Mexico emerged victorious in their penultimate friendly before embarking on the Gold Cup. Who impressed; who left more to be desired?
Given the unusually high amount of first-team regulars and veterans absent from the Mexican national team this summer, El Tri’s game agains Venezuela was a great opportunity for a handful of youngsters to step up and seize opportunity.
The list of absentees includes Javier Hernandez, Jesus Corona, Hirving Lozano, Carlos Vela and Hector Herrera. Coach “Tata” Martino has had to call up a few fringe players and some highly rated youngsters, the youngsters perhaps a little earlier than he had intended.
Roberto Alvarado and Rodolfo Pizarro are two players who will seemingly benefit from the absences and are looking to cement their place in the starting 11 for the Gold Cup.
Both played well against Venezuela, each getting on the score sheet (Alvarado before the half and Pizarro after). Pizarro looked hungry to impress and his highly rated performance will have given his coach plenty to think about.
Although only just missing out on a Gold Cup spot, LA Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna made a good impression against Venezuela, even getting a fine assist. Although he is first choice to replace Edson Alvarez if the midfielder does not fully recover from his injury, Antuna will no doubt be disappointed. Still, it demonstrates the esteem “Tata” has for the player that he was selected as Alvarez’s replacement even though they do not play the same position (Antuna is an attacking midfielder, while Alvarez is a defensive midfielder).
Raul Jimenez, though he did not get on the scoresheet, had a decent game. Coach Martino’s deployment of wingers in a 4-3-3 formation allowed the striker to come deeper and get more involved with the build-up. That is a strength of Jimenez and, it benefits El Tri that he can alternate between dropping back deep and interlinking with the wingers, as well as leading the push on the attacking end of play.
Alvarez had a strong start to the game but his time was unfortunately cut short when he collided with a Venezuelan player and looked to have suffered a severe injury. Fortunately, the 21-year-old was not seriously hurt and “Tata” kept him in the Gold Cup roster. With a potential move to Europe this summer, everyone will be keeping their fingers crossed that Alvarez can recover and have an impressive tournament.
There were also some disappointing performances that could effect Tata’s decisions during the Gold Cup.
In my opinion, Diego Reyes had a poor game against Venezuela, which is unfortunate because he needed to grasp this opportunity to show the coach he is a contender for a starting spot on the back line. He consistently lost the ball though he did make several decent tackles, as well as a goal line clearance late on. Reyes needs to do more if he is dislodge Nestor Araujo, Hector Moreno and Carlos Salcedo as the top center backs ion Tata’s roster.
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Jonathan Orozco, for me, had a fairly solid game but for the glaring error on Venezuela’s opening goal. The rest of the game he looked comfortable and confident. Still, it is clear that Guillermo Ochoa remains the No. 1 and clearly the best goalkeeper for Mexico.
Erick Gutierrez was virtually invisible throughout this game, perhaps indicative of his limited playing time at Dutch club PSV Eindhoven. His move to Europe has not lived up to expectations and it could prove harmful to his national team career. “Tata,” as well as Mexico fans, will hope Guti improves as the summer progresses because he has considerable potential. A strong performance could push him toward a starting spot for both club and country.
With the game against Ecuador only hours away, it is likely “Tata” will field a completely different starting 11. It would be exciting to see Alexis Vega and Orbelin Pineda given a big chance to impress the coach before the Gold Cup gets underway in next weekend.