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Postgame Observations: Defense looks shaky as Mexico top New Zealand

Mexico v New Zealand Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Mexico needed goals from Giovani dos Santos and Marco Fabian to earn a hard-fought 2-1 win over New Zealand on Saturday.

Here are my three takeaways from Mexico’s win over the All Whites:

Mexico’s defense looked shaky

On a night where Mexico was expected to dominate possession, having your center backs bring the ball out seemed like sensible plan from coach Juan Carlos Osorio. But a defensive trio of Jordan Silva, Hugo Ayala, and Hedgardo Marin never looked confident in an unorthodox 3-3-3-1 formation.

When Hedgardo Marin pushed forward, it almost seemed like the players around him were refusing to commit, allowing New Zealand to take advantage of some sloppy play. There were some anxious touches, and Marco Rojas carved through the Mexican defense, taking advantage of some awful passing to nearly give the All Whites an early lead.

In the second half, the defense shared the shame when Rojas finally broke through after Deklan Wynne’s cross found him inside the box. Sure, Hirving Lozano’s lapse in positional awareness gave way to Wynne’s cross, but it was a tame effort from Hugo Ayala and his teammates as Rojas equalized with ease.

Before you sharpen your knives for Juan Carlos Osorio, the odds that we see Mexico with a 3-3-3-1 formation against the United States on November 11 are slim to none. The formation served its short-term purpose, and that should be the last time we see a center-back trio like the one from Saturday.

Squad places still up for grabs

If this friendly was about finding players for Mexico’s clash with the United States, it is difficult to think anybody impressed Juan Carlos Osorio.

There is a case for selecting Marco Fabian against the Stars and Stripes. If unleashed in the right position, Fabian sometimes has the ability to bring the midfield to life. But aside from the goal he scored, he showcased little promise as an interior midfielder. Fabian operated the match in rather low gear, and it seems as though it took him a while to recognize his role on the field. Fabian will now travel back to Germany at request of Eintrach Frankfurt, and it is up for debate if he did enough to win a place in November’s squad.

Meanwhile, Giovani dos Santos, who is entering his second life with the national team after a long international absence, believes he can play as a No. 10. Osorio’s lineups can sometimes feel contrived as the Colombian tries to find a way to accommodate his players, but here, he decided to play Gio in the role the LA Galaxy player thinks he is best. Gio didn’t have a bad game, scoring Mexico’s first from the penalty spot, but in truth, he made very little happen.

All in all, swathes of the game went by without any Mexican player really stepping up.

New Zealand deserve credit

Even if New Zealand lost 2-1, they can’t be disappointed with how they played. Coach Anthony Hudson is rumored for the Derby County job, and on Saturday, he showed why.

As expected, New Zealand opted to flood the midfield and defense. Though, unlike most teams that go up against Mexico, the All Whites pressed in droves. They worked hard to reduce the space and close the gaps, denying Mexico of their ability to play from the back.

Chances were few and far between, but when New Zealand moved the ball forward, Hudson’s side was perfectly placed to win almost every second ball. At the very least, with a little more luck, perhaps they might have been able to leave Nashville with a draw.

New Zealand should have a relatively easy time to get through Oceania’s World Cup qualifying, and if their players show this much will against CONMEBOL’s fifth-placed team, they might be checking plane prices for Russia in 2018.