It is about that time again. Its time for some friendlies! I know many people say friendlies don’t mean anything but I believe they can be valuable. No, I’m not talking about wins or losses. I would much rather lose 1-0 and play well than win 1-0 and play like crap. I am talking about how the team plays in those games.  With a busy summer approaching, there are a few things I will keep an eye on during the game against Ecuador on Saturday

Expected Starting XI on Saturday (via @DLejitos )

Mexico vs Ecuador,  7:30PM (Central Time

Game is on:  ESPN2, UniMas,  Univision Deportes and streaming on WatchESPN & Univision Deportes En Vivo

Chicharito’s Dance Partner

With Carlitos Vela back in the mix, it will be up to Gio to prove he can be an effective strike partner to Chicharito. It will take a lot for Gio to regain a starting spot  in this formation. Carlos Vela is likely going to start once he is healthy. He has proven his ability to work well with Chicharito up top. He can play the pseudo creator role with Chicharito making every run for 90 minutes. Piojo and the Mexican Federation did not fight to bring Vela back into the mix just to sit him on the bench.  That is why I think there is something to be said about Nayib’s article outlining sending Gio to Copa America. While I think its too early to be making those types of decisions, it is a sensible but risky idea. It is risky because the Gold Cup is the priority and having Gio off the bench would be a great option to have late in games.

Defensive Cohesion

What Mexico misses when Rafa is not in the lineup is his leadership. The revolving door of defenders since the World Cup has proven to be ineffective but there is hope with Hector Moreno coming back. If he can be a leader back there and organize his troops, Mexico’s keepers will feel more confident going forward. In my opinion, the defense for El Tri has been the biggest weakness since the World Cup. It is a positional group in transition with older players phasing out and new ones breaking in. Hector Moreno can be that bridge. The unproven back line will look for him to lead them towards 2018.

Formation

Piojo has said his side can play other formations and adapt but have we seen El Tri play anything besides a 3-5-2 for longer than 30 minutes? I am not advocating for a permanent switch but added flexibility is key. If anything, it gives the opposition something else to prepare for.  Ultimately, a 4-3-3 formation is something Mexico should attempt. Even if only against a weaker opponent. Imagine a front 3 of Gio-Chicharito-Vela. Piojo keeps trotting out his usually 3-5-2 but I hope he follows through and switches it up in 2015.

Masterful Midfield

It has to be said, the strength of Mexico lies in the middle.  All 3 presumed starters (HH, Gallito, Principito) are in the forms of their life and are the engine of the team. If the midfield struggle, the rest of the team struggles. Many are clamoring for Jona to get a start but I agree with the move to keep Gallito in there. Those 3 have played well together in the past, no reason to switch it up. Yes, Jona has played well lately but Gallito has done nothing to lose his spot. No doubt that Jona breathing down his neck for playing time is keeping Gallito on his game. Competition is great and Mexico can go any number of ways with their midfielders in a couple of different formations. Which is another reason why Piojo can and should try other formations. He has true wingers on this roster who don’t really have a position in the current formation.

 

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