Mexico had a tough time to defeat a very defensive Puerto Rico, but were still able to get a 1-0 win that qualifies them to the semifinal of the U15 CONCACAF Championship. Mexico dominated the match, but weren’t able to create as many opportunities as past games and although they had a deserved win, overall they had their worst performance so far in the tournament. They will now face off again against Jamaica, who they defeated 2-1 with a last minute goal in the group stage.
The first half started with Mexico coming out with most of the starters from the first two match ups. As expected, Mexico took control of the ball against a Puerto Rico team that sat back and waited for counter attacks. A left footed shot from Nicolas Aguilar was easily saved by Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper, Ruben Rosado. Later, a shot from Viggo Ortiz was almost deflected into the net by PR’s defense. Mexico looked to have scored a goal, but it was ruled to be offside. While Mexico dominated possession, they had a tough time breaking down a PR team that had a clear game plan and took advantage of Mexico’s constant need to come out playing from the back, as well as their constant intentions of dribbling through every defender. Puerto Rico’s Matthew Belgodere got off a left footed shot that forced Mexico’s goalkeeper Santiago Lopez to make a save and clear the ball away in the first true chance for PR. Then after a good long ball chance, Jose Mancilla had a great opportunity for a one-on-one before he got tripped by Isaiah Vicentti. It was a clear last man challenge, and thus Vicentti got red carded and PR went down to 10 players. Off of the ensuing free kick, Gilbeto Mora got off a right footed shot that forced a brilliant save from Rosado. In a clear example of the terrible mistakes that this Mexico side makes, the ensuing corner kick got cleared by PR’s defense all the way to the other side of the field, where Alfonso Arguelles got to the ball but immediately tried to start playing it from the back and ended up losing the ball to Ryan Basabe. This allowed a great counter attack when he passed it to Gian Girald, who got off a left footed shot that Lopez had to come out and save. Mexico answered with a great ball into the area where Gael Garcia got his left footed shot past Rosado, but Mauricio Ramos was able to clear the ball before it got into the net. The first half ended and even when Mexico had dominated possession, they had created too few opportunities and were having a tough time with their offensive game.
The second half started with Mexico once again going on the offensive from the start, because of their need to get a goal to settle things. Once again Mexico struggled against a well placed Puerto Rican defense. A great cross int o the area from Aguilar found Mancilla, who got a close range header that was incredibly saved by Rosado. A good attack ended with Aguilar getting a right footed lob over the goal. Later a cross into the area was volleyed by Aguilar, but it went well wide. Mexico kept a monopoly on possession, but they just weren’t creating any dangerous opportunity even with the player advantage, as PR did a good job of pressing them and knowing they would eventually cough up the ball. After the pause for a cooling break, Mexico took advantage of a mistake by PR defense to finally open the scoring. After a bad clearance, Mora got the ball and made a great pass into the area to Adrian Villa, who got past his defenders and hit a low, right-footed shot past Rosado and into the net to give Mexico the 1-0 lead. Besides the bad clearance, Puerto Rico’s defense had failed to notice Villa’s run and he got the ball and the great opportunity to bury his chance. Even with the lead, Mexico kept pushing for another goal. Needing a goal, Puerto Rico started to push more into attack and although it opened the side for counters, Mexico failed to create any. A cross into the area went into the path of Maximo Reyes, who got off a shot that was blocked by Rosado in a good save. A left footed shot from way outside the area forced Rosado to make another save. Off a free kick, Basabe got off a great right footed shot that forced Lopez to make a great save. It was Puerto Rico’s best chance of the match, and Mexico’s failure to kill the match had made them risk if off of a set piece. Mexico would have no more worries however and got the result, but overall it was by far their poorest performance in the tournament.
For a second consecutive match, Mexico dominated possession but failed to create much offensively. Unlike their match against Jamaica where they created chances but had bad aim, against Puerto Rico they failed to do so and although Puerto Rico’s goalkeeper Rosado came up big, overall he had less saves than Jamaica’s goalkeeper did. Mexico still continues to have the same problems of losing balls because of the constant need to come out playing with ball in the back, and the pressing from a better team could spell danger. Mexico will now have to face Jamaica, who although they dominated them on Tuesday, Jamaica beat Honduras by a much better score, 4-1, in their Quarterfinal match. Mexico needs to improve but more importantly, Coach Jose Antonio Castro needs a better plan to face the tougher teams in the Semifinal and Final if they get through Jamaica.