PASADENA, Calif. — Uriel Antuna went from not even being on Mexico’s roster to getting the start and scoring a hat trick.
A last-minute addition to the roster, the forward scored three goals and had an assist as top-seeded Mexico cruised to a 7-0 rout over Cuba on the opening day of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
"I am very happy I was able to score but the team played a great game, so I am very happy to be here," Antuna said to CONCACAF.com immediately after the game.
Antuna — was not made available in the mixed zone during postgame interviews — was a late addition to the roster after Jorge Sanchez was injured during a friendly last week. The 21-year-old LA Galaxy forward was making only his third appearance for the national team.
Antuna said playing in Los Angeles felt like a home game.
"He took advantage of the opportunity he had tonight," Mexico manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said. "He was focused for 90 minutes, had an excellent attitude and made a very good showing. It was nothing more than a good night."
Raul Jimenez added two goals for Mexico, who outshot Cuba 30-3 and controlled possession 66 per cent of the time.
"It’s great we started on right foot and will be facing more difficult opponents," Martino said. "We wanted to play a great game and not give them any opportunities."
Antuna opened the scoring in the third minute when Jimenez’s shot hit the right post and he buried the rebound. He made it 4-0 in the 44th minute when goaltender Sandy Sanchez was caught out of position on a breakaway, and completed the hat trick after Sanchez made a diving save on a blistering shot by Carlos Rodriguez. Sanchez was unable to clear it though and Antuna netted it for Mexico’s final goal in the 80th minute.
Jimenez — who plays for Wolverhampton in the Premier League — scored in the 31st and 64th minutes.
Diego Reyes and substitute Alexis Vega also scored for Mexico, which has outscored Cuba 18-0 the last three times they have met in the Gold Cup.
Mexico will face Canada on Tuesday in a matchup of unbeaten teams in Group A. Canada opened play with a 4-0 victory over Martinique in Saturday’s first game.
Cuba didn’t record its first shot until the 66th minute. Aricheell Hernandez had its best opportunity in the 80th minute, but the ball hit the top of the post.
Cuba coach Raul Mederos said before the tournament that he was hoping his team could finish in the top two in the group, but those odds are long now that they are facing a huge goal differential.