At a certain point, we have to stop blaming the rotations and the concept of playing players out of position and start placing the blame for Mexico’s bad performances on the players. Throughout the world, managers play players out of position or in positions they see them being a better fit in based on their skill set. Managers will also align players in different formations based on what they would like to do tactically versus a particular opponent. These are all common practices throughout the soccer world. Many Mexican players to date have experienced this, particularly those that have gone to play in Europe, i.e. Rafael Marquez, played both center back and defensive midfielder and Carlos Salcido played left back, center back and defensive midfielder. Sometimes these moves work and sometimes they don’t, but it is up to the player to make it work.
This article is not attempting to take any of the blame away from Juan Carlos Osorio because he bears the load of the responsibility for Mexico’s lack of cohesion. That said, El Tri is in midst of its so called “Golden Generation”, and I use the term very loosely, and JCO can’t seem to make this team play consistent interconnected organized soccer. Now there’s many layers to this because, at the end of the day, Osorio calls up the players and that is his responsibility in all of this. But this is the “Golden Generation”, of which the majority of the starting 11 play in Europe and have had to adapt to different roles throughout their careers in order to survive at their respective clubs. So, when this group of players isn’t able to make a solid impact on the field for the national team, I don’t care who you are, your role on the national team should be questioned.
While Mexico has had issues at almost every one of their lines, the one that has been a detriment to the overall team play in the Juan Carlos Osorio era has certainly been the midfield. Like previously stated, Osorio calls these midfielders to the team, but it is the players who are not able to execute the coach’s game plan and need to be held accountable as well. There are some big names in Mexican soccer who have been called up to the national team because of the club they play for or what they have done in the past for the national team, but the national team is a “what have you done for me lately” type of place. Just because you played great at the 2014 World Cup doesn’t mean that you are that same player 4 years down the road.
Now most good teams in the world have very strong midfields, with very good midfielders. Midfielders that can play box to box, create, take players on, excel in passing, retain possession and displace opponents. Among usual suspects in Osorio’s midfield(Guardado, Herrera, Reyes...), none of these midfielders possess above average attributes at any of these of the qualities. Guardado and Herrera have played subpar soccer for the national team for quite some time, and Diego Reyes has and will always continue to look lost at defensive mid. Their below average play has affected the other lines and it has been extremely noticeable when facing top quality opponents. Opposing players breeze down the middle of field with tons of space, putting Mexico’s defenders on turnstiles. Strikers and wingers hardly ever receive good passes, and the team’s success up front has been based on individualities or simply being more talented then the opponent.
This is not to say Mexico doesn’t have good midfielders, but if Mexico is to find any type of success in Russia 2018, Guardado, Herrera and Reyes should not see the field.
P.S. Many will ask — who should play in the midfield if those guys aren’t playing? My ideal midfield would be, Jesus Molina/Jonathan Gonzalez, JDS and Carlos Vela (yes, LAFC’s Carlos Vela as the center attacking midfielder).