Team Mexico player evaluations from Aussie, Uzbek matches

Raúl Jiménez scored three times in Mexico's two friendlies, demonstrating that he still has something t contribute to El Tri. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images)
Raúl Jiménez scored three times in Mexico's two friendlies, demonstrating that he still has something t contribute to El Tri. (Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images) /
El Tri player evaluations
Johan Vásquez suffered somewhat playing alongside new partners during the September FIFA break, but has solidified his spot as starting left center back for El Tri. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

With the Liga MX season set to resume on Friday, we’ll take one final look back at El Tri and the September FIFA break. In this installment of As Team Mexico Turns, individual performances will be the topic.

Four players started both games – Guillermo Ochoa, Johan Vásquez, Edson Álvarez and Orbelín Pineda – suggesting they have an inside track to a secure roster spot.

Trouble spots were apparent – left fullback, creative midfielder right wing – and El Tri coach Jaime Lozano deserves some of the blame for his personnel decisions.

“Jimmy” played it safe, picking more holdovers than many would have liked, but to hear legendary coach Ricardo Ferretti tell it, he didn’t have much choice. “Tuca” repeated the all-too-familiar allegation that the Federation and sponsors (and agents, to hear some tell it) have considerable influence over player selection for friendlies.

El Tri player breakdown

Let’s start with the defense (and not because we used the word “breakdown” in the sub-head) which was shaky in both games.

As a group, the defense gets poor marks. El Tri owned possession in both games (71% vs Australia; 62% vs Uzbekistan) yet found itself scrambling too often. Witness the second Uzbeki goal:

Gilberto Sepúlveda was pulled out of position to cover for right back Kevin Álvarez who was beaten down the flank and midfielders did not get back to help out.

Speaking of Sepúlveda, he had the tackle of the day:

Unfortunately, he was playing the wrong sport.

Moving on … goalie Ochoa was not at his best (5 shots on goal across the two games and 5 goals allowed), but he is a proven commodity for El Tri

Right back Julián Araujo showed promise against the Socceroos, while against Uzbekistan Álvarez got caught out going forward a few times. Those lapses were magnified by the poor coverage at the back, some of which was caused by the lack of familiarity on the back line. The Vásquez-Álvarez pairing against Australia performed acceptably, but the Vásquez-Sepúlveda tandem left a lot to be desired.

Left back was a real mess. Incumbent starter Jesús Gallardo seems to be past his expiration date, but he got the call vs the Aussies.

His occasional overlapping runs were typically ruined by poor crosses and he wasted two scoring chances. Gallardo played the second half vs the Uzbeks and his first three touches were turnovers. Jesús Angulo was a disaster the first half against Uzbekistan. Not only did he fail to close down the wing on the first goal allowed but he also did this:

The fact that Lozano coached Angulo on the El Tri squad that won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics might earn him a few more chances, but a check of the tape from Uruguay’s 3-0 shellacking of El Tri in June 2022 would show the Tigres left back to be out of his league.

In midfield, Luis Romo played well in 90 minutes against the Aussies – solid tackling and great ball distribution – while Carlos Rodríguez wasted another opportunity to show he can be the playmaker El Tri needs. Charlie was a non-entity in 77 minutes against the Uzbeks.

Álvarez did not look out of place on defense (against Australia) even though he has not played on the back line for quite some time. He returned to his familiar role – defensive midfield – against the Uzbeks, but he seemed to come up short in comparison to Romo whose offensive skills were missed in the second game.

Héctor Herrera was not awful in his 77 minutes against the Socceroos, but, at 33, he has lost some of the flair he showed in the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.  Orbelín Pineda was hot-and-cold in both games, failing to create scoring chances and unwisely going solo when he might have relied on the give-and-go or short-passing game.

Erick Sánchez and Jordi Cortizo came on as subs in both games and both contributed verve and energy, especially against Australia as El Tri produced a flurry of attacks down the stretch.

El Tri offense came up wanting

At right wing, Uriel Antuna was active and aggressive, and his 1-v-1 moves opened up space for centering passes. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for his first accurate cross. His failure to develop a left foot has not swayed the past two El Tri coaches. His hustle and energy are good attributes, but the ineffectiveness is getting harder and harder to overlook.

Alexis Vega might have been the biggest disappointment at left wing vs Australia. A bright spot in the 2022 World Cup, Vega has seen a dip in form and fitness, and his claim to an El Tri roster spot will not be guaranteed if he doesn’t pick up his game. His Chivas teammate Roberto Alvarado (right wing vs Uzbekistan) was equally ineffectual though his willingness to retreat back and help on defense was notable.

Left wing César Huerta replaced Vega vs the Aussies and scored a brilliant equalizer, but his start against the Uzbeks was a letdown. The UNAM man relied too often on his 1-v-1 moves – with a low percentage of success – and did not develop a rapport with his linemates.

Wingers (and fullbacks) should be required to repeat the courses on centering passes because the paucity of good services into the box (too often, blind crosses were made or attempts were knocked aside by the closest defender, a cardinal sin in my book) is embarrassing.

In the middle of attack, Gold Cup hero Santiago Giménez did not live up to his reputation as Mexico’s next great scorer. His missed penalty kick aside, the Feyenoord goleador did not connect with his mates against Australia. At times, he was too static and, at others, his compadres opted for ill-advised 1-v-1 moves. In 13 minutes against Uzbekistan, Santi linked up well with Raúl Jiménez and his dribble move and shot led directly to the go-ahead goal.

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

One of the few positives of the September FIFA break for El Tri was the production that came from Jiménez. Raúl scored a penalty kick against the Aussies and contributed a brace against the Uzbeks in 90 minutes of action. Both Raúl and Santi would have benefited from better service and one wonders whether a 4-4-2 might be considered if the wingers continue to make a 4-3-3 favored by El Tri in recent years seem so impotent.