One month ago, 40,847 fans packed CenturyLink Field to see the U.S. National Team top Panama 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match. On Thursday night, there was another grand celebration of the region’s tremendous soccer community as Seattle’s largest Gold Cup crowd of 28,354 were on hand as Mexico kept hope alive for a run at a third straight CONCACAF Gold Cup title with a 2-0 win over Canada.
In the first game of the double-header, Panama outlasted Martinique 1-0 to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals and the crowd of green-shirted Mexican fans started streaming into the stadium in the late stages of the match.
Despite a lackluster performance in a 2-1 loss to Panama in the first round of the Gold Cup Group Stage and an equally frustrating performance in the Confederations Cup last month, the fans still came out in droves for the match against Canada.
“The fans will always support Mexico, especially in Seattle where there is such a large Mexican base,” Sounders FC Spanish radio analyst Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar said.
The former USL Sounders midfielder expressed his own frustration about recent performances of the Mexican National Team, but was thrilled at the opportunity to watch them in person, mirroring the attitude of the crowd in the stadium.
“For me, it’s great to have them here,” he said. “I’m disappointed some of the top players aren’t here, but whenever it’s your country, you want them to do well.”
Mexico opened the match against Canada with a frenetic tempo, swarming Canada at each opportunity, but couldn’t get on the scoreboard until the final minutes of the half.
In the 42nd minute, Mexico finally broke through and the fans exploded with glee.
Moments after Canadian goalkeeper Milan Borjan made a kick save on a shot from the left side, Luis Montes sent a corner kick in from the right. Jorge Enriquez made a near-post run and flicked the cross to the middle where Raul Jimenez crushed a header into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Marco Fabian added a 57th minute penalty and Mexico held on for the 2-0 win.
In the end, it wasn’t about the style in the result as much as the result itself for a Mexican side under pressure to succeed.
“Mexico is under so much heat right now. It’s not about winning 3-0 or 4-0. It’s just about getting three points, no matter how.”
In the first match of the night, Panama met Martinique in a clash of two teams that surprised most by coming out victorious in the first round of games. After a scoreless first half, things picked up in the final 20 minutes of the match.
In the 72nd minute, Jacky David Berdix saw his second caution of the match, leaving Martinique down a man for remainder of the match.
In the 84th minute Panama earned a penalty when Sebastien Cretinoir collided with Jiminez in the box. Manuel Torres converted the penalty in the north end of the stadium with the Mexican fans awaiting the start of the Mexico-Canada match cheering hard for the Martinique goalkeeper Kevin Olimpa.
Panama will meet Canada in the final match of the Group Stage on Sunday in Denver, Colorado, while Mexico will look to advance with their final match against Martinique.