At the risk of reading too much into a 90 minute friendly which featured plenty of inexperienced national team players, Mexico were far from impressive during a 0-0 draw with Guatemala on Wednesday night. At Camping World Stadium in Orlando, El Tri had plenty of the ball but just weren’t able to break down their Central American opposition.
In a World Cup year for Mexico, the friendly is one of several opportunities that manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino will be able to learn roster lessons and fine-tune his approach through exhibitions and official matches.
After Wednesday’s draw, here are three takeaways that stand out from the match.
Different roster, same ol’ Mexico
No matter the fact that the young roster only had two players walking in with more than 10 senior national team appearances, and no matter that Martino was unavailable to travel to the match due to recovering from an eye procedure, Mexico looked a lot like the team that had issues in World Cup qualifying. Plenty of possession, a good deal of horizontal passes and switching the field, but in the final third…not really much to say.
“We had the ball possession and we dominated the match. Today, we only missed the opportunities to score,” said assistant Jorge Theiler afterwards, who stepped in for Martino.
There was a noteworthy amount of energy from the eager starting XI that was an average age of 23.5, but regardless of their drive, it led to rare instances of danger on net. Of Mexico’s 19 shots, only two hit the target. According to TruMedia/StatsPerform, El Tri’s long list of shots were only able to create a total xG tally of 0.71. Guatemala, like many other CONCACAF opponents, were more than happy to gradually sit back and absorb Mexico’s pressure.
Up top, attackers like Santiago Gimenez, Alejandro Zendejas, Roberto Alvarado and Sebastian Cordova all struggled with connecting. Although most of these names all had a couple of highlight-worthy moments, they rarely worked well collectively — especially with Gimenez as the striker. With no real cohesion, Guatemala had no problems earning a shutout.
From Mexico’s last six games in all competitions, that’s now just four goals scored. In a match that should have showcased some answers to some of Mexico’s problems in attack, it looked like more of the usual problems that were seen earlier this year.
Arsenal’s Flores has more to prove
Once again, it’s not ideal to judge a player solely off one performance. In the case of Marcelo Flores, an 18-year-old Arsenal academy product, there’s also the caveat of the young Mexican-Canadian only having 29 minutes on Wednesday.
That said, it was fair to expect more of Flores after his latest comments about his national team future.
Although he didn’t play poorly, there was almost a surprising amount of caution from the player who recently said: “Canada also wants me, but I think that if Mexico calls me to the World Cup, I think that’s where I want to be.”
Essentially, he is putting more pressure on himself and on Mexico to consider him for Qatar 2022 after just one senior appearance before the latest friendly.
Flores’ response on the pitch was fairly average at best. In desperate need of a risk-taker or game-changer, Mexico were instead given a timid performance from Flores and not near anything that a World Cup-bound player would deliver.
The teenager has an immense amount of potential and will likely make his Premier League debut soon, but at the time being, he still has much more to prove on the international level before earning a place for Qatar.
Mexico’s regular starters can breathe a sigh of relief
Heading into Wednesday, there was a growing excitement from Mexican soccer fans and media about the alternate roster that Martino had called up. Almost as if he had finally given into the endless complaints about younger and backup options that hadn’t been given enough attention by the manager, Martino utilized the latest friendly to test out some new faces.
After the 90 minutes on Wednesday, it’s difficult to say that any of the players made significant moves up the depth chart. Of the most impressive names at first glance, right midfielder Alejandro Zendejas was highly involved in the build-up of plays and great with tracking back. Behind him, right-back Kevin Alvarez also stood out with his daring runs down the flank.
Outside of them, perhaps only central midfielders Luis Chavez and Erick Sanchez were standouts, but they also should have created more chances going forward.
For Martino’s usual and heavily-criticized options, this is all fantastic news. In a game that should have been a straightforward win against a CONCACAF minnow, several of Mexico’s starters failed to impress.
That said, some of these backups might still get chances going forward.
“It wasn’t the last chance for the players, that is what Gerardo Martino decides. We still have games,” Theiler said.
And it will be in those subsequent matches this summer that the entire player pool will need to improve if Mexico aims to make a splash in Qatar.