The Mexico National Team left a good impression in its first two games under Gerardo “Tata” Martino, first beating Chile 3-1 before doing the same against Paraguay four days later. Here’s what we learned from El Tri’s second game against La Albirroja.
Edson Alvarez is here to stay
Gerardo “Tata” Martino was all praise for Edson Alvarez ahead of the match against Paraguay, claiming the Club América defender is the most ready to make the move abroad from all the players available in his Liga MX player pool. On Tuesday, Martino backed his confidence in the 21-year-old by starting him for a second game in a row, after Alvarez had previously played all 90 minutes against Chile.
Martino’s trust in Alvarez is telling, and by now, it is abundantly clear that Alvarez is set to play a crucial part in Tata Martino’s system. You can say that currently there is no other player capable of playing the role that Edson Alvarez plays, and while there will always be lingering doubts about what his best position really is, it looks like that “mediocentro” position is his to lose.
Of course, Alvarez still has plenty of things to learn, and often his ability on the ball overshadows his defensive liabilities. But for now, he looks like he will be key component in this Mexico squad going forward.
Jonathan dos Santos and midfield shines
There have been plenty of positives to take under Tata Martino in his first two games in charge, but the play of the interior midfielders has to be the most noteworthy. Perhaps we all got used to a somewhat pragmatic style of play under Juan Carlos Osorio or simply it’s just the new coach shine, but you get the feeling that the interior midfielders are playing with a little more liberty.
Take Jonathan dos Santos, who was brilliant in the game against Paraguay. The LA Galaxy player showcased class and awareness and was one of the creative forces in the midfield. Often, Jonathan acted as a catalyst and combined with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s movement, Paraguay was unable to stop his productivity, as exemplified in Mexico’s third goal.
Suddenly, it looks like Martino has plenty of options in the midfield: Carlos Rodriguez, Andres Guardado, Erick Gutierrez, and Jonathan dos Santos. And this is without mentioning Hector Herrera, who was absent from this call-up for personal reasons. Whether Martino can afford to roll with this type of midfield against more counterattacking sides remains to be seen, but in the case of Chile and Paraguay, whether it was Carlos Rodriguez or Jonathan dos Santos, they couldn’t cope.
Tata still has plenty of work ahead of the Gold Cup
Of all the substitutions that Martino made for the second half against Paraguay, only Isaac Brizuela looked the most impactful. WIth the Gold Cup just a few months away, it is perhaps a little worrying that none of Martino’s second half substitutions translated into anything special. Sure, Luis Montes scored the fourth goal, but generally it wasn’t a good game for the Club León midfielder. The same could also be said about Jose Juan “Gallito” Vazquez and Victor Guzman.
Part of the reason could be that Miguel Almiron’s red card played a key role in slowing down the pace of the game. But Mexico’s midfield was relatively fresh and still looked out of place compared to their first half counterparts, especially when Edson Alvarez was still on the field.
The good news is Mexico’s depth could be forgiving as oppose to other teams in the region. Apart from finding a direct alternative to Edson Alvarez, Mexico have somebody for just about every position on the field. That, however, doesn’t mean that Martino doesn’t have some key decisions to make, and some of the players didn’t do themselves any favors with their second half performances.