Honduras Overpowered Mexico, FMF Fires Chepo

After a promising 1st half for El Tri, Honduras stormed back inside Estadio Azteca
by Brendan Doherty   |   Monday, September 09, 2013

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

Much like its CONCACAF rival’s match, Mexico’s latest result was nothing short of a nightmare, and puts the team in trouble as it looks to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

Facing Honduras

José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre selected the following players for what would be his last match in charge of the national team:

José de Jesús Corona; Severo Meza, Diego Reyes, Héctor Moreno, Carlos Salcido; Gerardo Torrado, Fernando Arce, Christian Giménez; Giovani dos Santos, Ángel Reyna, Oribe Peralta

Mexico played the 1st half in a fluid 4-3-3 with a space in behind Oribe Peralta that Christian “Chaco” Gimenez, Angel Reyna and Giovani dos Santos moved into and operated through.

Andres Guardado did not start on Friday night, either on the wing or at fullback. Javier Aquino didn't start, but Angel Reyna's absurd form in Liga MX and his experience beat the young Villarreal winger into the starting XI. Peralta got the nod instead of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, who is still recovering to full fitness.

Mexico flowing

Mexico looked fresh and confident from the starting whistle. The team moved the ball around the field with the same quickness they showed in the friendly match against the Ivory Coast. This entertaining start paid early dividends for El Tri, who took the lead on a 6th minute goal from Santos Laguna forward Peralta.

Giovani dos Santos flicked the ball over a sliding Victor Bernardez in the center circle and was then off to the races. The tricky attacker sprinted down the left side before angling inside and playing a ball square towards Peralta. The striker was unmarked in the area and poked the ball past Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares before bundling into him.

The early goal put Mexico in the driver's seat in the match. It meant that Honduras would have to come out of their shell to attack and Mexico still has the players to be a serious threat on the counter attack. Mexico's lead also meant that the players didn't have to panic or pile stress onto themselves in the final third so they could spread out play and find seams in the defense.

In the 23rd minute, Reyna ran in behind the defense and when Valladares attempted to clear the ball, it was blocked by Veracruz attacking midfielder. Reyna managed to keep the ball in play and cross into the box, but the resulting shot was blocked by a recovering Honduran defender. This event showed that Mexico was looking for another goal to seal off the match, but was lacking the necessary clinical touch around the area.

Though Mexico failed to find a 2nd goal, they were enjoying a very comfortable 1-0 lead going into halftime. All they needed to do was come out in the 2nd half with even half of the intensity they showed in the opening minutes of the game and they would be one step closer to qualification. Instead of pressing the issue going forward, Chepo's men seemed to sit back and rest on the laurels of their narrow advantage.

Honduras flips the script

Honduras manager Luis Fernando Suarez must have given quite a great halftime speech to his players. Los Catrachos came out onto the field in the 2nd half fired up and ready to take on not only the Mexican team but all 100,000 fans in the Estadio Azteca. Suarez made a game-changing switch during the interval as well, bringing on forward Jerry Bengston for winger Andy Najar.

Bengston has not had what most would consider a successful spell with the New England Revolution recently, but this tactical move would prove crucial for Honduras. Suarez noticed that Mexico was only sitting 1 midfielder in front of the defense and that Torrado struggles for pace. Chepo instructed Fernando Arce to stick mostly to the right side of the field and to support the attack while Christian “Chaco” Gimenez played similarly on the left side. Suarez saw that Najar was getting no luck against Mexico's right back Severo Meza and decided to attack down the middle with 2 center forwards.

Honduras attacked well in the 2nd half but were somewhat gifted a goal by 2 horrible defensive mistakes by Mexico. Two-time World Cup veteran Carlos Salcido failed to clear the area with his header and when a shot came through to Jesus Corona the Cruz Azul goalkeeper let the ball slip out of his hands. Ever the poacher, Bengston pounced on the loose ball and equalized past Corona from close range.

Just before that goal in the 64th  minute, Chepo went to his bench to bring on Andres Guardado for Chaco Gimenez. Guardado took up his position on the left flank while Reyna tucked in centrally and would interchange with dos Santos on the right. This created somewhat of a tactical confusion with several players appearing unsure of their specific role on the field. Five minutes after Bengston's goal Chepo replaced Reyna with Javier Aquino, who positioned himself as a right winger.

Honduras's 2nd goal came in similarly frustrating circumstances for fans of El Tri. Honduran leftback Emilio Izaguirre played a long ball down the left side of the field for Carlo Costly. Costly not only beat young Diego Reyes to the ball but also shrugs off a timid physical challenge by the FC Porto reserves defender. Jesus Corona was helpless to stop Costly's powerful left footed blast to the side netting at the far post.

Mexico tries to battle back

After going behind, Chepo brought on Chicharito for defensive midfielder Gerardo Torrado. At this point the team was playing with 5 attacking players and exhibited very little cohesion in an all-out attack. Diego Reyes found the ball at his foot inside the area, but he didn't have the composure to pick out Guardado's diagonal run towards goal.

In the most panicked play from the Mexican Men’s National Team, only rarely did any of the players appear to be on the same page. Gio exchanged well with Aquino and Meza down the right flank but they never tried to switch the point of play and their attacks fizzled out. The absence of Chaco Gimenez was noticeable late in the match for Mexico. Chaco excels at making clean passes quickly in tight spaces and without him too many Mexican players tried to win the game on their own.

Aquino made the case as the most effective substitute when he hit a header off the crossbar a couple minutes later. Giovani did well to send in a dangerous cross from the left side, but Aquino did even better to rise up and snap his header goalward. Chicharito had a wicked shot from distance saved in the 88th minute by Valladares for a corner kick. While players were jockeying for position on the ensuring corner, Chicharito expressed his immense frustration by engaging in a shoving match with Honduras midfielder Wilson Palacios.

Despite the harried frenzy in the final minutes from Mexico, Honduras ran out 2-1 victors in front of over 100,000 fans in Estadio Azteca. Before Friday night's match, Honduras had not scored an away goal in the Hex. More notable than that record, was the mark that Mexico had only lost once in World Cup Qualifying at home in the Estadio Azteca back in 2001 against Costa Rica.

How El Tri will move forward

The match was so poor that the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) finally decided to pull the plug on Chepo de la Torre's tenure with the national team. Luckily for fans, the FMF sent Chepo out to respond to a postgame press conference just hours before they relieved him from his post around 3:45 a.m. EST Saturday morning.

Assistant coach Luis Fernando Tena will take over coaching the senior national team for the immediate future. Tena had great successful coaching mostly U-23 teams at the Copa America, Pan-American Games, Toulon Tournament and 2012 Olympics.

Mexico will now look to playing the United States in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday night. Perhaps the team will be fired up after losing at home and playing under new management. Or maybe the players have lost their edge and Tena will not be enough of a tactical departure from the stubborn Chepo. Despite the handful of injuries and suspensions the U.S. will be carrying into Tuesday's match (Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and possibly Michael Bradley) Mexico will be vulnerable without Gerardo Torrado's physical presence in defensive midfield.

Friday night was the final straw in Chepo's time coaching El Tricolor and Tuesday night will be a baptism of fire for Tena.

NEXT UP: September 10 – World Cup Qualifying: United States vs. Mexico, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio. 8 p.m. EST, ESPN, UniMas.

Brendan DOHERTY

Nationality:
USA
College:
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.
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