In their first friendly tuneup match ahead of the Gold Cup, El Tri overcame an early Venezuela goal to defeat the Vinotinto 3-1 thanks to three unanswered goals.
With injuries dominating the atmosphere around the team, El Tri seemed like they were able to be protagonists early on, making chances mostly through Roberto Alvarado from their early control. But seventeen minutes in, an early goal off an attempted cross by Jhon Murillo that caught Mexico goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco by surprise had left El Tri in an early 1-0 hole.
However, El Tri refused to play scared with Roberto Alvarado forcing Venezuela goalkeeper Wuilker Fariñez to preserve the Vinotinto’s advantage with a parry. Eventually, in minute 31, Roberto Alvarado finished from close range to bring El Tri back on level terms.
Soon after, Venezuela captain Tomás Rincon thought he had earned a penalty for his side when he was tripped inside the area. But the referee had deemed the Torino-based midfielder had taken a dive and instead booked him.
At the start of the second half, after several changes, El Tri continued to pile pressure onto Fariñez’s goal. But that pressure had been more frequently coming off of counterattacks, set pieces, and spilled rebounds. And eight minutes in, Roberto Alvarado turned into provider as Rodolfo Pizarro finished Alvarado’s cross to put El Tri in front for the first time. The counter that set up Pizarro’s go-ahead goal had come off of a failed Venezuela corner.
From that point, the Vinotinto became the overall protagonists, forcing Mexico to focus on their marking and try to pressure the Venezuela attackers into mistakes. However, unlike El Tri, the Vinotinto appeared to be more effective in pulling the Mexico defenders off their marks in the interior of the defense to make those chances. Many of those chances, however, failed to trouble Jonathan Orozco.
Eventually, the Vinotinto’s high pressure and concentration on circulation opened up enough space for Mexico to extend their lead. In the game’s 74th minute, Andres Guardado, who came into the match as a substitute, finished off one of those transitions to confirm Mexico’s two goal advantage at 3-1.
Venezuela continued to attack, however, and put Mexico’s defensive units into spots of bother and had nearly pressed away a pass from Jonathan Orozco near his own area in the game’s final minutes. But nothing was able to affect the result.
With the win, El Tri turned a victory out of a performance where they had gotten frustrated and lost concentration but regained it, as well as their predatory instincts. Rafael Dudamel’s side could take solace in that his side could break El Tri’s possessive and defensive posture with effective ball circuits (and off-the-ball movement) even though the goals were not there.
However, not all was good news for El Tri as defender and central midfielder Edson Alvarez left the game due to a knee injury in the first half.
El Tri next travel to Dallas, where they will play Ecuador on Sunday, June 9 in their final tune-up match before the Gold Cup, while Venezuela will loo to end their Copa America preparation on a high note when they take on the United States on Sunday, June 9.