Mexico concluded its mini-tour of Europe with a 1-0 win over a Chile in a game where both squads started the game with mostly reserves. A few days earlier, Mexico drew away to Poland, thanks to Chicharito's 22nd goal in his 31st cap. From a result standpoint, one can conclude that the trip was a success. But we all know that friendlies should not be judged by the scoreline, but how the personnel fared. Chepo de la Torre got more than an eyeful. the question, however, is did he see the same thing we think we saw?
Mexico played its best soccer in the last few minutes of the Chile match, when Gio, Chicharito, Andres Guardado and Pablo Barrera were all finally on the pitch at the same time. The four of them together give Mexico a dynamic that they cannot replicate with anyone else that was in this call-up. Mexico just looks crisper when their four best play together, which was very apparent in the Gold Cup.
Chepo, unfortunately, thinks that Antonio Naelson Zinha should be the vessel that carries the offense. The game against Poland (and the friendly in Philly) showed, though, that Zinha, as good a player as he is, does not have the jets or the style to keep up with the above dynamic. The tempo slowed considerably with the ball at Zinha's feet, which might work well for Toluca, but putting a governor on Mexico's offense wastes the considerable talents of Mexico's attacking players.
It might be time to finally take a look at Carlos Vela and Nery Castillo, who both definitely have the speed and the technical skill to mesh well with the other attacking players. Not getting called for a set of European games when both play in Europe is troubling. Both had been playing extensively with their respective clubs, while Giovani had not. At all. We can only hope their play on the pitch can force the issue. Chepo is stubborn to a fault, and if he keeps insisting on Zinha while Vela and Nery keep playing well, then we'll all know something might be rotten in Denmark.
We learned that there is hope beyond Israel Castro and Gerardo Torrado. The two Jesuses, Zavala and Molina showed a lot promise in the midfield, where a transition to a younger set of legs is one of Chepo's top priorities. It would also be nice to see Jorge "chaton" Enriquez, who played very well for Mexico's U20 team in Colombia, as well as Club America's Diego Reyes (who played on the Mexico's back line in the U20) get a look as well. And, of course, there is Mexico's current Loch Ness: Jonathan Dos Santos. He might actually play a meaningful match for Mexico one day. That is the rumor, anyway.
As much as I like Christian "Hobbit" Bermudez, his skillset may not have the necessary attributes to help him in the international game. Obviously, he has to battle his size liabilities, but he is a smart, smart player, and can learn to play above his limitations. Perhaps he should give former Redskins DB Pat Fisher a call and ask how he dealt with Harold Carmichael all those years ago.
The backline for Mexico could turn into a huge liability if certain problems are not shored up. If Mexico has to rely on Rafa Marquez to direct traffic, there will be trouble. The onus is on Hector Moreno, who needs to quickly assume a leadership role in the back. The last thing Mexico wants is to take the field in Brazil with a defender in their mid-30s.
Memo Ochoa has been decent at Agaccio, and lord knows he will be called on early and often as the Corsican side tries to stay aloft in Ligue 1. It should help him finally cement his position as Mexico's net minder for the upcoming World Cup cycle and beyond.
It won't be until next summer before Mexico plays an official match again. Chepo has developed the style of play with his players, and can now use the next six to eight months to see if other players can mesh well with the group he already has. Players like Chivas' Marco Fabian, who has their fans dreaming of adding to their trophy case. Or Ulises Davila, who signed with Chelsea before being loaned out to Vitesse. And the two young midfielders we already talked about. Chepo de la Torre now has a luxury rarely seen with a Mexico coach: time. Let's see if he uses it wisely.