Those not belting out the Mexican national anthem Monday at Livestrong Sporting Park were in the decided minority during Mexico’s 2-1 win over Honduras in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying final.
Mexico, which had knocked off Honduras 3-0 eight days earlier during pool play at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., was a heavy favorite and also had the support of a partisan crowd of 10,501 — four-fifths of which seemed to be cheering for the Mexican under-23 men’s national team.
Most painted faces were designed to mimic the Mexican flag (green to white to red from left to right) and luchador masks — popularized by the second-most popular sport in Mexico, lucha libre, a form of wrestling that translates to “free fight.”
None of the fans in attendance for either side seemed to care that there was very little significance to the game, which Mexico won in overtime on a goal by Miguel Ponce.
Both teams still will represent CONCACAF at the Summer Olympics in London, meaning pride realistically was all that was at stake.
“It was hard to get excited, because the important game was versus Canada,” Ponce said. “We wanted to win (that game), so we could get the ticket (to London). Maybe we relaxed for a while tonight, but at the end we reacted and won the game.”
In contrast to its enthusiastic fans, Mexico, though dangerous at times, also seemed uninterested at times during a scoreless first half.
Meanwhile, Honduras sent a message that it meant business by picking up three yellow cards in the first half and taking the lead early in the second half.
Earning a restart along the right sideline, Honduras midfielder Alexander Lopez delivered a crisp ball to the center of the 18-yard box, where Rommell Quioto slipped inside Mexican defender Jorge Enriquez and beat goalkeeper José Rodriguez at the near post in the 48th minute.
“I loved the effort to try to win the game and the desire to win,” Honduran coach Luis Fernando Suarez said.
Going down a goal finally seemed to spark Mexico.
During the 75th minute, Mexican forward Alan Pulido, who had a hat trick against Honduras during pool play, tapped a ball back to Marco Fabian, who rolled it forward with a light first touch then boomed a 25-yard rocket into the upper right corner.
In second-half stoppage time, Mexico went up a man in when Luis Garrido was sent off after a reckless tackle, which resulted in his second yellow card and an ejection.
But the damage had been done as Honduras, which had played 120 minutes in an overtime win Saturday as well, seemed frustrated and found itself under fire in extra time.
Ponce delivered the game-winner in the 116th minute off a beautifully struck cross from 40 yards out by Israel Jimenez, whose long ball found Ponce at the back post for a one-timer past Mendoza.
No CONCACAF team has ever won an Olympic medal (gold, silver or bronze) but Mexico hopes to change that in August.
“That would be the best one,” Ponce said. “Now I have two — Pan-American and now this one — but I want Olympic medal.”