El Tri buoyed by return of its scoring triumvirate

Mexico coach Gerardo Martino is delighted to have his preferred attacking trident back in camp. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images)
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino is delighted to have his preferred attacking trident back in camp. (Photo by Mauricio Salas/Jam Media/Getty Images) /
El Tri triumvirate
“Chucky” Lozano (left) and Raúl Jiménez (right) embrace Carlos Salcedo after Salcedo scored for El Tri against South Korea on Nov. 14, 2020. (Photo by Christian Hofer/Getty Images) /

The date was Nov. 14, 2020. El Tri defeated South Korea 3-2 in a friendly match notable for the quickest three goals in Team Mexico history. Also notable, that was the last time coach Gerardo Martino’s preferred attacking trident started a game together.

This week, Raúl Jiménez, “Chucky” Lozano and “Tecatito” Corona were reunited in an El Tri training camp for the first time since last November, a circumstance created by a clash of heads in a Premier League match two weeks after that South Korea contest.

To the horror of El Tri fans, Jiménez nearly had his career ended when he suffered a skull fracture as the result of a scary collision with David Luiz during a Nov. 29, 2020, Wolves-Arsenal match. Raúl gradually recovered and fought his way back into shape under the watchful eyes of neurologists and physios, finally getting back onto the pitch with Wolves in August.

Now with seven games under his belt – and a goal and two assists in the last two – Raúl will reclaim his starting spot at the point of the El Tri attack.

El Tri looks to rediscover its scoring touch

Mexico has had difficulty finding goals since Raúl went down last November, recording only 25 in 17 matches this season (scoring 1 or fewer goals nine times).

In part, that is the result of an equally horrific head injury for Lozano who took a knee to the face in a Gold Cup match on July 10. “Chucky” missed the last eight Mexico games, including the three World Cup qualifiers in September. Without Raúl and “Chucky,” El Tri managed a meager 4 goals in those three matches, but that was enough to earn two wins and a draw.

To get an idea of what Mexico has been missing, here are the raw numbers:

Raúl Jimenez, 86 caps, 27 goals, 14 assists

Hirving Lozano, 48 caps, 14 goals, 9 assists

Jesús Corona, 58 caps, 10 goals, 8 assists

Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect the Raúl/“Chucky”/“Tecatito” line to fire on all cylinders after so much time apart, but you can bet “Tata” will give the trio every chance to find a rhythm during the three October qualifiers.

The Road to Qatar resumes

Ranked No. 9 in the world, Mexico faces No. 51 Canada at Estadio Azteca tonight. The Maple Leafs are second in the Concacaf standings behind Mexico (El Tri has 7 points, Canada 5) and John Herdman’s side is expected to qualify for a World Cup for only the second time in its history (“The Canucks” participated in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico).

As is often the case, El Tri is favored to win at home but Canada need only look back to this summer to realize it can hang with Mexico. In a July 29 Gold Cup semifinal in Houston, “Les Rouges” gave El Tri fits on the counter, battling the favored Mexican the entire 90 minutes. Unfortunately for Canada, the ref tacked on 8 minutes of added time and Héctor Herrera found the net just before the final whistle to give El Tri the win.

Lest we forget, Canada’s best player – Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies – did not play in the Gold Cup this summer. Mexico will not be able to take “The Canucks” for granted.

Historically, El Tri holds a sizable advantage in head-to-head match-ups. Mexico boasts a 21-7-5 record in 33 games against Canada, with a +51 goal difference (72 goals scored, 21 goals allowed). The last time The Maple Leafs defeated Mexico was on Feb. 20, 2000, in a Gold Cup quarterfinal game. Canada won 2-1 in overtime.

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After the Canada match, El Tri hosts Honduras (ranked No. 63 in the world) before paying a visit to El Salvador (No. 65). By then, we should have a rather good idea about the renewal of Mexico’s three-pronged attack and the prospects for another El Tri World Cup appearance.