Mexico’s solid 2-0 win, coupled with the favorable reviews they received at the Azteca (the whistles were kept to a minimum), has the Gentlemen wondering if it is OK for their common friends to start inviting both of them to the same parties again without it getting… awkward. Despite the win, the hot-seat under Mexico coach is till lukewarm, and he will need to do something special this summer to win them over.
John Jagou: Joely, Mexico and the Estadio Azteca didn’t fully kiss and make up, but the stadium didn’t hang up on them when Mexico called. They ended up having a pretty good 90-minute conversation and left it for a couple of dates for June. Is an old flame being rekindled?
Joel Aceves: Scoring a goal 5 minutes into the match certainly helped win the crowd over. I still think the Mexico City fan base will continue to be a tough sell. They have the “what have you done for me lately?” syndrome.
JJ: The game could not have been scripted any better. An early goal, another one right before halftime. The fickle Chilango fans were actually singing in the second half. It has been a while since we heard that.
Costa Rica never recovered. Can Mexico now be a little more aggressive in Port of Spain after the win?
Joely: I’m not sure of the aggressiveness. I reckon they will have a more conservative approach to avoid injury or card accumulation. The ‘Soca Warriors’ got a good result beating Panama 1-0 and a tie against Mexico, the strongest team in the Hexagonal, will be a good deal for them. Especially after Honduras humiliating six-nil defeat to an invigorated USMNT. Protecting the goal differential could make a big difference by the end of the tourney.
JJ: I certainly agree that a draw would make both teams very happy, but Mexico can mitigate the risk a little differently after the win. Another 3 points would all but assure qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
But let’s dig in a little more into Mexico’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica. Yes, the early goal was massive, and we cannot discount how important it was that it was Chicharito that scored the first goal. He is the face of the national team, for good or bad. It put the fans in a very good mood, moreso because of who scored.
As sad as this sounds, the crowd never became a factor… against Mexico.
Joely: In the pre-Match presser Juan Carlos Osorio – who called for 100% fan support – noted that in Mexico the stadium ambiance is dictated by the match. Great plays, stops, strikes, fouls will get the crowd going. He said in England it is the other way around with the fans singing and chanting to inspire the players. In that sense the fans have never been an important factor of Mexico’s home-field advantage as has been the smog and altitude. Whatever the case it is assuring that the National Team finally figured out that its players are no longer immune to the altitude and prepared for the game physically, by training in Cuernavaca, and tactically.
JJ: I know that Osorio bashing has been the Mexican Sports Media’s national pastime since he signed his contract in 2015. We have even been known to throw him a little shade here and there as well. But we are gentlemen, so we kept it classy.
But we have to give him credit in the planning and logistics department. For years we clamored for FMF to make travel easier for the Mexpats. He made the simple decision to have them meet up in Columbus instead of forcing the players to fly to CDMX first. And his decision to train in Cuernavaca paid off. Yes, training at a lower elevation helped, but the players connected with fans in a way that they cannot when at the CAR.
Joely: The decision to fly straight to Columbus and train in Cuernavaca have been spot on but I won’t give credit to Osorio as I’ve yet to read that it was his call. And it’s not that I’m trying to discredit the Colombian; it’s that when it comes to Mexican soccer we like to drink the kool-aid and believe whatever the media tells us.I grew up reading that Argentine coach Cesar Luis Menotti changed the Mexican players’ mentality. Never mind that he was only at the Tricolor’s helm for one year [91-92] and the team didn’t achieve anything in that time span. Instead, he gets credit for Mejia Barron taking the national team to a Copa America final a year later.
In my book Osorio has yet to impress me. I’m not sold on rotaciones and still skeptic on how the team will do against tougher competition. Mexican media has been celebrating the ‘historic’ win in Honduras – same Honduras that was just humiliated by a sub-par US. I maintain my stance that this Hexagonal is one of the weakest of recent time.
JJ: Well, Mexico can only play the teams in front of them. The team in front of them Friday night was pretty good. Is the hex weaker than in years past? Perhaps, but the floor and ceiling are not that far apart.
And we cannot lose sight of the fact that the last time Mexico played the hex, they were god awful. A Juan Carlos Osorio coached side did in 7 minutes what it took Chepo’s players 280 minutes to do: score a goal at home. The player who scored it, Javier Hernandez, scored his first goal at the Azteca in 5 years. 5 years!
Early goals are so important, but the goal right before halftime was the real tico killer. Nestor Araujo has developed into a better than average defender, and a major threat on set pieces. Araujo, along with Jonathan Dos Santos and Carlos Vela, were Mexico’s best players.
Joely: Having players in-form had definitely been one of Mexico’s best assets, especially when compared to the previous Hexagonal. Overall, there are even more players to choose from which helped in a massive way as the Tricolor entered this game with about five injured players and their absences weren’t noticed. Last time around Vela didn’t want anything to do with the Seleccion, Oribe was injured and Cheech was at a low point in his career. So, I am not jumping on Osorio’s tactics train either. If the Ticos had better players, they could have tied the game as the chances were there. I know this isn’t a what if…but I keep having the same nagging feeling I had after the Chile friendly before the CA Centenario. I am therefore reserving my judgement until the Confederations Cup.
JJ: Funny, last summer you were reserving judgement until the US game in Columbus. How many more times will you be moving the goalposts?
Joely: Correction; I was reserving judgement until the Copa America Centenario and I was expecting that Osorio would get sacked by the start of the Hexagonal. I must say I was surprised by the win over the U.S not so much because they won at Columbus but because I thought the Colombian had lost the locker room. Clearly, I was proven wrong and the players turned out to be very professional and managed to put their Centenario defeat behind them.
Since the Copa America the national team hasn’t really had any top rival or competition to really gauge where the team is at. That question won’t be answered until the 18th of June when the Tricolor face Portugal. Until then, all I can do is hope that Osorio proves me wrong because I am not looking forward to another lackluster performance.
JJ: Other than beating their archrival on the road, of course.
I am not a big fan of Osorio either, but I do give him credit for a few things: I do believe he is the one who has been behind the logistical changes we have seen. Has anyone attributed these changes directly to him? We don’t have to. His fingerprints are all over the decisions. Do you honestly believe Memo Cantú or Santiago Baños are the forces behind those changes? I also give him credit for shoring up the defense. It was laughably bad at the CAC. Now, not so much.
I still maintain that he is one bad result from being fired, as he has yet to fully replenish the political capital he lost in CAC. He has major tests in June with 2 home qualifiers and the Confed Cup. The results still need to be heavy on the W column for him to keep judging Mexico players with blue and red pens.
But those are the next tests. There is one coming up on Tuesday. How do you see it playing out?
Joely: I believe Mexico will look to avoid even more injuries. They had five before the CR match and suffered two more during the game. There’s no need to go all out now that they are in good standing and the Calendar after the T&T game will favor them. Mexico will have three straight home games: hosting Honduras, U.S and Panama. So, I believe they will play for the tie. I expect either a 1-1 result or a scoreless draw.
JJ: This game is tailor-made for Mexico to hit the Soca Warriors on the counter, if only Mexico had the bodies to do it. The injuries have mounted, as you said, but even so, Mexico has a golden opportunity to steal another 3 points on the road.
A win could put them in position to clinch a WC berth before heading over to Russia. I expect Mexico to play conservatively overall, risk only when they have the numbers, take advantage of set pieces, and leave Port of Spain with 3 points. As you pointed out, they have 3 home games in a row on the schedule. We’ll know in June if Mexico and the Azteca are an item again (would we call them Trizteca?). If they are, we can all start brushing up on our Russian.
Let’s talk again on the other side.
Joely: Orale, Yon.