There seems to be a developing theme for Mexico in this year’s Gold Cup: Success amidst chaos.
After gaining two wins and one draw, El Tri is sitting on top of Group C with only one goal allowed in three matches. A spot is now set in the knockout round, and on paper, Mexico should have no trouble getting to the final.
Yet, when you look at the details of those recent group stage games, it’s fair for El Tri fans to feel worried and skeptical.
Against El Salvador, Mexico’s disappointing backline was lucky that it only gave up one goal in the 3-1 win. In the following match versus Jamaica, it was then the attack’s turn to underwhelm in a dull 0-0 draw. Finally, against Curacao on Sunday, El Tri was literally saved by a near-perfect performance from goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona.
The veteran, who dealt with a total of eight shots on target from Curacao, was by far the best player on the field in the 2-0 victory. The fact that Mexico’s goalkeeper was the man of the match against a side like Curacao, says plenty about the game.
However, whether we agree or not with the plans from manager Juan Carlos Osorio, the formations or the performances of the individuals on the field, El Tri is still heading into the knockout round without a single loss.
Will that undefeated momentum be enough to help collect a place in the final? Another championship?
Before we begin to analyze the upcoming quarterfinal against Honduras, let’s first take a look at three talking points from Mexico’s most recent win.
1. Corona saved El Tri from disaster
It’s genuinely surprising that Curacao finished the game without a goal. Thanks to Corona, and two shots that hit the woodwork, Mexico escaped from the match with a win in hand.
After failing to garner any points in the first two group stage games, the Caribbean side was already officially out of the running for a position in the knockout round. With nothing to lose, Curacao wasn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with El Tri’s roster that was constantly caught off-guard by the opposition’s intensity.
The only thing keeping Mexico from embarrassing itself was a brilliant evening from Corona in net. Despite his 36 years of age, the veteran looked 10 years younger while he fought for a well-earned clean sheet.
Once again, without a doubt, Corona was the most impactful and imposing player on the field.
— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) July 17, 2017
2. Raul Lopez was a bright light in a questionable result
Although many of Mexico’s starters were less-than-exciting, Corona wasn’t alone with his superb showing.
On the right wing, “Dedos” Lopez emerged as the most threatening member of the attack. With an incessant amount dangerous and accurate crosses from distance, the 24-year-old helped develop a number of opportunities in the final third.
Once the match ended, Lopez was a bit unfortunate to only walk away with one assist for the national team.
Due to the Pachuca player’s versatility, it will be intriguing to see if Osorio decides to go with a formation that could utilize Lopez and the talented Elias Hernandez on the right flank. If the manager is hoping to truly focus on the attack, he might want to consider placing Hernandez on the right wing and moving the high-pressing Dedos to his more traditional spot at right-back.
If you’re looking for an example of what Lopez can provide off crosses, be sure to check out the video below of his assist against Curacao.
— Univision Deportes (@UnivisionSports) July 17, 2017
3. El Tri still needs a true striker to take charge
What would have helped Mexico on Sunday is if Martin Barragan had more of an influence. Generally lost up top as the lead striker, the 26-year-old failed to finish a handful of chances near Curacao’s net.
Unfortunately for Mexico, Barragan wasn’t the only out-and-out striker that also couldn’t score during the group stage.
Against Jamaica, Erick “Cubo” Torres was just as disappointing for El Tri. Granted, one of his headers hit the post in the first half of that match, but Torres wasn’t able to do much else for the national team in the draw.
Now, Osorio has three options in the next game.
One, he could give another opportunity to Torres or Barragan. Two, he could try placing Angel Sepulveda in that role, but the player is probably better as a winger. Three, he could experiment with a name like Erick Gutierrez as a false nine.
Whatever his decision, it will be fascinating to see how the manager attempts to resolve this issue.
Mexico’s best player — Jose de Jesus Corona
No surprises here, no player was better than Corona. An argument could be made for Lopez, but the winger still didn’t have the same kind of massive impression that the goalkeeper left over the weekend.
If El Tri is going to continue finding success amidst chaos, it will need someone like Corona to help compensate for any of the leftover mess.
— Amelia Lopez (@AztecaAmeliaaa) July 17, 2017