A Promising Work in Progress

 

There was so much that was wrong about the Mexican team last night. The formation, the form of key players, and the lack of creative spark all led to problems that could have spelled trouble for El Tri. They didn't. Mexico dominated the match in Costa Rica and took a decisive 2-0 victory.

Chepo de la Torre made the unpopular decision to go with a 4-4-2 formation last night. It's certainly a formation that doesn't normally raise a great deal of controversy (or excitement) but it is a rarity for Mexico. Going forward with two forwards raised a lot of question marks and it would be hard to call it a success after the match. Little offensive came through the center of the pitch, which is understandable since Carlos Salcido and Jesus Zavala are more defensive midfielders than creators. Andres Guardado and Javier Aquino were both exceptional throughout the match, but ran into defenses that were prepared for the ball advancing down the wings. While Oribe Peralta had a productive ninety minutes, the same could not be said for Chicharito. Many of the crosses from Aquino and Guardado sailed into empty spaces where there probably should have been a teammate; yet, they bounced in dangerous areas before ultimately being cleared by a Costa Rican defender. The offense while always appearing dangerous was simply out of synch.

There are many theories being floated around about the current form of Chicharito. He is clearly not at the top of his game right now. He didn't play well last night and played rather poorly in the friendly against the US. One obvious explanation for his lack of form would be the lack of playing time he is getting at the club level. Manchester United is stacked with forwards and Chicharito has been left out for a good while now. Alex Ferguson also prevented him from participating with the Olympic squad this summer. So, rust is definite possibility with Chicharito. It is also seems that Chicharito has bulked up a bit since going to Man U (too many pies and chips?). Logically, that makes sense as the English game tends to be more physical than others. Adding more size could allow players to retain possession and better fight off the massive defenders coming their way. The worry is that this bulk has slowed Chicharito down a step. One of his greatest attributes was his quickness to the ball and overall explosiveness on the pitch. It does seem as if he is a step slower now than he once was. It's also possible that he simply needs to find rhythm with many of the new teammates on the pitch. With the recent infusion of youth into the national side, several of his teammates that are responsible with delivering him the ball haven't often played with him, if at all. Whatever the cause, here's hoping Chicharito gets to the solution.

Speaking about players that have had trouble getting on the pitch, Mexico was without a key cog in the El Tri machine last night. Giovani Dos Santos is currently out with a hamstring injury suffered during the Olympics. Dos Santos has probably been one of the most valuable players to the Mexican National Team over the past few years. He is that creative offensive spark that could make something out of nothing. He could be that player that could move from center to the wing and back again giving defenders fits trying to keep up. Dos Santos was so obviously missed last night. Many called for Marco Fabian to assume that role in his absence last night. While, Fabian is undoubtedly a great player, he is not Giovani Dos Santos. Giovani has been consistently the spark plug for the Mexican offense. Every time he puts on the tricolores, he performs. So far, we cannot say the same thing about Fabian. Great, yes.  Consistently great ... not yet.

Despite the great many red flags with Mexico's play, they thoroughly owned that match. Costa Rica never looked likely to earn even a point last night. Yes, Mexico was the big favorite, but Costa Rica is hardly a pushover. The home field advantage alone could have easily propelled them to a draw.  Mexico would have no part of that. They rarely were without the ball. Jesus Corona had little to do in the goal. For that matter, Mexico's back four had a fairly easy night as well. They were able to move forward and pass the ball freely for the majority of the match.

Red flags were waving. Chepo was tinkering. Mexico was conquering. You have to feel pretty good about what El Tri might do when they have it all figured out. Hopefully, we'll see that on Tuesday at the Azteca. 

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