DENVER — Giovani dos Santos scored twice in the first half and Aldo de Nigris added another goal, lifting Mexico to a 3-0 victory over New Zealand in the team's final tuneup Wednesday night before opening the defense of its CONCACAF Gold Cup crown.
Mexico was clicking along in the first half, keeping constant pressure on New Zealand's inexperienced defense. With a 3-0 lead at halftime in front of 45,401 fans, "El Tri" made wholesale changes, including subbing out dos Santos to rest the talented forward.
This was Mexico's last game before the Gold Cup, soccer's championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean. Mexico will play in Group A with Costa Rica, Cuba and El Salvador. The team starts with El Salvador on Sunday and Javier Hernandez is expected to be with the squad.
The standout striker missed the game against New Zealand after playing for Manchester United in a 3-1 loss to Barcelona last weekend in the Champions League final.
Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa had a rather easy evening for Mexico, hardly forced to make any saves against the Kiwis. He finished with just two saves.
Dos Santos put Mexico on the board first when he scored off a rebound in the 23rd minute. Carlos Salcido took a shot from the left corner that bounced off the hands of New Zealand keeper Glen Moss and straight to the foot of dos Santos, who sent a low liner into the net.
Just 7 minutes later, dos Santos, clad in royal blue cleats, scored again by corralling a deflected ball in the box, juking Moss and all but walking it into the net.
The 22-year-old dos Santos spent time this season playing for Spain's Racing Santander after being loaned from Tottenham.
With one shot, a rough first half instantly turned around for de Nigris. After having a goal wiped away when he was offsides, and being stopped twice by Moss from close range, de Nigris scored in the 43rd minute when he tapped in a pass from Andres Guardado.
Mexico finished its U.S. exhibition tour 3-0-2, drawing an average of 51,000 fans.
The team simply has that kind of appeal.
Even three hours before the game Wednesday, the atmosphere in the parking lot was electric as a "futbol fiesta" was set up, complete with giveaways, games and plenty of face-painting booths.
Nearly all the fans in attendance were decked out in Mexico's familiar colors of green, white and red. The most popular jersey was that of Hernandez, his nickname of "Chicharito" — meaning "little sweet pea" — was emblazoned on the back.
"He's really good. He's definitely my favorite player," said 28-year-old Hugo Lopez, who drove to the Mile High City from Albuquerque, New Mexico, with his dad to see the team play.
Lopez was sporting a faux-hawk haircut that was dyed the colors of "El Tri." But in this crowd, he barely stood out as those colors seemed to be a popular choice.
CANADA 2, ECUADOR 2: At Toronto, Tosaint Ricketts scored a controversial goal in injury time to give Canada a 2-2 tie with Ecuador on Wednesday night in an exhibition game.
Ricketts scored off a quick free kick, taken while Ecuador's players argued with the referee. The goal was Ricketts' first for the national team. Terry Dunfield also scored his first international goal for Canada.
Christian Benitez and Michael Arroyo scored for Ecuador.
The game was Canada's last before the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
VANCOUVER 1, CHIVAS USA 1: At Carson, Calif., Brazilian winger Camilo scored in the 48th minute to help Vancouver tie Chivas USA 1-1 on Wednesday night in Tommy Soehns first game as the Whitecaps coach.
Soehn took over the MLS expansion team Monday after Teitur Thordarson was fired. Vancouver (1-5-7) hasn't won an MLS game since opening the season with a 4-2 victory over Toronto FC.
Chivas USA (3-4-5) opened the scoring just a minute into the second half when Nick LaBrocca made a darting run from midfield and blasted a 25-yarder. The Whitecaps countered quickly on Camilo's curling shot.
The Whitecaps played the final 23 minutes a man short after forward Eric Hassli picked up his third ejection of the season on a reckless tackle on Ben Zemanski.