All things considered, Mexico could not have asked for a better start to the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night.
A 5-0 rout of El Salvador pumped up El Tri's confidence and served notice that they are the team to beat in the confederation's biennial tournament in Arlington, Texas.
And Javier Hernández' 30-minute hat-trick was heartening because he broke his duck in the tournament early.
Don't laugh. Even a lethal goal-scorer like Chicharito needs to do his thing early on in a tournament. There's nothing like a goal or two – or three – to help the confidence of a player, even someone who just completed a 20-goal season with English power Manchester United.
The last thing you want is your star striker not scoring for two or even three consecutive games while the media and fans are trying to figure out what's wrong. No team, especially one like Mexico, doesn't need that type of distraction.
“He was fortunate to score as a result of good team play,” Mexico coach José Manuel De La Torre told reporters afterward. “He did what forwards are supposed to do.”
Fortunate? Well, there was some skill and a lot of soccer acumen involved as well.
Saying all of that, we have to put things into a bit of perspective. You have to remember the opponent was El Salvador, not World Cup champion Spain, not Costa Rica and not the United States. The Salvadorans are a long shot to reach the knockout rounds, which is saying a lot considering eight of the 12 teams will advance after the first round.
But a 5-0 result certainly is much more welcome than a 1-0 squeaker by a desperate side with the winning goal coming in the 85th minute.
Midfielder Andrés Guardado, who endured a difficult relegation season with Deportivo Coruña in Spain's La Liga, was one of the unsung heroes of the match, with his passing and leadership running the show.
But after Chicharito's 30-minute show, it was easy to get lose in the shuffle.
The El Salvadorans held off the Mexicans as best they could in the first half until the dam broke in the 54th minute – on a goal by defender Efraín Juárez. Barely a minute after he came on for Israel Castro, Aldo de Nigris doubled the lead and Mexico never looked back.
Then Hernández, who had frustrating start to the match, stole the spotlight with a memorable hat-trick over the final 30 minutes, not to mention a penalty kick – a chip shot – in stoppage time.
During the opening 60 minutes, an impatient Hernández was offside several times, earned a yellow card and was denied by goalkeeper Miguel Angel Montes in one-on-one situation in which he should have found a way to score. But once he found his mark and confidence, Chicharito and his teammates were difficult to stop.
It's funny how things work out. In their last Gold Cup match, the Mexicans crushed the U.S. in the 2009 final, 5-0, scoring all their goals in the second half. They accomplished the same result via the same route on Sunday night.
But before anyone gives El Tri their second consecutive Gold Cup trophy after their rousing performance before 80,108 mostly partisan fans at Cowboys stadium, you must remember that this was only one game.
To take that final victory lap at the Rose Bowl on June 25, the Mexicans will have to face, and defeat, stiffer obstacles in the next three weeks.
Sure, their next foe, Cuba, which wound up on the short end of Costa Rica's 5-0 trouncing, hardly looks like world beaters. There was little doubt that the Ticos and El Tri were the class of Group A.
It's a good start, an encouraging start. But let's not get too giddy too quickly. Let's see how El Tri fares when there's some adversity or a tougher opponent down the road.