In front of a packed crowd in Pasadena, CA, Mexico defeated Jamaica 2-0 to advance to the quarterfinals. Goals from Chicharito in the 17th minute and Peralta in the 81st minute sealed the victory for Mexico and simultaneously eliminated Jamaica and Uruguay from the Copa.
While the score line is indicative of a one-sided affair, the reality is that Mexico was lucky to escape with three points. Osorio's insistence on tinkering with the line-up and formation caused sloppy play and imprecise passing, and it made Jamaica seem like the more dangerous side at times. Had it not been for some big interventions from Ochoa, Mexico would have been lucky to squeak out with a draw.
While the team benefited from being the more talented side and its individualities, this poor level of team play will need to increase when the team reaches the knockout stage where opposition will be stronger and teams will make you pay for senseless mistakes.
Here are my three takeaways from the match:
1) Formation and Line-up
This takeaway can actually be split into two, but for the sake of not sounding repetitive, I went ahead and combined them—they go hand in hand anyway. Osorio actually started out versus Jamaica with the same formation, 3-1-2-3-1, which he went with versus Uruguay. I know what you're thinking, "finally some consistency", but that's as far as his consistency went. He made adjustments to every line, including goalie, which is not something you typically see mid tournament unless there is an injury. The solid backline Mexico showed versus Uruguay was no more. He took Marquez out and put him at defensive midfielder which is a position that is more physically demanding at his age, so as time wore on, his level of play decreased. Osorio moved Moreno over to center back and put Yasser Corona in Moreno's position. Corona definitely didn't play like a top 5 anything. His marking was imprecise, his passing was sloppy, and had it not been for the ref missing it, he would have been called for a penalty.
A three-man backline requires help from the wingbacks because you're asking your center backs to cover the outer areas of the box and the flanks. While the three-man backline worked against Uruguay, Jamaica's wingers were able to use their speed and strength to get by Araujo and Corona various times.
Something that has been impressive about Osorio is his ability to recognize when something isn't working during a game and make the necessary adjustments. He saw that Jamaica's wingers were troubling our center backs, and after half-time, he switched the formation to a 4-3-3 by dropping Layun to right back and moving Moreno to left back. This change had immediate impact on the game, and Mexico was able to defend better against Jamaica's wing play. Eventually, stifling Jamaica's play on the flank led Mexico to their second goal. It's great that Osorio can make midgame adjustments, but if he played with a consistent lineup and formation, it would surely minimalize the team's inconsistencies and adjustments midgame.
Osorio's formation and lineup decisions became even more questionable with the team's imprecision. There may be a correlation between the inaccuracy and the players being in positions they are not used to. In all areas of the pitch, players were having trouble with their first touch, decision-making, and passing in general. Osorio likes his team playing from the back, and on multiple occasions, the center backs made poor decisions with the ball. This carelessness allowed Jamaica opportunities to counter and test Ochoa when it shouldn't have happened. It wasn't just the backline, midfielders and forwards alike were also inaccurate. In fact, both goals take place after initial imprecisions. On the first goal, Jimenez sends a cross that sails over the box to the other side of the field. Luckily, Tecatito was there to put the lob into Chicharito. On the second goal, Herrera doesn't properly control the ball on the pass from Lozano. Fortunately, Peralta was trailing the play, and when the ball bounces of Herrera's foot, he steps in and sends it past the Jamaican goalkeeper. Mexico will certainly need to improve their sloppy play as soon as the next game, because as the tournament progresses, the opposition becomes stronger.
Once more, Osorio's ability to recognize areas that need improvement and make adjustments needs to be commended. All three of his subs were impact to the final result of the game. Tecatito and Chicharito were both having solid games. However, bringing in Lozano and Peralta brought a breath of fresh air to the team. Peralta's fresh legs are what starts the counter that led to the second goal. Peralta went and won ball on the wing, and then sent Lozano on the run and followed the play. When Herrera wasn't able to control the pass from Lozano, Peralta was there to knock in the goal finishing the play he started. When it seemed like Marquez was running out of gas at defensive midfielder, Osorio brought in Jesus Molina, a true defensive midfielder who was able to control the midfield allowing Marquez to drop into his natural role at center back.
Guillermo "Memo" Ochoa: San Memo as some of us call him, always steps up when called upon, and yesterday was no different. Had it not been for him, we could be talking about a different result. I don't know if Osorio will make another change at goalkeeper, but if he moves away from Ochoa as the starter, he is making a mistake. Talavera and Corona are both playing great, but neither of them plays with as much consistency and swagger as Ochoa.