El Tri youth movement off to rocky start as rampant Uruguay runs roughshod

Team Mexico loses 4-0 in first warm-up match ahead of Copa América; Brazil next
Facundo Pellistri (left) watches as his shot ripples the net behind El Tri goalie Raúl Rangel just 8 minutes into a friendly match in Denver, Colorado. Uruguay hammered Mexico 4-0
Facundo Pellistri (left) watches as his shot ripples the net behind El Tri goalie Raúl Rangel just 8 minutes into a friendly match in Denver, Colorado. Uruguay hammered Mexico 4-0 / Omar Vega/GettyImages

Team Mexico looked nervous and erratic against an incomplete Uruguay and it showed on the scoreboard as “Los Charrúas” routed El Tri 4-0.

Liverpool’s Darwin Núñez recorded his first hat trick in a Celeste shirt and Manchester United's Facundo Pellistri added a goal and an assist as Marcelo Balsa’s squad showed no mercy in the friendly contest played in Denver. It was Pellistri's first goal for Uruguay.

For its part, El Tri looked discombobulated especially on defense and the players' lack of familiarity with each other was evident throughout. Mistakes and hiccups are to be expected when a generational change is undertaken, but a poor performance from veteran Edson Álvarez was particularly disappointing.

Twice Álvarez made awful passes that led directly to counterattacks that ended up in the net, setting up Guadalajara goalie José Rangel for a bad loss in his debut for El Tri. Team Mexico's only highlight came in minute 13 when Roberto Alvarado rattled the crossbar with a shot from just outside the box.

It seemed apparent that coach Jaime Lozano was less interested in the result than in seeing how some players functioned and interacted with teammates. If that indeed was the case, Lozano got a lot of negative responses, especially at the back where poor communication and positional breakdowns allowed Uruguay to convert all four of its shots on goal.

With 10 days remaining until El Tri must submit its final Copa América roster to administrators, it sure seemed that several players might have cost themselves a spot on the team. Mexico has one more friendly – against Brazil in College Station, Texas, on Saturday – prior to its Cup opener against Jamaica on June 22.

El Tri fans had hoped that the rejuvenation of the roster would energize a team that has grown stale the past three years. Of course, it was late in coming and mishandled by Federation bosses.

Critics would say this generational change should have been carried out before the 2022 World Cup, and the fact that it is only happening now, two years after the fact, is small consolation.

Those critics were quick with the "I told you so's" when El Tri flopped at the World Cup, crashing out at the group stage for the first time since 1978. But the signs were already clear during the qualifying process leading up to Qatar 2022.

It was quite obvious that coach Gerardo Martino was going to stick with the veterans regardless of how much the team struggled. The offense was staid and predictable, the midfield lacked creativity and tactics were conservative.

Diego Cocca succeeded Martino in February 2023, but he made few changes during his short time in charge. His term was cut short upon losing 3-0 to Team USA in the 2023 Concacaf Nations League semifinals, but it was already apparent that Cocca was reluctant to kick-start the badly needed generational change.

Lozano has had the reins since June of 2023, but he is only just now starting the youth movement , unwisely sticking with several members of the over-the-hill gang in hopes of winning the 2024 Concacaf Nations League.

The result is a callow, inexperienced team that seems likely to struggle. And Wednesday's performance was a tough one to watch, one that will see Lozano and the Federation take plenty of heat. One narrative will be that Lozano is overmatched while the Federation will get hammered for not managing the roster overhaul in a more timely fashion (i.e., during Martino's reign).


To be fair, several players who saw action against Uruguay will not be on the Copa América roster. But Lozano will be expected to identify a first-choice line-up as well as his top reserves while getting a good result against Brazil on Saturday or his job security could suddenly become wobbly.