Coachless Mexico cruises to 3-1 Gold Cup win over El Salvador in opener

Mexico’s Hedgardo Marin (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal against El Salvador on Sunday. (Yahoo Deportes)

Over the course of the next few weeks, we might finally get an answer to the question of how much influence a soccer coach really has on the outcome of a game.

Mexico’s Juan Carlos Osorio, after all, is suspended for six official games — pending an appeal — following an outburst at the referees in the third-place match of last month’s Confederations Cup. This means that, if the punishment stands, he’ll miss all of the Gold Cup El Tri kicked off on Sunday night with a 3-1 win over El Salvador. And if his side doesn’t reach the final, he could miss one or several World Cup qualifiers as well.

The punishment was a harsh one, although it’s unclear what exactly Osorio said. He is prone to fits of rage on the sideline though, and has been caught on camera while swearing up a storm more than once.

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At any rate, Osorio will get to prepare his side, set out tactics and make lineups — and he might even manage to clandestinely communicate substitutions down to his bench from the luxury box he’ll be watching the games from. But he won’t get to instruct his players during the games themselves, making for an unintended experiment in coaching influence.

The Colombian didn’t seem to be missed very much by his charges as Hedgardo Marin, Elias Hernandez and Orbelin Pineda scored for Mexico, seeing to it that Nelson Bonilla’s goal for El Salvador didn’t matter much. The win gave El Tri the lead in Group C after the first of three group stage games, which will be followed by contests with Jamaica and Curacao.

In the ninth minute, Marin rose high on a free kick to the far post from Hernandez and dumped his header past Salvadoran goalkeeper Benji Villalobos.

Surprisingly, considering its FIFA ranking of 103, El Salvador answered quickly. On a quick break, a lovely through-ball by Rodolfo Zelaya set up Bonilla, who finished cleanly.

Before the half hour, Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona goofed and rolled a ball out to a teammate not paying attention to him. Gerson Mayen picked it up and chipped it only just over. It would be the last time the Salvadorans were in danger of getting a result. Because a few minutes later, Mexico went back ahead for good.

The strong Jesus Gallardo’s cross found Hernandez wide open at the far post and he volleyed the ball in magnificently.

Hernandez was denied point-blank by Villalobos on the brink of halftime, but El Tri would put the game away anyway. In the 55th minute, the ever-threatening Hernandez whipped in a wicked low cross that befuddled Villalobos. Pineda had an empty net and scored, albeit with an awkward bounce off his knee.

Mexico would get several more looks for a fourth goal but neglected to convert any of them, comfortable in its dominance and unbothered about running up the score.

No matter. El Tri is trying to win this tournament for a fourth time in five editions. Like the United States men’s national team, it is appearing with a B-team in order to spare the first string for more World Cup qualifiers in September and October.

And it is trying to show that it can lift this trophy not only without its best players, but also without its coach.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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