While Mexico might not have had their best soccer display last night, they are on top of the group and were on top of the top seeded teams in the A League of the CONCACAF Nations League. As the seeded teams went into action on this last round of dates, Mexico had the best debut with six points along with Honduras, and with a +6 goal differential to Honduras’s +3. Mexico is only three points away from winning the group and qualifying to the Nations League Semifinals and a point away from getting to the Gold Cup.
Mexico went to their first games with the Nations League with a squad filled with U-23 players and a couple of veteran Liga MX and Euro players. With a complete alternative squad they crushed Bermuda by a score of 5-1, and then had a tougher time against Panama in Estadio Azteca but still came out on top by a score of 3-1. The only other of the seeded teams to get two wins was Honduras with a 2-0 victory away to Trinidad and Tobago and a 1-0 win at home against Martinique. Unlike Mexico, Honduras had closer to their A team, and if Mexico struggled at home against Panama, it wasn’t close to Honduras winning at home based on an own goal and missing numerous chances against a more inferior team.
However, both of these team’s struggles are nothing compared to the United States and Costa Rica. The United States crushed Cuba at home, but then lost to Canada for the first time since 1985. Costa Rica had the return of Keylor Navas to the national team but only got two ties, away to Haiti (1-1) and worse yet a 0-0 tie at home against Curaçao. While the Canada game was a tougher match than any Mexico played, they also had closer to the A squad than the alternative squad Mexico had.
The Nations League has been nothing but a hurdle that CONCACAF placed on their top teams a couple of months after the Gold Cup. Mexico doesn’t take anything away from the Nations League but experience for their young guys. Players like Jose Juan Macias stepped up and were able to get their first official experience with the senior team against teams they will be playing against in qualification. But even with an alternate squad, Mexico failed to fall into the trap that the U.S. and Costa Rica fell into. It should be tougher next month, especially in a Panama away game where Panama will be playing for their tournament lives, while Mexico is less likely to call top players after Hirving Lozano’s injury at the Azteca. That said, Mexico is a win away from clinching their goal, and most importantly, the youngsters got some valuable experience ahead of the CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifiers to be played next March in Guadalajara.