CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) – On this night, Mexico didn't need its suspended players. As the CONCACAF Gold Cup moves to the knockout round, the Mexicans are hoping an investigation will determine tainted beef - not doping - is the reason five players tested positive for a banned substance.
Hours after the Mexican soccer federation suspended five players - including defender Francisco Rodriguez and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa - for testing positive for a banned substance, Mexico (2-0) got off to a sluggish start and put the game away with a three-goal burst in a 5-minute span midway through the second half.
''We knew that game was gong to be complicated,'' coach Jose Manuel De La Torre said. ''They were going to clog our spaces and counterattack. But we needed to take care of the important opportunities. You could see in the first half we weren't effective. In the second half we took advantage of opportunities and you see the result.''
Dos Santos scored twice during the flurry, which was built off attacks starting from the sidelines that overwhelmed Cuba (0-2). Aldo De Negris also scored before Hernandez's second goal helped Mexico move atop Group A.
Hernandez, the Manchester United star who had a hat trick in Mexico's opener, was unmarked as he headed in Andres Guardado's cross in the 36th minute to put Mexico ahead to stay.
Cuba (0-2) has been outscored 10-0 in two games, but it had a chance in this one for a while.
Mexico watched Robert Linares narrowly miss a tying goal early in the second half when his shot sailed just wide of the left post. But soon Cuba was overcome by Mexico's speed and depth.
''We played very well up until minute 61,'' Cuba coach Raul Gonzalez said. ''But we had talked about in the locker room the strategic changes we did were working very well. We were trying to prevent Mexico playing from the sidelines.''
Even with only 17 players eligible, the defending Gold Cup champions posted their second straight 5-0 win in the tournament. How they'll fare potentially without a key defender and goalkeeper will be tested starting Sunday, when the Mexicans face Costa Rica (1-0-1) for the group title.
''We will wait for the final result,'' De La Torre said of the ensuing doping investigation. ''Not having all the players hurt, but we will be waiting for CONCACAF result and what they decide.''
Decio de Maria, the secretary general of the Mexican soccer federation, said he believes the positive results for clenbuterol come from the players eating tainted beef. CONCACAF officials will hold an emergency meeting Friday to decide if Mexico will be able to add replacement players, but has said its opening-round win over El Salvador will stand.
Defender Edgar Duenas and midfielders Christian Bermudez and Antonio Naelson ''Sinha'' also were suspended.
For Cuba, it will close the tournament Sunday against El Salvador.
''We have a team that has a lot of youth, a lot of promise,'' Gonzalez said. ''Our very first game we had a great defensive game and the second game we had a defensive lapse in the second half which was a 5-0 score. But it's not ruining the process and we hope in the future the team can mature and get better.''