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Mexico vs. Canada, Gold Cup: Tactical Analysis

Mexico v Canada: Group A - 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Mexico National Team remained perfect under Gerard “Tata” Martino, and in the process put one foot inside the Quarterfinals of the 2019 Gold Cup. El Tri were by far the more dominant side, but Canada managed to put El Tri under pressure on several occasions. Here are three tactical takeaways from Mexico’s 3-1 win over Canada.

Mexico suffers their first midfield woes

No surprise here, Canada’s gameplan was all about sitting back and absorbing pressure, and as you might have expected, they did that a lot better than Cuba did. Martino’s decision to go with Erick Gutierrez and Jonathan dos Santos as his interior midfielders was an interesting one, but also one that ultimately didn’t end up bringing the same dividends as Saturday’s midfield with Carlos Rodriguez and Andres Guardado.

Obviously, Erick Gutierrez got injured, and while Jonathan dos Santos didn’t have a bad game, much of Mexico’s great play in between lines that has characterized the side during the last few months was practically ineffective.

The good news is that as Canada committed men to their midfield, this left at least one of Mexico’s fullbacks with space to push forward. In Mexico’s best chance of the first 30 minutes, Erick Gutierrez was able to send a long diagonal ball into the path of Jesus Gallardo, who almost got an assist off a Jonathan dos Santos volley.

With Roberto Alvarado playing that “Rodolfo Pizarro” role and floating inside centrally, Gallardo actually found quite a lot of success down the left, even trying his luck from distance on two occasions.

When Canada pushed men forward, Mexico looked shaky

It’s not that Canada were impressive or anything, it is that the instant they pushed men forward after going down 2-0, El Tri’s defenders didn’t know exactly what to do. Overconfidence was perhaps one of the factors , as perfectly exemplified by Nestor Araujo’s error, but Canada were already getting opportunities even before Araujo’s horrific error.

We can give Gerardo Martino the benefit of the doubt, and assume that if it weren’t for the injuries, we would have seen somebody like Orbelin Pineda and Cesar Montes enter the frame, but while you can add more bodies in the midfield and defense, you really have to wonder how Mexico will respond against better opposition. In fact, Mexico’s second half passage looked a lot like their game against Paraguay when Eduardo Berizzo’s side did something very similar after going down 3-0. In that game, Mexico also had an error that led to an opposition goal.

But Mexico always find a way

Speaking of that game against Paraguay, El Tri put that one away thanks to a play in which they took advantage of the opposing team’s high line to go direct to their striker and into the path of an incoming attacker.

Does it look familiar?

In both cases, Alexis Vega and Raul Jimenez were able to offer an additional option for the ball-handler, while setting up their teammates with a direct path towards goal. It’s something that if done right, opposing teams will have to live with when committing men forward against Mexico, and something that could end up settling a game in favor of El Tri.