Five points ahead of Mexico's test against Ecuador
MAY 31, 2014 12:37a ET
Mexico eased into the homestretch of its World Cup preparations with a 3-0 victory over Israel at Estadio Azteca on Wednesday. The squad subsequently departed Mexico City after the match to continue their preparations in the United States.
The next test ahead for El Tri: a date with fellow World Cup participants Ecuador in Arlington, Texas on Saturday afternoon. This affair presents a much sterner examination for Miguel Herrera and his players against a side capable of cobbling together a decent display and presenting concerns from time to time. Expect Herrera to monitor a handful of key issues – and several other talking points – as the match unfolds.
1. Can Memo Ochoa stake a claim in goal?
Ochoa will feature from the outset after Jesús Corona exited against the Israelis with a neck injury. Corona is expected to recover from the knock quickly, but the rotation policy provides Ochoa with an opportunity to bolster his bid. He must show well to close the gap with Corona and place himself in contention for the number one job.
2. How will the back three deal with mobile forwards?
Mexico boss Miguel Herrera will field a potential starting trio – Héctor Moreno and Maza Rodriguez either side of captain Rafa Márquez – against the Ecuadorians. The prospect of coping with Felipe Caicedo (admittedly more of a robust player) and Enner Valencia – the top scorer in Liga MX and a persistent threat with his pace if he features –should allow plenty of time to assess the state of the rearguard.
3. Will Andrés Guardado force himself into the starting XI somewhere?
Guardado started against Israel as part of a central midfield trio after Héctor Herrera fell ill prior to the match. The balance in that department didn’t quite work, but Guardado earned another chance to impress against the Ecuadorians at left wingback. This position suits both the defensive sensibilities he cultivated at Valencia and his willingness to push forward to join the attack. If the shift reaps dividends, then the Bayer Leverkusen man could prompt Miguel Herrera to adjust elsewhere to accommodate him in the lineup.
4. Is Héctor Herrera disciplined enough to feature as the holding player in midfield?
Juan Carlos Medina’s ankle injury created a gaping hole in the middle of the park. Herrera will hope to fill the vacant holding role by leaning on his strengths (picking the right passes and stepping into the right areas) and shading his weaknesses (displaying his lack of familiarity with the system and lunging into tackles too earnestly). He must perform well alongside projected World Cup starters Luis Montes and Carlos Peña in this match to hold off a potential challenge from José Juan Vázquez over the next few weeks.
5. Where will Giovani dos Santos operate as a second forward?
Mexico boss Miguel Herrera prefers to play two out-and-out strikers to extract the most out of his 5-3-2 setup. Dos Santos simply won’t play high enough to function in that role. He must devise other ways and locate other areas to make his presence felt in the game. Look for him to drop off Oribe Peralta and look for second balls in good spots as he attempts to influence the game in a role that doesn’t quite suit his strengths.
If dos Santos can function effectively and mine effectively for open spaces, then Herrera may consider starting him instead of Javier Hernandez. Chicharito and Peralta do not have an established track record of producing when paired together in competitive matches, though this system does play to their strengths more noticeably. Dos Santos can wedge himself into the discussion with an assured display against the Ecuadorians.