Jimmy Lozano and Mexico will have their backs against the wall when Honduras comes calling any Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night.
El Tri chose Friday night to play their worst game under Lozano, falling to the Hondurans 2-0 in Tegucigalpa and losing their captain Guillermo Ochoa in the process.
Despite enjoying the majority of possession (65%), Mexico managed a measly two shots on goal. While the Catrachos ceded possession, they managed to control the middle of the pitch and attacked when they had the ball at their feet.
Honduras created danger and pressed forward such that Mexico found it necessary to foul and were whistled 17 times (to just 12 for their foes). The Central Americans outshot El Tri 12-8 with six of their shots on target.
Mexico will have to rely on a back-up goalie
Ochoa was forced out of Friday’s game after Anthony “Choco” Lozano clattered into him, a collision that merited a foul call on the Honduran but Costa Rican ref Juan Gabriel Calderón allowed play to go on.
The El Tri skipper tried to play on but quickly realized his shoulder was too injured to continue. Tests on Saturday revealed Ochoa has a muscle edema atop his right shoulder, an injury that can take as long as two months to heal.
With their long-time netminder unavailable, Mexico will likely have to rely on Luis Malagón who replaced Ochoa in Honduras and conceded the two goals. Malagón, 26, plays for América, the regular-season champs in Liga MX, but his appearance on Friday was his first with El Tri in an official match.
Malagón’s only other caps with Team Mexico came in June. The Zamora, Michoacán, native played the first half in a 2-0 win over Guatemala on June 7 then played 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw vs. Cameroon, a match that saw the goalie commit a howler that allowed the African side to take a momentary 2-1 lead.
The alternative to Malagón is José Antonio Rodríguez, a 31-year-old journeyman who now plays for Tijuana, a team that failed to make the Liga MX playoffs.
Honduras pair also faces fitness test
Coach Reinaldo Rueda will be keeping close tabs on the rehab work being carried out on central defender Luis Vega and midfield dynamo Luis Palma.
Vega helped keep the box clean in front of goalie Edrick Menjivar while Palma supplied the assist on “Choco” Lozano’s opener.
Vega is dealing with a shoulder ailment while Palma suffered some bumps and bruises after getting thumped by Mexico defender Jorge Sánchez.
Honduras goes into the game knowing they can’t afford to sit back and allow El Tri to buzz around their box. One goal will force Mexico to score four times in order to advance to the semifinals and a 2-0 score after 90 minutes will force extra time. If the score remains tied after 120 minutes, a penalty shoot-out will ensue.