With the Copa Oro squad already named, and a lot of the high end of what El Tri could do in the tournament being marred by injuries to key players like Hirving Lozano and Edson Alvarez, there is still a sense that El Tri are obligated to win it. And there is also still the sense of an incredible period of both drama and culture change happening within the context of the senior team.
Against Venezuela, El Tri got a result that was more the result of exploiting mistakes and hustle more than hurting their opponents in dangerous spots. Although El Tri managed to control the ball, they manufactured most of their chances from the flanks or on set pieces or counterattacks, which did not look like the circuit-based totalvoetbal that many associate with the 4-3-3 formation that served as El Tri‘s base formation.
The Vinotinto presented Mexico’s opponents on Sunday, La Tricolor of Ecuador, a framework upon which El Tri could be pressured in their buildup and hurt toward their interior. The opposing manager, like Rafael Dudamel with Venezuela, is a familiar sight to El Tri supporters. Ecuador manager, the Colombian Hernan Dario ‘Bolillo” Gomez, whom El Tri had faced when he managed Panama’s national selection during the 2018 World Cup cycle. “Bolillo” appears to be a fairly observant coach and prepares his team to deal with what they have in front of them.
The difference between Dudamel’s Venezuela side and Gomez’s Ecuador side is the emphasis on adapting to the opponent based on what is there, rather than trying to modify the decision-making or the processes of the player he has into a collective that troubles their opponent. In Ecuador’s previous friendly activity in this window, against the very Vinotinto side El Tri faced previously, they often translate quickly and tend to attack through the center channels, when they do break lines. Much of the Liga MX and MLS contingent from La Tri are also willing to and able to beat defenders 1-vs-1 or 1-vs-2 to manufacture danger.
That challenge from the dribble and from transition could force Gerardo Martino’s hand into what concepts Martino wants to teach. El Tri will need to think and anticipate sooner as to how to move when they are in possession as to dismark Ecuador’s pressure, and likewise how to take away La Tri‘s options quickly when they are in defense or in transition.
It is not one that necessarily lends to as what Martino identified in his press conference as a definite style of play (in the near term), because a style of play has to deal with the challenges that each opponent presents and present a solution to those problems within the context of the style. (The context of the quote had been in the long term of Martino’s tenure.) It’s a challenge that could provide a template for Martino’s side to deal with their Caribbean opposition effectively in the later rounds, rather than gamble on their opponents’ failing to finish their chances.
The moment of the friendly at AT&T Stadium also has personal stories in Mexico’s midfield. Luis Montes, against the same opponents at the same stadium five years ago, suffered a fractured tibia and fibula as the result of a challenge that cost the Leon midfielder a chance to play in the 2014 World Cup. In a game against a team that often tries to tackle and pressure with physicality and gusto, Montes’ past injury history could be one that his opponents utilize to try to force the central midfielder into turnovers, heavy first touches, or another type of mistake.
The nature of the pitch in Arlington, along with the myriad other commercial obligations Martino has had to face with El Tri has presented for the Argentine manager to deal with his obligations. Two of the obligations Martino is managing are injuries to Carlos Salcedo and Edson Alvarez. Although the duo might not play tomorrow, Martino may still wait until the last minute to decide as to whether both can either play (in the case of Salcedo) or commit to the Gold Cup.
One player whose reason for withdrawing his name from consideration became public today was Miguel Layun. The former Porto, Watford, and Villarreal wingback revealed that he had to undergo surgery to remove a small, but malignant tumor identified during a routine medical examination.
As for the players who are there, their matchup against Ecuador commences at 7:00 PM Eastern DST (UTC -4) (6:00 PM local time), and can be seen in the U.S. on Univision and Univision Deportes Network.