The first day of Gold Cup action finished the job it started with Martinique’s upset of Canada, flipping Group A on its head late Sunday night when Panama recorded their ever victory over Mexico. Two goals from Gabriel Torres sandwiching a late first half equalizer from Marco Fabian gave the Canaleros a 2-1 win, leaving them first place in Group A ahead of Martinique on goal difference after the tournament’s first day.
An early penalty kick drawn by Alberto Quintero was converted by Torres to give Panama a seventh minute opener, a lead that held up until just before halftime. In the second minute of first half stoppage time, Fabian converted a pass from Israel Jimenez, leveling for Mexico minutes after Panama had hit the post.
Three minutes into the second half, Torres cut off a cross from Quintero to beat Jonathan Orozco missed post, redirecting Panama to the 2-1 lead they’d take to the final whistle. In front of a partisan crowd of over 70,000 at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl, Mexico had suffered a historic loss, their first in Gold Cup play since the 2007 final.
It was the first time Panama had ever beaten Mexico in 11 competitive matches, and while Mexico did not select a full strength squad after last month’s Confederations Cup, the loss is bound to increase the seemingly perpetual heat on El Tri head coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. Favorites going into the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, Mexico has won once in The Hex’s first six rounds, following up their qualifying struggles by failing to get out of their Confederations Cup group. Without a noticeable uptick in goal scoring for a team that’s struggled to break down opposing defenses, de la Torre’s job will continue to be the subject of debate.
With the win, Panama is in position to claim first in Group A, the team due to be favorites in their final group matches against Martinique and Canada. Against the same teams, Mexico will also be favored and should still move through into the quarterfinals, with even a second place finish in their group set to keep them on the opposite side of the knockout round draw from the United States.