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Tactical breakdown of México’s 1-0 loss to Jamaica

A deeper dive into what exactly went wrong for El Tri Femenil against Jamaica.

Kenti Robles (L) and Monica Vergara, head coach of Mexico react after the match between Mexico and Jamaica as part of the 2022 Concacaf W Championship at Universitario Stadium on July 4, 2022 in Monterrey, Mexico. Photo by Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

México’s defeat against Jamaica may not have been a complete surprise, but the manner in which it happened has left fans some combination of angry at the situation and confused as to how it happened. I can’t offer much help in the former, except to convey that my group chats have kept me somewhat sane. I can offer some help however with how I think this defeat happened.

  • Putting Casandra Montero at center back: Montero is a good player for Chivas and the national team, but putting her at center back was setting the team up for failure. The lack of chemistry between Montero and Rebeca Bernal was evident, especially on the lead up to the game’s only goal. Montero should not be the one to take the fall for this, as she did as well as she could, especially considering she was asked to play an unfamiliar position against a world class opponent. Montero was playing on the right side of the pairing, forcing her to match up against Khadija “Bunny” Shaw, who was attacking from Jamaica’s left. Shaw is a problem for even the most experienced center backs, let alone a converted defensive midfielder. Montero also conceded the handball in the 39th minute that had Havana Solaun converted would have put México even further behind. Unless there’s an undisclosed injury to Cristina Ferral and Greta Espinoza, either one should have started at center back next to Bernal.
  • The midfield was too predictable: The lineup suggested Vergara thought María Sánchez and Myra Delgadillo would do most of the heavy lifting in creating chances from the outside using Diana Ordoñez as a target forward, but Delgadillo couldn’t find her touch for most of the evening, allowing Jamaica to also shift personnel to cover Sánchez more closely. The central midfielders were Stephany Mayor and Caro Jaramillo, which meant the shape of the midfield was inconsistent and not built to make plays. Mayor is usually more of an attacking midfielder, a goal scorer rather than a goal creator, while Jaramillo is a more traditional box-to-box midfielder and not the creative dynamo México needed in the center of the pitch. Only when Jackie Ovalle came on for Delgadillo was México able to open up the outside, but by then tired legs meant that México had lost most of the explosivity that makes them so deadly in the attack.
  • Starting Diana Ordoñez as the lone forward: Ordoñez is an exciting player and one whose upside I think is huge, but starting her as the lone forward with Stephany Mayor playing behind as an attacking midfielder was not the answer. Ordoñez has been impressive with a second forward or with an attacking midfield that can generate lateral space and play her in. For example, she’s been a revelation for the North Carolina Courage at forward, but she’s playing in front of Debinha and Kerolin, both of whom are forwards who can score but also create goals for other people. Mayor is more of a straight-ahead forward, meaning Ordoñez was often double-teamed, especially after the goal where Jamaica was looking to sit back and defend. Ordoñez barely got any touches in the first half as a result.
  • The subs were often too little, and often too late: Swapping out Delgadillo for Ovalle was a good sub, but I thought it was going to happen at half time. Delgadillo struggled, and moving Sánchez over to the right and putting Ovalle on the left opened things up, but by the 51st minute Jamaica had already had a couple of good chances to double their lead and the Mexican forwards were losing the boost they’d gotten from the half. Bringing in Licha Cervantes and Diana García for Jaramillo and Alexia Delgado added the second forward but left the midfield even more of a mess, with Ovalle, Ordoñez, Licha, and Sánchez playing as four forwards with only Mayor and García back. Mayor kept drifting forward, but even then Jamaica’s low line of engagement meant there was little chance of anyone getting past the back four. And the last subs of bringing in Jimena López and Joseline Montoya for Kenti Robles and María Sánchez made no sense to me in a tactical sense. López coming in forced Bianca Sierra out on the right wing, which may have been to counter the threat of Jody Brown drifting out wide to the left and allowing López’ fresh legs to deal with her. Brown was a handful all night, and even more so as the game wore on. Montoya on the right finally allowed Cervantes to pinch in centrally, but it still left the formation as a 4-1-5 or a 4-1-1-4 with all of the creativity having to come from the wings.

Perhaps the most telling quote of the evening came from Jamaica manager Lorne Donaldson after the evening:

Donaldson’s squad looked prepared, calm, and in control for much of the match. Of course an early goal changes the trajectory of every match, but even before it Jamaica never looked ruffled. After the goal, they were able to sit back and exploit these weaknesses and let México punch themselves out while the group chats went wild in frustration.