El Tri turns in another indifferent performance

Honduras goalie Luis López looks back helplessly after Edson Álvarez's header put El Tri up 1-0 in minute 70. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images)
Honduras goalie Luis López looks back helplessly after Edson Álvarez's header put El Tri up 1-0 in minute 70. (Photo by ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP via Getty Images) /
El Tri beats Honduras
In Honduras, El Tri fielded the same line-up that failed to score against Team USA on Thursday. Mexico is one game away from qualifying for the Qatar World Cup after claiming a 1-0 victory on Sunday in San Pedro Sula. (Photo by Jorge Cabrera/Getty Images) /

Canada has an invitation to Qatar 2022 and the U.S. is looking at flight schedules, but El Tri is an El Salvador upset away from taking a detour across the Pacific before booking a reservation to the World Cup.

Concacaf World Cup qualifying is down to its final matchday and Mexico – the highest-ranked team in the region at No. 12 – finds itself trying to hold off a last-gasp charge by Costa Rica and avoid an inter-confederation playoff series against the Oceania champion.

This after yet another lackluster performance by Mexico, a 1-0 winner against last place Honduras. An Edson Álvarez header off a corner kick in minute 70 kept El Tri in the driver’s seat for third place and the final automatic Concacaf berth to the World Cup.

The result, drab as it was, means Mexico can punch its ticket to Qatar with a draw against El Salvador in the Estadio Azteca on Wednesday. A loss and a Costa Rica win against Team USA that same night could force El Tri to chase a World Cup berth via a one-game playoff match.

Sloppy El Tri survives San Pedro Sula

Mexico slogged through 90 uninspiring minutes to collect a badly needed 3 points, momentarily saving Gerardo Martino’s job in the process.

El Tri has 25 points, 3 more than fourth-place Costa Rica. Canada sits on top of the Concacaf table with 28 points and Team USA is in second with 25 points, its +13 goal differential placing the Americans above Mexico (+7 goal differential).

Though its 17th World Cup appearance seems probable, Mexico is not playing like a serious contender, surviving a qualifying campaign that it should be dominating if its world ranking is to be believed.

Despite hogging the ball all night (69% possession), El Tri managed just a measly three shots on net. Much like Thursday’s match against Team USA, Mexico’s playmakers turned in a poor performance.

The attack trident of “Chucky” Lozano, Raúl Jiménez and “Tecatito” Corona were indecisive and error-prone while the midfield lacked creativity. Team passing was accurate but hardly incisive. Too often, opportunities in the offensive third were squandered by over-dribbling or aimless centering passes.

And El Tri almost fell behind. With the game scoreless early in the second half, Honduras got its lone shot on net when Kevin López got behind Jorge Sánchez. Fortunately, Guillermo Ochoa got his hands up in time to block the shot.

The game-winner came off Mexico’s seventh corner kick when Héctor Herrera sent in a low cross toward a crowd at the near post. Jiménez cut across the front side but couldn’t get a touch while Álvarez fought off three markers and got his head on the ball, skipping it past Luis López before the keeper could react.

Next. El Tri-USA play to stalemate. dark

It will be interesting to see how coach Martino approaches Wednesday’s all-important finale at Estadio Azteca. The embattled manager has stubbornly stuck with veterans who have failed to live up to their billing. Will “Tata” juggle his line-up in search of a spark, or will he stick with his underperforming favorites?