Sweden dropped Mexico last night, 1-0, in Mexico’s one and only tune up before the CONCACAF hexagonal. It was a languid performance that followed the same, tired formula that Mexican fans have seen too many times: Mexico dominates possession but can’t generate any real scoring threats. Then a defensive lapse leads to an opponent’s goal. The fans are worried, the Mexican media is at its fatalist best, and the team is left looking for answers. Despite the result, there were a few positives that Mexico can take from the game. A few.
The title of my blog is derived from a conversation some Texas Longhorn fans had a few years ago about what kind of fans we were: positive, negative, realistic, pragmatic, etc. The eternal optimists were labeled as sunshine pumpers. In light of how the Mexican National Team has played for the majority of the past year, it might be time to pump a little sunshine into an otherwise dreary situation.
Let’s start with Leobardo Lopez. A 10 game tournament affords defenders plenty of opportunities to accumulate yellows. The Pachuca defender has shown that he can be counted on to step in when one of Mexico’s starters is either suspended or injured. He might even provide a little competition in case the starters feel like coasting.
Alberto Medina is playing well, and he looks to be someone that can temporarily fill Andres Guardado’s very big shoes. The Chivas attacker was clearly Mexico’s MOM. His ambidexterity allows him to move on either flank, and he does have some speed to boot. It was good to see him back in green.
Friendlies allow coaches to see what players can do, and what players can’t. Some players were clearly not up to the challenge last night. Juan Carlos Valenzuela and Julio Cesar Dominguez were both a little over their heads last night, and their lack of urgency led to Sweden’s goal. Both are good players, but definitely need to stew a little longer. Lucas Ayala didn’t seem to distinguish himself very much on the pitch. On the other hand, Israel Martinez had a great first half, but disappeared for large chunks of the 2nd. A little more assertiveness will serve him well. I was surprised that we didn’t see Edgar Castillo last night, but I guess (hope) SGE wants to have some element of surprise.
Unfortunately, no amount of sunshine pumping will change the fact that Mexico has looked less than mediocre, played poorly, and has lost an alarming amount of confidence and heart. Mix that with their traditional defeatist attitude, and it could all add up to not just a long night in Columbus, but a nail biting hex. But (if you’ll indulge me one last little pump) winning is a great deodorant, and taking 3 points in Columbus would lift the awful stench that has settled over the team.