Despite not many things going right for Mexico last night in their Gold Cup opener against Trinidad and Tobago, there were at least a couple reassuring factors to highlight, such as defense and the fact they created many scoring options. However, what was missing was that final touch or good decision when the moment came. But in the end, Mexico did dominate this match entirely and should’ve scored at some point, despite the much to be desired refereeing.
With that being said, a very pleasing surprise as well as one of the main factors for Mexico’s functioning offense was Rogelio Funes Mori. Head coach Tata Martino couldn’t have been more spot-on regarding his decision for the starting striker position. Even though the Argentine-born player didn’t score last night, he showed impressive signs of talent and proved why he’s accomplished important things with Rayados. The first dangerous approach on goal came in the 8th minute, when Funes Mori headed a cross sent in by Herrera and nearly converted, had it not been for an even better outing by keeper Marvin Phillip. Just a minute later, he gave a splendid one-touch pass back to Lozano in the infamous non-call penalty shove + head/neck injury to Chucky, which should’ve been a red card for the keeper. That would’ve more than likely resulted in a goal, either by Lozano’s finishing or through a penalty.
In the 75th minute, on another Héctor Herrera cross, with defender Jelani Peters glued to Funes Mori’s body, he directed the ball with his chest no less, followed by a shot attempt with his right foot which miraculously found Phillip’s arm. Simply an amazing gesture of talent on the striker’s part. A couple minutes later, he received a long pass inside the box, and sent a spot-on pass into Orbelín Pineda who found a way to back-heel it to Corona who sent it over the bar. That also should’ve resulted in a goal. And finally, in the 90th + 1 minute, the cross sent in by Gallardo which was sent home by Funes Mori himself which would’ve been the undoubted game winner. Instead, the refs reversed the goal with yet another dubious call, which in the end left the score in a 0-0 deadlock.
In summary, Funes Mori proved to the entire country and continent he can play in a variety of forms; he can be your classic striker by reaching crosses and passes and sending them to the back of the net with his head or foot; he can play as a post and help set up teammates with one-touch passes and cause immense damage; he can also receive the ball on the edge of the box and become a playmaker of sorts. He can adjust effectively to whatever Martino needs him to be, an extremely hard thing to find in a striker. The fact he didn’t score last night doesn’t worry me in the least; it’s just a matter of time until he does, especially with Corona, Herrera, and Lozano (when he returns) sending cross after cross into the box.
With Raúl Jiménez out of the tournament still finalizing the recovery from his head injury, Funes Mori was by far the best and most similar choice by Martino. Not to mention, you have to be excited by the possibility of having both of them at a given point, in case one of them isn’t working. If anyone was questioning whether Chicharito should’ve been considered in any way for the squad, you can forget that now. Hernández has been playing at a low level for a while now, and without taking credit away from his National Team accomplishments or his MLS season thus far, he cannot do what Funes Mori did last night, and that’s what Mexico need: a complete striker. It’s only one official game in Funes Mori’s career with the Mexican NT, but so far, Martino has proven himself right on the striker decision.