Gold Cup Preview: Pulido and Mexico meet El Salvador for first place in Group A

Alan Pulido Mexico - June 3, 2021

Mexico vs. El Salvador
2021 Concacaf Gold Cup | Group A
Sunday, July 18, 2021 | 9 p.m. CT
Cotton Bowl | Dallas, Texas

Broadcast Schedule:
English | FS1
Spanish | Univision, TUDN
Streaming | FOX Sports app, TUDN app

First place in Group A of the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup will be up for grabs Sunday night when Sporting Kansas City striker Alan Pulido face El Salvador at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The all-important group stage finale will kick off at 9 p.m. CT and fans can catch the action live in English on FS1 and the FOX Sports app and in Spanish on Univision, TUDN and the TUDN app.

Pulido earned his Gold Cup debut in Mexico's comfortable 3-0 win over Guatemala on Wednesday night, entering as an 83rd-minute substitute after Rogelio Funes Mori bagged a brace and Orbelin Pineda added a late third. The convincing result eased pressure on a Mexico side that was held to a scoreless draw in their Gold Cup opener versus Trinidad and Tobago last Saturday—a match in which Pulido did not play as the 30-year-old continues to work his way back from a foot injury suffered in Sporting's 2-1 home win over LAFC on June 26.

Despite El Tri's slow start to the tournament, head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino's side can finish atop Group A if they beat El Salvador on Sunday night. Mexico sits two points behind the current group leaders, who have secured consecutive 2-0 triumphs over Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago to clinch a spot in the knockout rounds.

El Tri would finish second in the group with a draw, while a loss would open the door for Trinidad and Tobago to nab second place with a lopsided win over Guatemala. Goal differential serves as the first head-to-head tiebreaker in the Gold Cup group stage standings, followed by goals scored and then head-to-head result.

The top two finishers in Groups A through D will advance to the Gold Cup quarterfinals on July 24-25 in Glendale, Arizona, and Arlington, Texas, respectively.

Mexico Schedule: 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup (Group A)

  • Saturday, July 10 vs. Trinidad and Tobago (Tied 0-0)
  • Wednesday, July 14 vs. Guatemala (Won 3-0)
  • Sunday, July 18 vs. El Salvador (9 p.m. CT | FS1, FOX Sports app, TUDN, Univision)

Mexico's 23-man roster features three MLS stars as Pulido joins LA Galaxy duo Efrain Alvarez and Jonathan dos Santos. With Pulido returning to full strength following his foot injury and Mexico forward Hirving Lozano ruled out for the rest of the tournament with an ailment of his own, the Sporting striker could be set for increased minutes as the competition rolls onward.

Since suffering a 3-2 extra-time loss to the United States in the Concacaf Nations League Final on June 6 in Denver, Mexico has posted five straight shutouts. That stretch has included three friendlies and each of the team's first two games in the Gold Cup.

Sitting at No. 69 in the latest FIFA rankings, El Salvador have assured themselves a berth in the Gold Cup quarterfinals for the fourth time in the last six tournaments. Seattle Sounders FC defender Alex Roldan and FC Tulsa attacker Joaquin Rivas scored in their victory over Guatemala last Sunday, while Jairo Enriquez and Walmer Martinez struck on either side of halftime in Wednesday's defeat of Trinidad and Tobago.

Mexico holds a remarkable 33-5-1 all-time record against El Salvador, a lopsided ledger that includes seven straight wins in the series. El Salvador haven't beaten El Tri since June 2009 and have never won against Mexico in the Gold Cup.

Held every two years, the Gold Cup is the regional championship for Concacaf and just like in the European Championships and Copa America, lifting the trophy brings prestige and regional supremacy. Over the course of 15 previous Gold Cup tournaments, the United States has lifted the trophy six times (1991, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2013, 2017), just behind all-time leaders Mexico with eight (1993, 1996, 1998, 2003, 2009, 2011, 2015, 2019). Canada is the only other tournament champion, having lifted the title in 2000.

Now participating in his first Gold Cup, Pulido has bagged five goals in 17 career caps for Mexico. The forward made his senior international debut on Jan. 29, 2014, scoring a hat trick in a 4-0 friendly win against South Korea in San Antonio, Texas. He added another goal in a 2-2 friendly draw with the United States over two months later and bagged his fifth Mexico goal in a friendly win over Iceland in February 2017.