Mexico and Costa Rica play to 2-2 draw in international friendly


Bryce Brimhall / Valencia Voice

Giovani Dos Santos scored Mexico’s first goal of the match and started the second half rally that tied the game.

ORLANDO — In a match that again proved that Central Florida is a soccer hotbed Costa Rica and Mexico played to a 2-2 draw in front of a crowd of 53,623 in an international friendly at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday.

Mexico opened up the game with a sloppy first half that saw them go into the locker room trailing 2-0 at halftime.

Miguel Herrera’s squad turned things around during the second 45 minutes as they erased Costa Rica’s lead within the first 10 minutes of the second half with goals by Giovani Dos Santos and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

“We made modifications,” said Herrera in spanish about the second half adjustments. “The modifications could be seen on the faces of the players.”

Dos Santos got Mexico on the board early in the second half when he dribbled the ball into the box and then blasted a shot past Alvarado for a goal cutting Costa Rica’s lead to 2-1 in the 53rd minute.

“Chicharito” then tied the game at 2-2 for Mexico less than two minutes after the Dos Santos goal when he sent a header into the back of the net for his first goal of the match.

While the crowd heavily favored the Mexican national team, “El Tri” came out sluggish at the start of the game as they gave up the early goal to David Ramirez and then continued to struggle to finish opportunities despite controlling possession for the first 30 minutes.

Ramirez’s goal came after Arsenal midfielder Joel Campbell fed the forward a through ball that left him one-on-one with Guillermo Ochoa before the 22-year-old put the ball in the back of the net for the first goal of the game.

“He’s an excellent talent,” said Costa Rica manager Paulo Cesar Wanchope of Ramirez. “He’s shown good qualities and he trains hard.”

Misfortune would then extend the deficit to 2-0 for Mexico after Ramirez passed a ball into Johan Venegas who got a foot on it before it went off of Miguel Layun for an own goal.

Costa Rica controlled the game during the first 45 minutes while controlling 52 percent of possession but Mexico did force “Ticos” goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado to make five saves during the first half to keep “El Tri” off the scoreboard.

But Mexico would come out in the second half looking like a different team and finishing some of those chances that in the first half were being blocked. El Tri tied the game during the first ten minutes of the second half, which left both teams searching for a game-winner for the final 35 minutes.

“But we improved in the second half,” said Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. “ Which is usually when teams fade, but for us it was backwards we improved.

“I think if we keep this pace we can get to the Gold Cup playing well.”

Mexico would get some chances in front of net but couldn’t finish any of their opportunities to find the game-winner.

Herrera and his team will have some things to figure out over the next few days as Mexico will have one more friendly when they take on Honduras on Wednesday, July 1 before starting CONCACAF Gold Cup against Cuba on July 9 in Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.

Herrera said after the match that the group of players he had out on the field against Costa Rica was the team he thinks he’ll want taking the majority of the minutes in the Gold Cup.

With this being Costa Rica’s  last friendly of the summer the squad will now have more than a week off before starting Gold Cup play on Wednesday, July 8 against Jamaica at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

“We played very well,” said Campbell about the team’s performance. “We played a great game and it gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.”

The friendly between Mexico and Costa Rica in the Citrus Bowl marked the second largest crowd at the stadium since its renovation in 2014, with the first being Orlando City SC’s sold out home opener. The 53,623 that filled the Citrus Bowl on Saturday was only 7,000 less than the recorded attendance for Mexico’s 1994 FIFA World Cup match in the same stadium.