With a 3-1 victory over Uruguay, Mexico extended their unbeaten streak to 20 games and took a first step towards achieving their goal of bringing home Copa America. The game could not have started out better for Osorio's men when in the 3rd minute, after a perfect Guardado cross from the left side, Alvaro Pereira, in an effort to challenge Hector Herrera, scored in his own net.
For the remainder of the half, Mexico seemed to be the more dominant side by not allowing La Celeste any spaces, and in the 45th minute, before the referee blew the whistle, Matias Vecino gained his second yellow and was ejected from the match.
Entering the second half, it looked as if Mexico would benefit from having a one man advantage, but the complete opposite happened. Uruguay came out guns blazing and really put Mexico on their heels, and in the 73rd minute, Andres Guardado also gained his second yellow of the game after a foolish foul. Within seconds of the Guardado ejection, Diego Godin headed into the net a Carlos Sanchez cross and equalized the game.
With both teams down to 10 men, it seemed like Uruguay was ready to pull off the upset, but in the 85th minute, El Capitan, Rafa Marquez, put a right footed shot to the top right corner past goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Victory was now within El Tri's reach, and in the 93rd minute, Hector Herrera, put the proverbial nail in the coffin and headed in a close range shot after a cross from Raul Jimenez.
Osorio's men showed perseverance, and we saw El Tri do something they are not known to due in international tournaments: close out an opponent when the game is not favoring them.
Here are my 3 takeaways from the match:
1) Formation, Formation, Formation
What was the formation? 3-1-2-3-1, 3-1-4-1-1, 3-1-5-1, I read different takes on the internet on what the formation was, and in my opinion, it looked like 3-1-2-3-1. The confusion didn't just seem to lie in the fans and analysts, but also in the players. At various points in the games, players were caught out of position, or they were all bunched up next to each other—specifically in the midfield. Throughout the first half, the midfield seemed congested. It wasn't due to anything that Uruguay was doing, but more so, because players were coming together and not giving each other space.
Osorio's coaching style is built on developing plays from the back, up the middle, and distributing to the flanks, but the congested midfield was causing them to lose a lot of 50/50 balls and not build plays. The three man line played solid for the majority of the game, but a three man line plays better when the two wingbacks drift all the way back and turn into fullbacks. Wingers like Tecatito Corona and Chucky Lozano don't drop all the way back. This means the LCB and RCB have to also cover the opponent's wing play, and when the full back help doesn't arrive on time, mistakes can happen.
The lack of full back help was evident in the first half when Hector Moreno pinched in to help Rafa Marquez, and Cavani, who was off on the right flank, slipped behind Moreno and received a through-ball that left him one on one with Talavera. Osorio is the manager and ultimately makes the final decision, and although the team is winning, it doesn't seem like he is using the formation that would truly take advantage of the talent he has.
2) Using Players out of position.
Osorio said he assembled this roster because these players were multifaceted and could play in area of the pitch, and last night, he played a lot of guys out of the natural position they normally play. My question to Osorio would be, where was Diego Reyes for 90 minutes? Where was Miguel Layun in the first half? Andres Guardado, Hector Herrera, and Miguel Layun were all on top of each other for most of the first half and the beginning of the second half. As I stated above, Osorio's coaching style is built on the developing plays from the back and building through the middle, and the lack of true center defensive mid was apparent from the beginning. Diego Reyes was nonexistent. His lack of positioning, poise, and vision were a detriment to Osorio's style and to the midfield. If a player like Molina had been in place of Diego Reyes, things might have gone a bit differently. Miguel Layun, although right footed, is naturally more comfortable playing on the left. In the first half, playing on the right alongside Guardado, Layun did not look as comfortable, and there wasn't enough space for him. When Guardado was ejected, Layun moved into his position, and we saw the Layun we are used to seeing at Porto.
3) Flank Attack
While the midfield was congested, the flanks were full of space, and the one constant throughout the game was Mexico's ability to attack through those areas. Tecatito Corona, Chucky Lozano, and Javier Aquino all found success on the wings. Their acceleration was on full display, and Uruguay's backline did not seem to have an answer for them. In the first half, Javier Aquino was arguably El Tri's best player; his work rate on the right flank was undeniable from attacking, to dropping all the way down, to recovering balls alongside Araujo. On the left flank, Tecatito and Lozano's speed caused headaches for Uruguay. In fact, the flank play was so successful that all three goals for Mexico came on plays that started on the far left. If Mexico can tighten up their midfield play and continue to feed their wingers, they will find a lot more results like the ones against Uruguay.
Rafa Marquez: many questioned his call-up to the national team. After all, he is 37 years old and had a subpar 2016 season playing for Club Atlas. Yet, it seems like, when Rafa puts on that Mexico jersey, he becomes an ageless wonder. Sunday night, against Uruguay, he demonstrated why Osorio was correct in calling him. Marquez quietly had a solid defensive game at center back. His long ball to Guardado in the 3rd minute set up the play that would lead to the eventual first goal, and in the 85th minute, when Mexico needed it more than ever, he rifled in a goal the way only a player of his caliber would.