El Tri: How coach Martino mismanaged his roster

Mexico defenders Luis "Chaka" Rodríguez and Nestor Araujo, after outlasting Team Canada in the Gold Cup semifinals (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Mexico defenders Luis "Chaka" Rodríguez and Nestor Araujo, after outlasting Team Canada in the Gold Cup semifinals (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El Tri fatigue
Mexico’s Edson Álvarez and Alfredo Talavera were left prone after Team USA scored in minute 118 to win the Concacaf Gold Cup. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) /

After El Tri Olímpico collected its bronze medals and returned home, Mexico coach the embattled “Tata” Martino absolutely must be re-thinking his roster choices ahead of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.

“Tata” did declare that the Olympics was a priority this summer, but that does not (and will never) excuse El Tri from turning in such a disastrous performance at the Gold Cup.

After the embarrassing 1-0 loss to Team USA in the Gold Cup final, coach Martino insisted he was not disappointed with the team. Disappointed with the result, yes, but not the performance of the players or his tactics.

Well, I’m here to tell you Mexico fans are terribly disappointed, and not just with the players. “Tata” and his coaching staff should go back to the drawing board, while also rethinking the roster, the tactics and, most of all, his own managerial strategies.

The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight

There’s no doubt that the absence of key players due to injury and Olympics duty played a role in the sub-par Gold Cup performances, but the statistics upon which “Tata” might base his argument are deceiving.

Yes, El Tri led the tournament in chances created and the team’s 114 shots on goal were tops as well. That’s an average of 19 shots per game. But the number of quality shots was quite low – only 39 of those 114 shots were on target – and the team misfired with monotonous regularity. Exhibit A: Orbelín Pineda missed two point-blank opportunities early in the second half of the final.

Now, this is not an attempt to single out Pineda. Héctor Herrera scuffed his share of shots, I can’t remember a single quality shot on goal by Jesús Corona, Rogelio Funes Mori was a master of profligacy, and Carlos Salcedo missed a penalty kick.

These mishaps point more toward a failure of execution and, indeed, a lack of concentration (arrogance, perhaps?). And poor execution was a hallmark of El Tri throughout the Gold Cup.

In my opinion, we should consider fatigue as an explanation for the frequent breakdowns in execution.

Fatigue was Achilles’ heel of El Tri

In the Gold Cup final, Mexico enjoyed a considerable advantage over Team USA as far as national team experience. But youthful energy and fresh legs can sometimes take advantage of tired veterans.

Here’s where “Tata” should come in for his share of criticism. El Tri played six games in 22 days yet Mexico’s coach did little to protect his starters from being overtaxed.

More from Playing for 90

Right back Luis “Chaka” Rodríguez played every single minute (six full games plus the overtime in the final), while left back Jesús Gallardo came on as a sub late in the first game then did not miss another second. Midfielders Héctor Herrera and Edson Álvarez were each granted only 9 minutes of total rest. Up front, Funes Mori and Corona each played two complete games and at least 76 minutes in the other four games. Pineda subbed on to open the second half of the opener then played the bulk of the remaining minutes.

This was an indefensible strategic mistake. “Tata” barely utilized his bench and the team’s tired legs were evident in the semifinal against Canada, while the fatigue was apparent in the final against Team USA just three days later.

The Gold Cup was an opportunity to give young players some valuable playing time, especially in the group stage. “Tata” not only ran his starters ragged, he conveyed a lack of confidence to the youngsters. Had Mexico’s coach better utilized his roster, El Tri would have been fresher in the late stages of the tournament and in the late stages of each game.

Liga MX coaching fraternity. dark. Next

In the next installment of our ongoing analysis of El Tri, we’ll look at some specific numbers regarding playing time and tactical execution.