado, a substitute, wrapped up the scoring in the third minute of stoppage time, tapping home another low cross from Gallardo.
“The result seems overwhelming, like we dominated all the time,” Lozano said. “But I think we had resolve and had to be aggressive enough to manage the game. There are no easy rivals, even at 3-0.”