Mexico earns draw in yet another lackluster performance

Mexico skipper Memo Ochoa (in red) did not have a good night against Uzbekistan. The El Tri goalie allowed three goals against the world's No. 74 ranked team. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Mexico skipper Memo Ochoa (in red) did not have a good night against Uzbekistan. The El Tri goalie allowed three goals against the world's No. 74 ranked team. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /
Mexico Uzbekistan
Raúl Jimenez (left) and Jesús Gallardo argue with the referee that a penalty should have been called. Mexico and Uzbekistan played to a 3-3 draw. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /

El Tri’s September FIFA break will not be looked upon kindly and Mexico coach Jimmy Lozano should expect a fair share of criticism with much of it hearkening back to vocal objections to his roster selection. (We’ve addressed some of that here.)

Mexico settled for a lackluster 3-3 draw against world No. 74 Uzbekistan on Tuesday in Atlanta and, just like against Australia (a 2-2 tie), El Tri waited until late to demonstrate passion and urgency.

Raúl Jiménez scored his second in minute 81 to knot things up at 2-2 and when Uriel Antuna scored a fluke goal in minute 88 it looked like Mexico might escape with a win.

Unfortunately captain Guillermo Ochoa got caught napping on a free kick in stoppage time and was beaten at his near post from a sharp angle. It was just the third shot on goal for the Uzbekis, but all three ended up behind Memo.

Besides Raúl, not much to write home about for Mexico

The less said (and written) about this mess of a game, the better.

One good thing might have been that because of the perceived unattractiveness of the opponent, not many tickets were sold. As a result, the boos that raced down on Mexico players as they left the field at halftime trailing 2-1 was not as clamorous as it might have been.

To be honest, the performance of Raúl Jiménez was pretty much the only bright spot on the night.

The Fulham man tied the game at 1 in minute 21 when he raced onto a Roberto Alvarado mishit inside the box, controlled the ball and slotted home from close range. That was his first goal for Mexico in open play since Nov. 17, 2020.

Jiménez scored his second of the night with a nifty flick over the onrushing Uzbek goalie while on the dead run. That was his third goal of the FIFA break and moved him to sixth on the all-time Mexico list with 33, just one behind Carlos Hermosillo and two back of fourth place Luis Hernández.

Game notes and other observations

Once again, Mexico dominated possession (62%; against Australia El Tri had the ball 71% of the game) but failed to create many scoring chances. In all, Jaime Lozano’s men fired 19 shots but only 5 were on target.

Too often, the offense was static and uninspired. Some might describe the approach as patient, but there was too much ball-watching and standing in line with the defense, backs to the goal.

There was very little verticality to speak of and spacing was not ideal. Even the occasional break-out seemed to occur in slow motion.

In the first half, there was too much soloing in and around the box which discouraged coordinated movements.

The defensive performance was equally discouraging. Just before the half, the back line was completely pulled apart and Uzbekistan went into the locker room up 2-1.

Left center back Johan Vásquez was the only defender earning decent marks. Left back Jesús Angulo was vulnerable (and when Jesús Gallardo replaced him to start the second half, he made three awful passes on his first three touches). Right center back Gilberto Sepúlveda did not impress either.

Jordi Cortizo again provided a spark off the bench, even drawing a foul inside the box that was ignored by referee Victor Rivas who might have looked the other way because he had given Mexico a free kick moments earlier when none should have been called (prompting angry remonstrations from several Uzbekistan players).

Coach Lozano sent in Santiago Giménez in minute 77, pairing him up front with Jiménez in a two-headed attack that he is not fond of (preferring a single striker with wingers and attacking midfielders). It was Santi’s move in the box – eluding two defenders and getting off a shot – that led to Antuna’s goal.

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Lozano will likely face criticism for not giving either of his back-up goalies any minutes. Ochoa is still seen as the No. 1, but he is not getting any younger (he’s 38) and Mexico has not identified a No. 2 yet. Giving other goalies experience would seem like a wise move, and naysayers will be quick to point out that Ochoa faced 5 shots across these two games and did not stop a single one.