Has the Triumphant Tricolor Turned over a New Leaf?

Mexico's 4-1 victory over the Ivory Coast casts aside problems from an otherwise dismal 2013, at least for now
by Brendan Doherty   |   Monday, August 19, 2013

 MEX Matters - column on Liga MX, El Tri & Mexican futbol.

There are a number of quality storylines to take away from last Wednesday night's match between Mexico and the Ivory Coast in East Rutherford, N.J., but only one will have a direct impact on Mexico's qualification chances.

New attacking options

Christian “Chaco” Giménez, a naturalized Argentine, was handed his debut against the Ivory Coast and repaid manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre's faith with a great performance. Chaco was able to effectively interplay with the other attacking players on Mexico and may well have earned himself a selection in upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

Ángel Reyna, the talisman of the newly promoted Tiburones de Veracruz, has an absurd 7 goals in just 4 games so far this Liga MX season. After his acrimonious departure from Club América, Reyna was decent in a crowded Monterrey midfield and impressive on loan at Pachuca but he has been a revelation at Veracruz.

Reyna was able to carry over his red-hot form to Wednesday night's game in which he provided the penetrating run and service to set up Ivory Coast's own goal and got on the scoresheet himself late in the game.

What we already knew:

Certain players reinforced existing consensus opinions of themselves with their play in New Jersey. José de Jesús Corona made a few big saves and staked his claim for the No. 1 spot vis-à-vis Guillermo Ochoa of AC Ajaccio.

Giovani dos Santos showed the world that he can be consistently dangerous if he is given the liberty to be creative on the field. Villarreal fans should be exciting that they are getting an energized Gio for the upcoming La Liga campaign and not the out-of-shape or oft-hungover figure from the margins of Tottenham's Reserves.

Oribe Peralta scored a goal truly worthy of calling a cabezazo on Wednesday night and was active throughout the match in the attacking third. Peralta's performance should make him a shoe-in for World Cup Qualifiers, though as an alternative to Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and not as a strike partner. The pair of forwards are far too similar to play well up top together.

But on the negative side, Gerardo Torrado was again rather slow and clumsy playing a defensive midfield position. The veteran anchor-man didn't win over any new fans with his play against the Ivory Coast but Chepo doesn't continue to select the Cruz Azul midfielder for his flash or flair.

And then there were the pleasant surprises

While Héctor Moreno has been a regular starter in central defense for Mexico since 2010, multiple coaches have struggled to find a partner for the Espanyol defender. Rafael Márquez's stock fell dramatically after he left Barcelona and Francisco “Maza” Rodríguez is far too mistake-prone to be reliable in important tournaments.

Twenty-year-old Porto defender Diego Reyes put together one of his best performances to date on Wednesday night. Despite his beanpole frame, the Club América product routinely won aerial battles against the likes of Seydou Doumbia, Wilfried Bony or Didier Drogba and made several important physical tackles to break up attacks. Reyes also managed to surge upfield late in the game and provide the assist to Reyna's goal.

Fernando Arce's 14-year professional career has provided him with the experience to play a number of roles and to adapt to different situations. Against the Ivory Coast, Arce needed to act as the link between the defense (plus Torrado) and the four attacking players; he executed this perfectly. As the box-to-box engine of midfield, Arce allowed Torrado to play his ugly part and allowed Chaco to flourish in the attacking third of the field.

This match in the big picture

Nevermind that manager Sabri Lamouchi opted to leave the likes of Gervinho, Salomon Kalou and all-time leading goal scorer Didier Drogba on the bench in the 1st half. Don't focus on the fact that Mexico's opening 2 goals came from dreadfully poor defensive mistakes by the Ivory Coast. You shouldn't extrapolate that without those rather flukey goals or with Drogba on from the start the match would be have much tighter and harder for Mexico to control.

Instead look on the bright side.

Mexico won a game. Even though this is an exhibition match, the confidence a 4-1 win can provide is powerful. No matter how the goals came about, Mexico took an early lead. Unlike we've seen in almost every other game this calendar year, Mexico scored early and were able to knock the ball around without worrying about the scoreline. Instead of boring fans with 80 minutes of a scoreless draw before hitting the panic button, Mexico was able to exploit the Ivory Coast on the counter attack and therein El Tri is its most dangerous.

Perhaps more important even than the result, however, is Chepo's approach to the game. Rather than forcing the team into a rigid 4-4-2 cookie cutter mold, Chepo allowed the players to express their creativity in a fluid 4-3-3 which created a near constant attacking threat.

Of all of the topics emerging from Wednesday night's 4-1 international friendly victory over the Ivory Coast, more so than Diego Reyes settling into the national team or Chaco's debut or the resurgence of Oribe Peralta, the most important is tactical flexibility from Chepo de la Torre. This is most likely to bring success to Mexico during the September World Cup Qualifiers against Honduras at the Estadio Azteca and in Columbus against the United States.

NEXT UP: September 6 – World Cup Qualifying: Mexico vs. Honduras, Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Mex. 9:30p.m. EDT, Univision and ESPN2


Hamilton College
Club Domestic:
Rochester Rhinos, RBNY
Club Foreign:
Tottenham, Club América
Household Jeopardy champion from a small town in Upstate New York. Simultaneously brought to Tottenham Hotspur by a youth coach & given a copy of FIFA 2004. Enthusiastically pragmatic & a student of the game. Covering the Mexican National Team & Liga MX.