Yes, Mexico made it to the prestigious CONCACAF Nations League like we all predicted but it was a struggle getting there. Other than a 20-25 minute spurt in the first half did Mexico resemble itself. Costa Rica is no push over but they were missing several key players and were very far from full strength. So…. what happened?
Line up and Formation
I’m okay with Henry Martin getting the start since I think Tata was always going to give one to him and the other to Pulido during these 2 games. I am still of the mindset that having a #9 is better than trying to shoe horn Hirving Lozano in there as a “False 9”. Did it work? Not really but has it worked with anyone at #9 besides Raul Jimenez? NOPE. This summer’s success will depend on Mexico finding a suitable option with Jimenez out of the picture until World Cup Qualifying in September.
Besides the #9 dilemma, Mexico’s midfield struggled to spring any attacks after the first 20 minutes of the game. Hector Herrera played well in a more offensive position than he has been playing in Spain but his partner, Andres Guardado struggled. Diego Lainez floated between the midfield and attack all night. He seemed to be a disrupter and caused plenty of problems for Costa Rica with his dribbling. With Tecatito not on the field, we need to see more of Lainez against the US. He provides that spark that can create goals out of nowhere and Mexico’s attack dimmed even more once he left the field.
Props to Costa Rica. They were missing several players and played great all night. Their defense maintained their shape and did not break. CONCACAF opponents are familiar with each other, expect more of these battles during the expanded World Cup Qualifying that starts in September.
The US looked just as shaky as Mexico did last night but are more capable than Costa Rica in their attack. However, CR had veterans on their backline who knew how to deal with the pressure and physicality of a CONCACAF game. US do not have that luxury and can be exploited on the wings with their FBs more interested in pushing up than stopping an attack. Lozano should have a field day with whoever they put in front of him like Tecatito did against Dest.
A return to a 4-3-3 should help Mexico with Edson Alvarez as the defensive midfielder who can drop back if needed. He can keep up with US attackers better than Guardado and is effective on set pieces, defending or attacking. Alan Pulido will probably get a crack as the forward and I hope he can be more involved than Martin.
With Guardado on the bench, this gives Tata a veteran to bring into the game if Mexico is holding a lead in the second half. Tecatito is recovering from an injury but should be available off the bench on Sunday. A fresh Tecatito going at a tired defense is music to my ears…
This will be the last game for both countries this summer at “full strength” as both will send weakened squads to the Gold Cup. I know we don’t care about the “Nations League” trophy but any game between Mexico and the USMNT at full strength is an important game. It will provide both coaches with a true measuring stick about their place in the region.