Before both teams meet again in World Cup qualifying on November 15, Mexico and Panama face each other in a friendly in Bridgeview, Illinois.
Here is what to watch for in Mexico’s last game before the hexagonal.
What to watch for:
Four-man backline - On Saturday, coach Juan Carlos Osorio took on New Zealand with a starting lineup of only three defenders, a decision seemingly based around the players he had as much as trying out new tactics. The defense’s movement was decent, but they looked shaky and didn’t offer the confidence at the back to compensate for their lack of cohesiveness.
Now, three days later, Mexico are faced with a different challenge, and with it a new formation? It’s always difficult to read too much into Juan Carlos Osorio, but it seems likely he’ll return to a four-man backline against Panama on Tuesday.
Mexico never looked completely secure, and the suspicion is El Tri would do better with a pair of fullbacks on the field. This, then, means Jorge Torres Nilo and Jesús Dueñas could have a shot at impressing Osorio and winning a starting spot for Columbus, especially considering Paul Aguilar will be out injured.
Injuries upon injuries - So many of Juan Carlos Osorio’s decisions for this call-up have been conditioned by injuries. Of the original 23 players Juan Carlos Osorio called up for these friendlies, four have picked up and injury. The latest casualty for El Tri was Alan Pulido, who is listed as questionable after receiving a hard knock to his knee.
To make matters worse for the coach, Marco Fabian has traveled back to Germany to prepare for the game against Bayern Munich at request of Eintracht Frankfurt.
This is far from the first time we’ve seen these type of injury crisis under Juan Carlos Osorio, but El Tri fans can at least take solace it didn’t happen to the A-team. Nevertheless, there would have been a real interest to see how individuals like Jonathan dos Santos and a healthy Alan Pulido did in a system like Osorio’s. That, however, seems like it will have to wait for another time. In turn, this could mean increased minutes for Giovani dos Santos or Oribe Peralta.
Preview of things to come? - The one big caveat to this match is both Mexico and Panama will meet again in a month for World Cup qualifying. How each side performs against each on Tuesday could say a lot, but the fact of the matter is, both teams will want to save their best for November. Sure, there will be some hints, not least considering Panama love to sit back against Mexico, but it will be difficult to say whether this game will provide enough evidence for both coaches.
Still, confidence can be everything heading into World Cup qualifying, and this game is still one Mexico is expected to win.