It wasn’t exactly the cleanest performance from El Tri, but nonetheless, as expected, Mexico got the job done as they beat Martinique 3-2 on June 23 and left Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte atop Group A with a perfect nine points in the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. A quarterfinal draw with either Costa Rica or Haiti is what now awaits.
That’s 7/7 wins for Tata Martino, who becomes the second-straight permanent Mexico manager to start his tenure with such a win streak. Some of Mexico’s injury troubles also got better, not great, but better and some players are already getting European eyes on them at the start of the tournament. Here are all the talking points following Sunday’s match.
Martino record important but not unique
Because of the low point Mexico was in after last year’s World Cup, manager-less and fresh off another disappointing Round of 16 exit, Tata Martino’s current 7-game win streak to start his coaching tenure seems more spectacular than it truly is.
Martino has shifted the culture a bit in Mexico, that cannot be understated, but he’s not the first coach to start off hot. In fact, the past three permanent Mexico managers also began with some sort of undefeated streak.
The much-criticized Juan Carlos Osorio famously began his El Tri career managing the team to eight straight wins before his first draw with Venezuela (1-1) and later the scandalous 7-0 defeat to Chile during the 2016 Copa America Centenario.
Miguel Herrera’s first seven games ended with five wins and two draws before his first defeat to Bosnia (1-0). Jose Manuel de la Torre also lasted his first eight matches undefeated, drawing half of them, before his first loss to Brazil (2-1).
Gerardo Martino (2019- ) first 7 games: 7W, 0L, 0T, 26 GS, 9 GA
Juan Carlos Osorio (2015-2018) first 10 games: 8W, 1L, 1T, 18 GS, 9 GA
Miguel Herrera (2013-2015) first 10 games: 5W, 2L, 3T, 21 GS, 8 GA
Jose Manuel de la Torre (2011-2013) first 10 games: 5W, 1L, 4T, 16 GS, 7 GA
Defensive issues persist
When looking at Martino’s first seven games compared to past coaches, one finds that his offensive numbers stand out with 26 goals scored in just seven games, far more than his predecessors managed in 10 games each. However, so too do his defensive numbers, this time in a negative way.
Nine goals conceded in just seven games isn’t great for Mexico. That’s 1.28 goals allowed per game. If Mexico keeps it up, that number is just going to get higher as El Tri now gets set to face stiffer competition in the Gold Cup knockout rounds.
“To me what’s most worrying is the distractions [we’ve had] because these types of distractions against teams of a higher pedigree and you’re out of the cup.” - Gerardo Martino, post-game press conference
It’s also not just the amount, but the way in which Mexico is conceding goals. Several of them could’ve been prevented if not for unfortunate defensive errors (v. Paraguay, Venezuela, Canada) and four of them came via set pieces (v. Ecuador, Martinique).
In their latest pair of conceded goals, a wonderful free kick taken by Kévin Parsemain preceded a second Martinique goal by Jordy Delem. In the second goal, other than Jonathan Orozco not diving, Alexis Vega gets exposed after the corner kick and Carlos Rodriguez sags off his man, while other Mexico players struggle with marking themselves, before Delem gets his head on it to make the score 3-2.
Set piece defending is definitely a shallow point so far in Mexico’s current cycle and Martino has to hope to fix that soon.
“They scored a goal after a rejection off a corner. So, evidently, it is a distraction thing because with a second opportunity after an inital corner rejection [it showed we were] lost in marking. I can’t say the team played relaxed because at no point did I see them that way. They seemed more worried than relaxed.” - Gerardo Martino, post-game press conference.
All eyes on them
After stellar performances so far in their campaings with El Tri, several Mexican players are reportedly already getting interest from Europe.
Rodolfo Pizarro, who many saw as Mexico’s greatest offensive asset before his injury, has been rumored to be gaining interest from France’s Ligue 1, namely AS Monaco and OGC Nice. Pizarro considers it a big possibility to move to the ‘Old Continent’ after the Gold Cup.
“Yes, the possibility exists [to move to Europe]. We’ll see what happens. It just depends on a club paying the [release] clause.” - Rodolfo Pizarro, post-game interview
Fellow Monterrey player Carlos Rodriguez is another that has shone well with El Tri in his first few call ups, and with his fantastic Clausura season behind him, it seems that Manchester United might be on to lookout for the 22-year-old. Rodriguez stated after the game that he doesn’t know about the interest but that he is happy to be associated with such a historic club. ProSoccerUSA’s Mitchell Northam confirms a Man U scout was at the game in Charlotte.
Can confirm: There was a Manchester United scout at Bank of America Stadium tonight. https://t.co/CMOCNpN4MX— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) June 24, 2019
Jesus Gallardo and Edson Alvarez are others that have been rumored to be getting watched by top European clubs in the past few months, with Alvarez getting eyes from PSV Eindhoven and Ajax.
Injury troubles start to simmer
It was great for Martino to have two important men back on the bench after losing midfielder Erick Gutierrez (hamstring) who will be out for two weeks. Those two were Hector Moreno and Rodolfo Pizarro.
Moreno didn’t see action as Martino rotated nearly his entire defensive line, while Pizarro came on at halftime for Roberto Alvarado. Martino stated that Pizarro was currently only healthy enough for 45 minutes of play, but the five-day break should potentially help El Tri regain some depth before their quarterfinal bout on June 29 in Houston.
One player that will miss a few days, however, is goalkeeper Jonathan Orozco, who is leaving the team to go back to Torreon due to his mother’s health issues. The team stated he will be back in time for camp on Wednesday in Houston.
You can follow Antonio on Twitter @antonio1998__