Mexico started their campaign in the 2023 CONCACAF U-15 Championship with a solid win over Saudi Arabia by a 5-0 score. A great start allowed for a quick 3-0 lead that Mexico held on to even being down to 10 players. Mexico climb to the top spot of Group A with 3 points and a +5 goal difference, just above Jamaica, who also have 3 points but only a +1 goal difference. El Tri continue their activity on Monday when they face El Salvador.
The match started with a Mexico team that went on the attack immediately. Two minutes in, Nicolas Aguilar would make a great run and send a cross that a wide open Jose Mancilla volleyed past Saudi Arabia’s goalkeeper, Mousa Aleid, and into the net to score and give Mexico the 1-0 lead. Mexico continued their good start and after a great long ball, Gilberto Mora fired a shot past Aleid for the goal that placed Mexico 2-0 on top. The goal came in the 9th minute and although the U-15 category has shorter matches, (35 minutes per half), it was still a quick lead.
Mexico came close to scoring again when Aguilar lobbed a ball over Aleid only to hit the post, and although Gael Garcia was wide open with an empty net, he headed the ball wide in a bad miss. After getting a pass in the area, Gilberto Mora’s shot got past Aleid to give Mexico the 3-0 lead. They had complete control over the match over a Saudi team that couldn’t find themselves on the field. After the cooling break, Mexico settled down a little in the heat of the Dominican Republic. Viggo Ortiz got past his defenders in the area and fired off the post, just inches from Mexico’s 4th. The halftime whistle blew and Mexico took a comfortable lead to the break.
The second half had Sauidi Arabia making a number of substitutions (3) to try to improve things. The AFC invited team came out better than in the first half and forced Mexico’s goalkeeper, Santiago Lopez, to make a couple of saves, including one in which he got injured after pushing the ball just prior to a Saudi forward getting to a cross. Mexico would have to make three subs themselves including Maximo Reyes, which would be an important detail later. Minutes into it, Reyes made a harsh tackle and got a yellow card. After the cooling break, Mexico started to gain more possession and once again control the match.
They came close to scoring when a cross was deflected into the path of Luis Gamboa, but his shot was miraculously saved by a Saudi defender, who deflected it wide. Later, a long ball in the area was met by a terrible mistake from Aleid who came out as Mora had the ball, and not only did the Saudi keeper miss him, but he took out a Saudi defender in the process. This allowed Mora to move toward an empty net, where he would then cross the ball to Juan Rangel, who found a wide open Maximo Reyes for the ball into the empty net and Mexico’s 4th of the night.
Minutes later though, Reyes would go from hero to villain, when he made a very harsh tackle and earned his second yellow card, thus a red. Replays showed that the ref had made a mistake and the foul should have been a straight red, not a second yellow. With the man advantage, Saudi Arabia went on the offensive and Mexico sat back with counter attacks that were very effective. Rangel got on a possible 1 vs 1, but he lobbed the ball over the the keeper and the goal altogether. Minutes later though, a long ball that surprised Saudi Arabia forced a defender to trip and this time, Juan Rangel got a better 1 vs 1 that allowed him to give Mexico the 5-0 lead.
After Mexico had lost two friendlies against Peru, there were some doubts coming into this 2023 edition of the CONCACAF U-15 tournament, but Mexico had a great performance to start their campaign. Like in the 2023 U-17 CONCACAF tournament and even the 2023 Gold Cup with the senior team, a fast start was key as Mexico took a 2-0 lead before the 10th minute mark, which allowed the team to dictate the pace of the match. They took advantage of this and were the deserved winners. Saudi Arabia, one of two invited AFC teams along with Qatar, were expected to be one of the toughest teams of the group, but were outclassed by Mexico. El Tri now look to their match against El Salvador, who lost in their debut against Jamaica by a 1-0 score. With the earlier kickoff time, it will be a tougher match for Mexico in terms of the climatic conditions in the tough Caribbean heat, but if Mexico keep up this level, they will be favorites to continue leading the group.