Juan Carlos Osorio got his first knock out round victory as Mexico defeated Honduras in the Gold Cup quarterfinals. The 1-0 win was very hard fought and after Mexico played a pretty good first half, they failed to keep their level for the second half and Honduras came close to getting a leveler. Mexico will have a rematch as they face Jamaica in the semifinals, the only team that was able to get a point against them so far in the tournament. A couple of Observations from Thursday’s match:
Edson Alvarez has been the revelation of the summer. Edson Alvarez not only lived up to his promise as the best player of the Mexican team that played in the U-20 World Cup but he has been the player that has made the most of the opportunity in this Gold Cup. Alvarez has been playing at RB and doing a better job than Luis Alfonso "Chaka" Rodriguez, who plays in that position at his club. Alvarez continued his good play today although a move of position to the middle of the field didn't pay off as much, he still showed versatility and has been the player whose done the most to be in the radar of the National team.
Jesus Molina's injury was game changing and could be trouble. Jesus Molina returned to the starting lineup and it was not a coincidence that Mexico's play improved a lot compared to Curaçao. Molina was key in the center of the field and Honduras barely threatened while he was at his best. A knock on the head in the final minutes of the first half was a bad sign that coupled later with another knock, meant Molina had to be subbed out. Edson Alvarez was moved into his position and did well but not as good as Molina. The move also brought in Chaka Rodriguez to play in Edson's spot and he proceeded to do a very bad job. It wasn't a surprise that after Molina came out, Honduras started to gain control of the game and had more of the ball. If Mexico wants to get to the final, the return of Molina is key, especially because his replacement, Jorge Hernandez, has not had a good tournament at all.
Elias Hernandez chose a bad time to play his worst game of the competition. Offensively it's been clear that Elias Hernandez has been Mexico's best player. Yet against Honduras, he had his worst performance and it really was a problem for Mexico. Hernandez failed to create much of anything when he's been key to creating Mexico's chances. He wasted Mexico's best opportunity when Jesus Dueñas found him wide open, only for him to fail to shoot the ball and instead try to cut in for a shot that only gave the Honduras defender time to arrive and take the ball away from him. Hopefully Elias improves against Jamaica because today's game showed that Mexico's offense can't handle another silent game from him.
Juan Carlos Osorio showed some improvements but those still aren't paying off. Osorio's game plan today had things that address a lot of things people had criticized him for. He finally went against his rule about having player being positioned based on their best feet as only one left footed player started. He also subbed in a natural right back in Rodriguez, even as Edson Alvarez had done a good job before him. But his substitution of Rodriguez was a dud and the team fell off, unlike the last game where they improved. Mexico still isn't clicking and needs to do better against a Jamaican team that is playing a lot better than Honduras is.
Mexico's offensive woes and lack of reinforcements means they will have to concentrate on defense. In the press conference after the game, interim coach Pompilio Paez talked a lot about how this team will be tough for other teams to score on. Concentrating on defense might be a necessity because once again the team showed to be weak on top. Most of the rumors for the possibility of reinforcements fell on Jurgen Damm and Oribe Peralta, and it's wasn't surprising since if there is a position this team has lacked talent is at forward. Mexican clubs denied Osorio the reinforcements which means that knowing their offensive limitations, this team will probably concentrate the most on not getting scored on.