Mexico's roster is back at full strength, sort of, for its CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal Wednesday in Houston against Honduras after its federation replaced the five players suspended after testing positive for a banned substance.
El Tri coach Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre called in Guadalajara goalkeeper Luis Michel, Mexico's starter at the 2010 World Cup, Pachuca defender Paul Aguilar, who also played in South Africa, and rising Guadalajara defender Hector Reynoso and forward Marco Fabian de la Mora and Monterrey defender Hiram Meir.
Aguilar, Mier and Reynoso are expected to be available Wednesday. Michel and de la Mora departed Monday with Mexico's “under-22” team for Colombia to begin final preparations for next month's Copa America, South America's nations championship. They would join the Gold Cup team only in an emergency.
Starting goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa and defender Francisco Javier Rodriguez, plus reserve defender Edgar Dueñas and midfielders Antonio “Zinha” Naelson and Christian “Hobbit” Bermudez were suspended following Mexico's tournament opener after the Federacion Mexicana de Futbol announced they had tested positive for clenbuterol, a drug designed to treat breathing disorders in horses that also can add muscle, during El Tri's pre-tournament camp outside Mexico City.
Federation officials blamed the results on tainted beef, and all five re-tested negative 11 days ago at UCLA's laboratory, prompting FIFA to approve Mexico's request to replace the players.
If Mexico beats Honduras, it will face the U.S. or Panama in Saturday's Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl. U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey told the Houston Chronicle that he has no problem with Mexico bulking up before a potential meeting with its archrival.
“It doesn't bother us at all,” Dempsey said. “We have enough quality in our side that we can get the job done. You want them to be their best team and us to have our best team because that's what it's all about, the competition.”