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Mexico’s Depth Is Paying Dividends

Times Staff Writer

Mexico continues to send out signals that it is going to be a handful next year when qualifying for soccer’s 2006 World Cup in Germany turns serious.

It also continues to show that Mexico has considerable fan support north of the border, which leaves the United States the thorny question of just where to play its home game against Mexico in 2005.

On Wednesday night, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of about 21,000 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Mexico blanked Guatemala, 2-0, scoring both goals within a two-minute span in the second half.

The result, coming on the heels of a 2-1 victory over Ecuador that ignited 40,812 fans at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. two weeks ago, extended Mexico’s winning streak to six games.

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The two matches, both friendlies, also underlined the depth of Coach Ricardo Lavolpe’s squad. In both games, Lavolpe used mostly reserve players, many from the 2004 Athens Olympics team, and in both games Mexico was clearly the better team.

Striker Francisco Fonseca, who had scored twice against Ecuador in his debut for the national team, was kept in check Wednesday, but Guatemala had no answer for the speed and shooting prowess of second-half substitutes Daniel Osorno and Alberto Medina.

Osorno scored with an angled shot from the left in the 67th minute to cap a fast break that came after one of Guatemala’s infrequent offensive moves. Medina doubled Mexico’s advantage in the 69th minute, taking a fine through pass, touching the ball once to his left and then firing a right-foot shot into the net.

The two players had come into the match a few minutes earlier and Medina’s goal was his first for the national team.

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Guatemala, Mexico and the United States already have secured their places in next year’s six-nation final qualifying round for the World Cup, but if Wednesday’s performance is anything to go by, Guatemala will not trouble Mexico then either.

Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz was largely ineffective up front for Guatemala and caught the eye only when fouling or being fouled.

The only one of Coach Ramon Maradiaga’s players who held his own was goalkeeper Miguel Angel Klee, who made several good saves in the first half before the Mexicans broke through in the second half.

Guatemala was reduced to fouling to slow Mexico, and American referee Kevin Terry yellow-carded five Guatemalan players.

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Mexico was using the game as preparation for its next two World Cup qualifiers against St. Kitts and Nevis at the Orange Bowl in Miami on Saturday and in Monterrey, Mexico on Nov. 17.

Guatemala next plays Bolivia in a friendly at RFK Stadium in Washington on Saturday.

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Jones reported from Los Angeles.

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