Mexico eased past world No. 141 Suriname 3-0 in its Concacaf Nations League opener, getting goals from defender Israel Reyes (3’), Henry Martín (40’) and Erick Sánchez (90+4).
El Tri next plays Jamaica on Tuesday with a chance to vault over the Reggae Boyz into first place in Group A.
Jamaica – No. 64 in the FIFA World Rankings – has 4 points thanks to a 3-1 win over Suriname at home and a 1-1 draw on the road. El Tri follows with 3 points and Suriname is in last place with 1 point.
The easy win at Santos Laguna’s Estadio Corona in Torreón, Coahuila, helps erase the bad taste left in El Tri fans’ mouth after the 3-0 rout suffered at the hands of Uruguay on June 2, a woeful performance that was followed by a scoreless draw against Ecuador on June 5.
Offensive struggles continue for El Tri
Coach Gerardo Martino is using these two Nations League games to take a closer look at players on the fringe of Mexico’s World Cup roster. The consensus is that “Tata” still has 6-8 openings on the 23-man team he’ll take to Qatar later this year.
El Tri opened the match featuring six Olympic bronze-medal winners though only two – midfielder Luis Romo and left back Erick Aguirre – are certain of being in Qatar.
As for the other four Tokyo medalists, forward Henry Martín has struggled to find the net for club and country (his goal Saturday night came from the penalty spot), Sebastián Córdova and Diego Lainez have not seen much action with their club teams (a requirement to make the World Cup roster, according to coach Martino), and defender Jesús Angulo has been less than stellar in his recent national team appearances.
Goalie Carlos Acevedo – playing in front of his home crowd – has a chance at being Mexico’s No. 3 goalie in Qatar and he came up with two nice saves.
Once again, Mexico was not terribly dangerous in attack. Despite letting fly with 22 shots, only 9 were on target and many of those were scuffers right at the goalie.
Passing and decision-making in the offensive third is simply not up to snuff. In the first half, Lainez found space on the right side but most often preferred to look for his own shot first, twice turning down chances to look for a teammate in front of goal.
Playmakers Rodolfo Pizarro and Orbelín Pineda (Pineda subbed in for Pizarrro in minute 62) did not offer much substance and they might be competing for the same spot on the Qatar roster. Pizarro’s passing touch betrayed him on more than one occasion, while Pineda wasted a chance for a first-time shot just inside the box in minute 80, instead making a move that did not provide space and El Tri did not even get a shot off on that possession.
Teen sensation Marcelo Flores got 10 minutes of running time, and the Arsenal starlet sparkled with his first touch in minute 83, sending Pineda into the box with a nifty diagonal lead pass. Pineda was scythed down by the goalie to earn a penalty. Flores took the spot kick, but was foiled by Surinam keeper Warner Hahn.
El Tri will have to be more clinical against Jamaica in Kingston on Tuesday night, especially those players hoping to earn spots on the World Cup roster.
Notes: The only other time Mexico faced Suriname was in a World Cup qualifier 1977 and El Tri crushed the tiny South American nation 8-1 with two goals coming from Hugo Sánchez. … Mexico and Jamaica have faced each other 25 times with El Tri coming out on top in 19 of those, tying three and losing three. … El Tri defeated Jamaica by identical 2-1 scores in their most recent meetings, both of which came in Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. … Saturday night’s game was El Tri’s last game in Mexico before the World Cup. The Mexican Soccer Federation is lining up several friendlies before the team departs for Qatar but all of them will take place in the United States.