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Gold Cup 2011: Mexico and Costa Rica Rock Cowboys Stadium

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Walking the mile or so to Cowboys Stadium yesterday, it was clear that this was going to be a day that many wouldn't soon forget. Sure, Mexico had played at Cowboys Stadium before but on this day, the second anniversary of Cowboys Stadium as Chuck Blazer put it, El Tri had a rival. Not only was the traditional green on full display, but tens of thousands packed the stadium in El Salvador blue to provide at atmosphere for soccer that has never been seen in this city before. 

While the Mexican National Team was the main attraction, this felt like the coronation of Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez as the king of Mexico. The vast majority of jerseys outside the stadium that I saw had his name on the back, and as Jon Arnold, an old friend and new writer for USA 10 Kit put things, it felt like Elvis out there with ladies shrieking at every touch and jumbotron shot of the Manchester United star. 

The crowd would not go home disappointed either as Mexico, after sputtering through the first half, produced a virtuoso second half performance highlighted by a hat-trick by Hernandez rolling El Salvador 5-0 and sparking off wild celebrations inside the home of the Cowboys. 

Observations from both games including a player that could give FC Dallas fits in their Champions League Qualifying Round and post-game reaction after the jump

Observations

For one day, DFW was the center of the soccer world It's not often you can say this, but it's going to be tough to find an atmosphere to match that one yesterday. I've been to USA-Mexico at Azteca and while last night wasn't quite to that standard, it was absolutely electric when the teams walked out onto the pitch. An opinion that Mexico is the second most popular sports team in the metroplex was floating around Twitter last night and while I don't believe that to be the case, yesterday was a hell of a good argument. After seeing that stadium full of rabid fans last night, I can only be left thinking even more that the 2022 World Cup vote was a fix, because no soccer fan in their right mind would deny Cowboys Stadium the World Cup.

Oh yeah, there was a game I had to leave at halftime, but Mexico wasn't great in the half that I saw. I'll link to plenty of good recaps later, but one player that made an impression on me was Rodolfo Zelaya of Alianza. Yes, the same Alianza that FC Dallas will play in CONCACAF Champions League qualifying in July. Zelaya is a fantastic off-striker in the same mold of David Ferreira.

Continually, Zelaya would receive the ball in midfield, turn and face goal before beating a Mexican defender and either earning a free kick or playing a smart pass. He's got a low center of gravity and can hit a very nice free kick. He really was in another class above his teammates on this day, and you just hope that he's either sold or injured when FCD has to go to El Salvador. With Drew Keeshan and John Ellinger sitting a couple of rows above me in the press box last night, you've got to think he's seriously on their radar after this game. 

Costa Rica vs Cuba In the undercard match, Costa Rica systematically destroyed Cuba 5-0 using great wing play and good finishing to dispatch the Caribbean island country. For me, the star of the show was Marco Urena of Kuban Krasnodar. The left sided forward/winger who recently moved to Russia from Alajuelense was very impressive and tore apart the Cuban defense on multiple occasions. Making his debut last night was Costa Rican protege forward Joel Campbell. The leading scorer in the CONCACAF U20 championships at just 18 years old, the Saprissa forward scored on his debut and looks to be one to track in the future.

Links

Jon Arnold gives some quick thoughts on the matches for USA 10 Kit and writes that Andres Guardado was the star for Mexico

Kevin McCauley of SB Nation writes a very interesting article saying the USA is not catching up to Mexico

Alvaro Saborio says the best is yet to come from Costa Rica

Robert Casner writes that Chicharito did not disappoint yesterday