Mexico closes out 2021 with desultory draw

Mexico midfielder Sebastián Córdova (right) was kept in check by Chile's aggressive defense. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images)
Mexico midfielder Sebastián Córdova (right) was kept in check by Chile's aggressive defense. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images) /
Mexico Chile
Santiago Giménez scored Mexico’s opener and had two other chances – including this one – against Chile while putting in a fine performance. (Photo by Chuck Burton/Getty Images) /

A makeshift Mexico side put in a ragged display in a friendly against Chile, settling for a 2-2 draw in the final match of a disappointing year for El Tri.

In Austin, Texas, manager Gerardo Martino used the opportunity to look at some youngsters, handing out seven debuts, a few of which turned in promising performances.

Cruz Azul forward Santiago Giménez scored his first goal for Mexico in his second cap to put El Tri up 1-0 while América defender Jordan Silva sent El Tri back in front in the second half with his inaugural national team goal.

Despite enjoying 55% possession, Mexico was overwhelmed at times by aggressive pressing and indifferent officiating (Chile committed 28 fouls yet only saw two yellow cards). “La Roja” was more direct in attack and Joaquín Montecinos was a constant threat on the right flank.

Mexico fans get glimpse of future

Santos Laguna goalie Carlos Acevedo made the most of his first invitation to the senior national team, playing the entire 90 minutes and demonstrating why Mexico fans have been eager for a look at him with El Tri.

The hirsute keeper made a lunging save on his first chance just 2 minutes into the match. Acevedo made 3 other saves, including one that preceded Chile’s first goal. Montecinos got free on the right (a common refrain) and sent in a cross that Ivan Morales headed from point-blank range. Acevedo knocked it down, but not clear and Morales was able to poke the rebound past the prone goalie.

Along the back line, Mexico’s starters had a cumulative six caps: Silva was playing his third game while Julián Araujo (LA Galaxy), Luis Olivas (Chivas) and Salvador Reyes (América) were handed debuts.

Araujo had a strong game, tiring a bit at the end, but his speed, positioning and passing were solid. Silva’s passing was occasionally careless and his marking was sometimes weak. Olivas looked promising, but his passing skills were tested by Martino’s (questionable) tactical requirements. Reyes was outmatched by Montecinos, repeatedly exposed by the elusive winger.

The game was an unfortunate revelation for Reyes who fans had been clamoring for as a solution to Mexico’s left back issues. The 23-year-old did not acquit himself well, perhaps a bit rusty since he is often used in a more advanced role with América. It would have been nice to see 19-year-old Omar Campos (Santos Laguna) get a chance.

‘Veterans’ fail to impress

Olympic bronze-medalists Sebastián Córdova (América) and Uriel Antuna (Chivas) were expected to be the steadying forces against Chile, but neither were in form. Each had an assist but both were rather easily bottled up by the South Americans.

Córdova was a turnover machine and entirely too passive (part of the reason he has fallen out of favor with América and coach Santiago Solari), while Antuna flashed his quickness on a few occasions contributed little.

Midfielder Erick Aguirre (Monterrey) was the captain for the match but after the pre-game coin flip he virtually disappeared. A disappointing showing from the versatile Pachuca academy product.

Much anticipated debut for Flores

The first Mexico cap for teen sensation Marcelo Flores was anti-climactic as coach Martino only gave the Arsenal man a 7-minute tryout. That is a difficult ask for an eager youngster, coming into a game that is winding down and after 10 subs have entered (which inevitably takes some of the flow and rhythm out of a match).

Flores tried to do a bit too much in hopes of impressing the coach, but really did not get much of a chance. He got off one shot (a scuffer from 18 meters) and was fouled three times.

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Mexico did end a three-game losing streak, but all in all it was a forgettable year. Martino remains on a very hot seat after a 13-5-6 record. Four of the six losses came in official matches, including two Finals.