El Tri: Key moments in 3-0 victory over Guatemala

Mexico players celebrates after Orbelín Pineda (No. 10) put El Tri up 3-0. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Mexico players celebrates after Orbelín Pineda (No. 10) put El Tri up 3-0. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El Tri beats Guate
Orbelín Pineda heads home a cross from Luis Rodríguez after getting inside his marker, José Morales (No. 22). The goal made the score 3-0 in minute 78. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

Mexico stilled the panic that was rising among fans and critics with a workmanlike win over Gold Cup group rival Guatemala. Rogelio Funes Mori put on quite a show, scoring a brace and operating smoothly at the point of the El Tri attack.

The 3-0 result in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas means the El Salvador-Mexico match will determine the winner of Group A. El Salvador posted a 2-0 triumph over Trinidad & Tobago, and leads the group with 6 points (to Mexico’s 4).

Before we look ahead to Sunday’s clash – also at the Cotton Bowl – here’s a closer look at some of the key plays that helped El Tri coast to victory.

Coach Gerardo Martino made two changes to his starting line-up (Orbelín Pineda for the injured “Chucky” Lozano, and Jesús Gallardo in at left fullback in place of Osvaldo Rodríguez), both of which paid off to a certain degree.

Funes Mori takes on El Tri scoring duties

For the first half hour, El Tri appeared indecisive and sloppy with technique (errant passes, poor first touches, shoddy execution) and the inability to execute crosses cleanly. It rather seemed as if Mexico were running in quicksand.

El Tri lacked spark and urgency (I wonder how much the team misses captain Andrés Guardado, scratched from the roster after picking up an injury just days before the Gold Cup started).

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1. Funes Mori first provided a hint that he was on song in minute 25 when he drifted away from his marker into the left side of the box where Edson Alvarez found him with a nice, lofted pass. The lanky striker chested the ball straight down to his right foot and – with a double-team closing in – touched it right to Erick Gutiérrez who was unmarked inside the penalty spot. “Guti” scuffed his shot and Guatemala goalie Nicholas Hagen made a sprawling save.

It should have been 1-0, but the PSV man appeared unready for such a quick (and perfect) pass from Funes Mori.

2. Just over 3 minutes later, Héctor Herrera sent a long pass from the center circle to Funes Mori at the left side of the box as he beat the offside trap. Funes Mori again chested the ball down, recovered from a slight slip, touched the ball around a scrambling defender and curled a beauty around Hagen and off the inside of the far post to put El Tri up 1-0 in minute 29. Golazo!

Ten minutes later, Funes Mori missed a golden chance to put his team up 2-0, firing wide from inside the box after being sent through by a one-touch pass from “Guti.” If he’d have scored, it would likely have been annulled for offside, but the striker had given notice that he was on form this night.

3. In the first half, Jesús “Tecatito” Corona demonstrated that he was making business decisions against the chippy Guatemala defense. After a couple ankle-scrapes in the opening minutes, it was obvious that “Tecatito” was not going to take any chances. First, in minute 39, Funes Mori sent the Porto star in behind the defense to right of goal, but “Tecatito” hesitated as a defender closed down and no shot was taken as the ball was cleared with a hard slide. Four minutes later, “Tecatito” was leading a fast break but he paused for a look at the defense and as opponents neared he forced a cross that was easily blocked by the closest defender. It’s unfortunate (and understandable), but “Tecatito” becomes a liability when he overthinks with the ball at his feet. When worried about aggressive tactics, as better strategy would be one-touch passing and quick movements, i.e., the give-and-go. But the ineptitude of Concacaf referees is a real concern.

4. Though he won’t make El Tri fans forget “Chucky” Lozano, Orbelín Pineda played hero in the second half, getting a goal and an assist. After flubbing a clear scoring chance in minute 47 (following a brilliant exchange between Funes Mori and “Tecatito”), the Cruz Azul playmaker made a dummy run into the box over an entry pass by “Chaka” Rodríguez. “Guti” chipped the ball ahead of Pineda who cut it back to Funes Mori and the star striker rippled the back of the net. An ode “el jogo bonito” that put El Tri on top 2-0 in minute 55.

Pineda was making a difference with constant movement and nifty first-time passing. His effort was rewarded in minute 78 when he raced in at the back post to nod home a cross from “Chaka” to close out the scoring.

Final observations

El Tri defender Carlos Salcedo drew the ire of goalie Alfredo Talavera on more than one occasion with risky plays, poor marking and impetuous tackles. One wonders if “Tata” will consider replacing the excitable Tigres defender against El Salvador.

Next. Key absences will dilute early Liga MX games. dark

It might be time for “Tata” to give a young midfielder (Erick Sánchez?) a run alongside Héctor Herrera. Erick Gutiérrez is just not cutting it. “Guti” has sublime skills, but he lacks assertiveness and has been prone to turnovers through the first two games of the Gold Cup.