Someone's El Tri Questions Answered

With World Cup ticket in hand, Mexico now readies a roster for another crack at this beautifully maddening tournament. Despite the smooth qualifying process, Juan Carlos Osorio and his El Tri will have much to solidify and solve before Russia rolls along. To that end, I’ve answered questions about this team, its manager, and the region in general. I’ve meticulously compiled these fictitious questions from potential readers. Thanks as always.


Who is Mexico’s best option at the holding midfield role? (Fred – Lincoln, NE)

The Simple Answer: A guy who finished in last place in MLS

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

Jonathan Dos Santos is clearly the choice here. He is natural in the position. His ability to control the midfield is an essential characteristic for the Mexican national team. The defense isn’t going to be shutting down opposition. A midfielder with the ability to play the full length of the field with the natural inclination to preserve the ball is priceless.

Hector Herrera is not the worst option for the position either. It’s just the rollercoaster could get a touch nauseating. Herrera can play matches where he looks like the best on the pitch. When Herrera is on, it’s not hard to picture him slotting in to some of the best sides in Europe. There are just those other pesky times. Those times when he looks like he’s forgotten where he’s parked in the Costco garage are all too real. He’s just wandering the grounds looking overwhelmed and exasperated. Those types of showings do tend to erode trust for such a crucial role.

Andres Guardado seems like the other obvious choice. Guardado is going to have a crucial role for El Tri heading toward the World Cup, I’m just not sure his best place is here. I prefer to see him more advanced with a little more flexibility going forward and creating. He could play the role well, but it’s likely not Mexico’s best use of the captain.

Then again, Juan Carlos Osorio will just plug a center back in to the place, but if I were to get my choice, it would still be Jona.


But didn’t MLS kill the Dos Santos brothers? (Carlos – San Sebastian, ESP)

The Simple Answer: Yes, but it’s time-release. It’s more of a slow burn.

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

Moving to MLS doesn’t instantly evaporate players’ skills. It’s not the strongest league, obviously. It has serious issues with distribution of talent that make sides uneven. It’s simply a league where business acumen far exceeds the standard of play. I’m sorry, but we were doing unmitigated truths now in the wake of the USMNT debacle, right? Right?

Anyway, Jonathan Dos Santos doesn’t instantly turn from a good player with Villarreal with all that lovely Masia training into a failing MLS midfielder with just the stroke of pen. Well… I suppose that is exactly what happened, if you consider that his MLS team is failing, but looking at the big picture Jonathan Dos Santos is still the same player with the same skills, for now. He can still do the same things for the Mexican National Team.

You could question what the league might do to a player over time. Will years of playing in MLS rather than La Liga, affect his style and approach to the game? Possibly. One need to look no further than Jona’s brother across the locker room as a cautionary tale.  Perhaps Gio was due a decline, as the things that made him great are just a bit harder to access at 28, his weaknesses now more readily on display. Perhaps. I think we’ll all go with the narrative that most fits our previously held beliefs on MLS and Gio. That’s what we do in 2017; stick to your guns even if you’re bleeding out from a self-inflicted shot to the foot.

Did MLS kill the Dos Santos brothers? Umm … maybe. But Jona is alive! He’s alive! 


Does the USMNT’s failure doom the US going forward? (Michael – TOR, CAN)

The Simple Answer: About as doomed as wall street bankers after the housing collapse. They made the mess, but they’ll still come out fine.

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

Not at all. In theory, it should help the long-term prospects of the USMNT. It certainly hurts in the short-term. Missing out on the World Cup puts a dent in the coffers. Yet with the kidney-shaped pool full of cash the federation is splashing around in, it’s hard to get too worked up about the financial impact.

The current crop of stars will be missing out on a World Cup, but they don’t really have a current crop as much as one solitary stalk of corn. It’s a good looking one for sure, but a whole meal it does not make. It’s not that there is a severe lack of young talent. More and more US youngsters are making names for themselves overseas; they have also not been involved with the senior national team.

This failure opens the door for US Soccer to spend less time chasing results with aging stars and more time focusing on the next generation. Suddenly all the babies are getting minutes. The next generation begins to gel together over time without the pressure of immediate results.

This theory puts a fair amount of faith in the leadership of US Soccer which they haven’t earned. Yet, if dysfunctional leadership at the federation level disqualified nations from success, the international record books would look drastically different.

Mexico will see a very different USMNT by the time next World Cup qualification rolls around. Ideally, Mexico would follow suit with some hard long looks in the mirror. Ideally.


What should Mexico do at right back? (Paul – Mexico City, Mex)

The Simple Answer: What would JC- O do?

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

It’s not the strongest of positions for El Tri. The options there are either unproven, incompetent, or less than ideal in some way. There isn’t a great choice.

It’s easy to ridicule Juan Carlos Osorio’s decision-making in general. He makes plenty of puzzling choices. His seemingly primary option of using Carlos Salcedo at right back isn’t one of them. The concession here is that Salcedo is a center back. Yet, he can and has played right back. Salcedo’s toughness and flexibility make him well-suited for the role under Osorio. The ability for the defensive shape to switch to a three man backline when the left back pushes forward with possession, is something we’ve seen Osorio utilize. Salcedo provides for this possibility with his handle on both positions.

Salcedo will make mistakes – he would likely make them at center back as well. If this was a club team, Osorio would be absolutely justified in hunting for another right back on the transfer market. With Mexico, he has what he has, and for now the best option is Salcedo.


What about Paul Aguilar? (Miguel – Mexico City, MEX)

The Simple Answer: No. Stop it.

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

Paul Aguilar is a fine player. We all remember that goal. You’ve got to love those Aguilar long-range shots. His ability to score from his position makes him a real asset for his club. It made him useful with Miguel Herrera’s Mexico squad with its heavy reliance on wingbacks.

His positives simply can’t carry over to the current national team set up. Aguilar is a pure wingback. He excels at pushing forward, working in space, and creating chances. He is not much of a defender. He can do it. He has done it, but more often than not, Aguilar is a defensive liability. His game isn’t well-suited to a back line of four, at least against top level competition where more will be asked on the defensive end. There is a case to be made for using Aguilar against weaker opponents who might be inclined to sit back. Having Aguilar as a pseudo-winger could be useful in these situations. However, if Mexico’s ultimate goal is competing on a higher level and getting to the quarterfinals, Aguilar just doesn’t fit.


Will we ever see Rafa Marquez again? (Helen – Pocatello, ID)

The Simple Answer: No. Not in a match with anything on the line.

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

If we’re being completely honest, Rafa Marquez didn’t have a place on this team in the absence of his serious legal issues. I won’t go on about the greatness that was Rafa Marquez; you get it. It’s just a past tense issue. Marquez is no longer there. He’s not even close.

Marquez’s inclusion in World Cup qualification was a mistake. Yes, he scored the winner in Columbus, but also played a big part in the goal conceded and a few other close calls. His place needs to be filled with a younger player. There is no heir apparent on the roster. The next Rafa Marquez isn’t on the squad, nor is he coming through the youth ranks. There may never be another Rafa Marquez – and that’s ok. He is irreplaceable, but that does not mean you just keep dragging him along as a remembrance of the glory days.

Marquez should not be appearing again for Mexico in any true competitive match. With that being said, I fully expect at least one (probably multiple) molero appearance with a testimonial vibe.


So where do you stand with Mexico’s embattled manager? (Ricardo – Monterrey, MEX)

The Simple Answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

After the Copa America disaster with Chile, I believed Juan Carlos Osorio should have been let go. That loss was a fireable offense. The tactical mess, the clear absence of a plan B, and the utter capitulation from the players. In Osorio’s first big test with the team, he not only failed, he brought shame on the house of El Tri. Yet, he was given more time. In this time he has excelled in the CONCACAF World Cup qualification and made another mess on the field in the Confederations Cup. One could argue about the weight of his role in the heavy losses the same way they could question how much he truly influenced the success in the Hex.

There are several admirable characteristics to Juan Carlos Osorio. He is obviously a student of the game with a mindful approach to everything he undertakes. He is appreciated by the players who continuously support him above and beyond the general media clichés. He led a great qualifying campaign getting points in places that have been traditionally difficult for Mexico.  Still, Osorio should have been let go. Yet, that time has passed. At this stage, consistency is what is best for Mexico. He’s the guy through the World Cup – for better or worse.


Who is the face of this team? (Don – New York, NY)

The Simple Answer: Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

IF you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

It’s the baby-faced little pea, of course. His move away from Manchester United and Real Madrid haven’t changed that. His goal surges and droughts haven’t effected it. Slavan Bilic’s best efforts haven’t altered his place. He’s the man.

There are more exciting players. There are players with a higher potential. There’s the captain. There’s the experienced defender. There is only one Chicharito. The highest goal scorer in Mexico’s history will still be standing at the front of this squad. He may not be Mexico’s most essential player. He is not the true leader of the squad. Javier Hernandez will be the one at the forefront of Mexico’s World Cup successes and/or failures.   Speaking of which ….

Quinto partido? (John Charles – Washington, DC)

The Simple Answer: Who knows … but yeah, probably not.

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

It really is all about the matchups. Based on the last 18 months with El Tri, I think we have a pretty good idea where Mexico is at in the spectrum of footballing power. They have a strong enough team to move out of most groups. It comes down to who Mexico faces in that fourth match. Mexico has enough quality to get a win against any side, but it’s not the expected outcome. The chances are that a win that moves Mexico to the quarterfinals will be an upset. It’s possible, just not likely.


Shouldn’t there be ten questions rather than nine? (Chip – Dover, DE)

The Simple Answer: No

If you’re not in to the whole brevity thing:

Why the obsession with round numbers? Ugh.

Look at what you made me do. Now this stupid question and answer are the new ending to this article. You’ve ruined it for everybody. You should probably just leave. 



** photo by Roland O'Daniel



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