First impressions of ‘renovated’ El Tri are underwhelming

César Huerta looked great against Australia in his El Tri debut but was underwhelming against Uzbekistan. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
César Huerta looked great against Australia in his El Tri debut but was underwhelming against Uzbekistan. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El Tri September break
Héctor Herrera (left) played in his first game for El Tri since the 2022 World Cup. The inclusion of the 33-year-old midfielder was a surprise. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

El Tri has dispersed, with players returning to their clubs, no doubt disappointed with the outcome of their two games.

At the same time, Jaime Lozano and his coaching staff must return to the drawing board, because the performance El Tri fans witnessed was not promising.

Aztec Nation had high hopes for the Green-White-and-Red after Lozano was named permanent coach, but the bright outlook was dimmed considerably after two lackluster draws.

The apprehension began even before the first ball was kicked on Saturday against Australia as many pundits (and fans) made clear their trepidation when Lozano announced the El Tri roster, his first as Mexico manager.

El Tri falls short of expectations

As a co-host of the 2026 World Cup, El Tri does not have to go through the Concacaf qualifying process.

So the goal is have the team at peak strength in three years’ time, an approach that favors developing young, maturing talent while deciding which veterans will still be of service.

Considering the extended slump El Tri has been in, it would seem critical to cycle in fresh legs and begin indoctrinating a broad pool of players in the tactics and strategy favored by coach Lozano.

However, the 2024 Copa América and 2025 Gold Cup are benchmark tournaments so you want to be competitive and don’t want to overhaul the roster too completely (or do you?) lest the team be overwhelmed by the challenges.

In his first selection list since taking the full time job, coach Jimmy did not cast a wide net, instead summoning a surprising number of veterans. Yes, he was hampered by the fact that Mexico’s federation arranged a simultaneous under-23 training camp that featured several players that should be considered for the 2026 World Cup squad, but the lack of imagination was disconcerting.

A full 13 players from the underperforming 2022 World Cup roster were invited to the El Tri camp, including five that played on the 2018 World Cup team.

Unsurprisingly (and if it was surprising, then Mexico’s future is not as promising as hoped), the usual suspects underperformed against Australia and Uzbekistan.

Perhaps more than the lack of new faces (only two debutantes – winger César Huerta and midfielder Jordi Cortizo – saw the field and both showed promise) was the unimaginative tactical approach in both games.

El Tri dominated possession but rarely threatened in the final third. There was little creativity in midfield and the wingers and fullbacks were astonishingly inept in supplying decent crosses or centering passes. Unfortunately, this has become a trademark of Team Mexico, another argument for bringing in new faces.

The constant yo-yo-ing of passes across the back line led to static ball-watching (I could count the total number of dashing runs into the box on one hand) and on many occasions viewers were treated to three El Tri players standing motionless with their backs to goal and closely marked by a defender.

Finally, the breakdowns on defense were alarming. The lapses were not terribly frequent but they proved fatal.

Australia and Uzbekistan, combined, managed just five shots on goal, but all five ended up in the back of the net.

Whether a loss of concentration, poor technique or bad communication (on Uzbekistan’s second goal it seemed to be a combination of all three), there was too much scrambling in front of Memo Ochoa and the 38-year-old goalie was unable to play the hero as is his wont, prompting some to call for a new netminder.

dark. Next. One 'Super Clásico' on Saturday, another on Sunday

We’ll continue this analysis tomorrow by taking a closer look at individual performances and who might have played themselves off the team, or at least tumbled down the depth chart.