Domestic-Based El Tri Fails to Beat Peru

With only Liga MX players, Mexico fail offensively in 0-0 draw with Peru
by Brendan Doherty   |   Thursday, April 18, 2013

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

During this match I had a discussion on Twitter about why Mexico plays this type of friendly matches.

First and foremost, the revenue generated when Mexico plays on US soil is enormous. If you don't believe the passion that Mexican nationals living abroad have for El Tri, ask some of the 46,222 fans who showed up to Candlestick Park in San Francisco to see Mexico play Peru.

Aside from monetary reasons, these matches are a chance for some players to solidify their place in the senior team and for others to make the case for inclusion in the next camp. For US fans, think of the extended January national team camps with players from MLS and Scandinavian leagues (affectionately called Camp Cupcake).

This Mexico roster didn't have European-based players or players from Santos Laguna and Monterrey, who are meeting in the CONCACAF Champions League Final first leg on April 24, or Toluca, who played a Copa Libertadores match Wednesday night. Many of the players selected should have been hungry to impress manager José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre, but only a few showed that hunger on the field.

Lack of intensity and killer instinct

This was Pablo Barrera's first match with the national team in nearly a year. After recovering from an ACL injury suffered in September, Barrera has worked himself into the starting squad for club side Cruz Azul. The right winger was active early in the match, but much of the first half was a comedy of midfield errors. Both teams gave away possession far too easily and Mexico failed to connect forward passes.

Gerardo Torrado showed more of what observers have known about him for more than a few years; he can play a near-perfect ball, but tackles far too recklessly. Around 35 minutes into the match Torrado played a beautiful ball over the top for Raúl Jiménez to run onto. Minutes before that pass, though, he came in late and hard through the back of a Peru midfielder. The long time Cruz Azul central midfielder can still support the attack, even at 33 years old, but he might be a liability in high pressure games if he gets a yellow card early.

More of the same in the second half

Chepo made 3 halftime substitutions: Torrado and Carlos Peña made way for a new central midfielder partnership of Héctor Herrera and Jesús Molina, and Mexico's current No. 2 goalkeeper Jesús Corona came off at the break for Alfredo Talavera.

Mexico showed little invention going forward in the beginning of the second half and Peru was content to absorb light pressure all night. The match was fairly open and featured lots of back and forth play. In the second half, players from both teams started to get more physical as referee Ricardo Salazar was allowing a lot of contact on challenges.

By the hour mark, very little had been working for Mexico and Chepo went to the bench. Chepo replaced Rafa Márquez Lugo, an underappreciated striker who has excelled in Liga MX, for Omar Bravo. Unfortunately, Bravo does little in the run of play to improve Mexico's attack. Mexican players often looked unfamiliar with each other and lacked a sense of understanding. If Barcelona's knowledge of where teammates are located is a 10, Mexico clocked in at around a 2.

In the 69th minute, Bravo went down under minimal contact from Peruvian defenders in the area. Karma did not betray Peru, however, as Ángel Reyna stepped up to take an awful penalty. The former America attacking midfielder is currently at Pachuca on loan from Monterrey, and he put too much effort into the pomp and circumstance of his pre-kick ritual and not enough into the technique of his weak shot. It seemed that the Peru keeper had saved the shot before the ball even left Reyna's foot.

Perhaps Barrera didn't have the legs to go a full 90, as Chepo took off his team's best player in the 73rd minute. Leon's Luis Montes came on as right midfielder, but he was largely absent from proceedings. Entering as a late game substitution can often fail to make an impression on the match, and Montes proved that true. He did have one notable shot in the 83rd minute, but dispatched the ball well wide despite having a much better option to pass to Bravo.

Late on, Hugo Ayala got his right cleat caught between the two feet of a Peruvian midfielder he challenged. Television replays clearly showed Ayala's ankle twisting and he was helped directly into the locker room after coming off the field. The injury came just after Chepo used his 6th substitution to swap Reyna for Javier Cortés, so Mexico had to play the final minutes with only 10 men.

Jiménez certainly didn't hurt his case for future inclusion in the national team. The Club America forward got behind Peru's defense in the 89th minute, but pulled his shot wide across the face of goal. Shooting angles weren't kind to Jiménez, though he was very active on the night, especially running down balls played into the channel from his central position.

Judging the performances

Overall, it was a disappointing match, but the 46,222 fans at the stadium didn't seem to mind. Candlestick Park was as loud as any stadium I've heard and Mexico fans were cheering from kickoff to the final whistle.

Jiménez performed well but was paired with players who don't allow him to excel and don't complement his strengths, like Márquez Lugo and Bravo. Pablo Barrera had several promising moments by making smart runs and playing decent crosses into the box. He had flashes of his form from the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but is still far from being fully sharp.

Mexico's defense didn't make any game-changing mistakes as it had in recent matches, but weren't really challenged by a young Peru squad.

The main question coming out of the match is how bad Ayala's injury was. If he is sidelined for a while, Maza and Reyes become the prime candidates to partner Héctor Moreno in central defense for the summer.

Gerardo Flores looked decent in his senior national team debut, but still needs to grow to be a regular. Keeping in mind that rightback is an open door for Mexico at the moment, but he still needs to show something more to beat out Severo Meza and Paul Aguilar on a regular basis.

Jorge Torres Nilo looked strong in this match, but the quality of opposition and level of competition meant the pressure on Mexico's leftback was low. Torres Nilo still makes costly mistakes in important games, but Chepo hasn't found a viable alternative at his position.

The draw against Peru marked the first time in history that Mexico has tied 5 consecutive games. On one hand, Chepo has led Mexico on an undefeated streak in 2013. On the other hand, the team has 0 wins and only 3 goals in the calendar year.

As fixture congestion and competition heat up this summer, Chepo needs to figure how to get his squad to score. Not only does the first team look weak in World Cup Qualifying, but few fringe players are putting enough pressure on them to take their place.

NEXT UP: May 31 – Mexico vs. Nigeria, Reliant Stadium, Houston. 9 p.m. EST, TBD.

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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