Most of the discussion in the buildup to Mexico’s 1-1 draw with Denmark on Wednesday night focused on the players who were not in Arizona.
Those types of sideshows occur when most of the top players in the pool aren’t involved in the game at hand. Carlos Vela drew the majority of the headlines with his decision to reject a callup for the Hexagonal opener against Jamaica next Wednesday, but the absences of Giovani dos Santos, Andrés Guardado, Javier Hernández and Héctor Moreno due to club commitments also warranted some scrutiny.
In the absence of those vital fixtures, the selected players – a mix of a few regulars in defense and a host of hopefuls trying to improve their standing the pool ahead of a busy year filled with opportunities to contribute – buckled down, ignored the chatter and tackled the task ahead.
“This team took the job very seriously,” Mexico coach José Manuel de la Torre said through a translator. “They know it’s a process and they did the best they could to give a great performance.”
Although the lofty superlative doesn’t fit this particular display, de la Torre will walk away fairly satisfied with how the night unfolded. The positive work in obtaining and retaining possession carried most of the hallmarks of how de la Torre wants his team to play. The poor quality in the final third and the susceptibility on the counter present problems likely cured or mitigated with the introduction of the missing stars – minus the reluctant Vela, of course – into the starting XI.
“I need to review the game before I can give a clear analysis,” de la Torre said. “But, in general terms, I liked it. There were more things that were down to individual details. We need to look at all of that calmly and see it clearly. We need to see what we get from each player in terms of what we’ve asked from them.”
De la Torre will examine the information gathered from all of the players involved this affair to sort through his modest number of selection quandaries before naming his squad in the next few days.
On at least one account, the night provided clarity. Villarreal winger Javier Aquino all but resolved the issues on the right flank for the moment with his man of the match display. His movement and his pace flummoxed Denmark left back Mikkel Kirkeskov all night and provided the best avenue for Mexico to exploit. It came as no surprise when a clever bit of positioning and a timely burst tempted Kirkeskov into conceding the penalty kick Marco Fabian converted in the second half. If he can replicate this type of showing over the next few months, then de la Torre will have found a more direct compliment to the canny Guardado on the left.
Unfortunately for de la Torre, he did not obtain such neat solutions to the concerns in central midfield and at right back.
Future FC Porto midfielder Héctor Herrera started alongside Carlos Salcido without totally convincing that he deserved the same spot against Jamaica. His performance lacked the ambition and the fluidity preferred to complement the former Fulham man, but those modest flaws did not exact any real toll in this affair. Salcido’s continued composure and presence in the department and the absence of enticing alternatives may inspire some patience as the Olympic hero attempts to turn potential into influence, though.
Paul Aguilar featured at right back over previous first-choice Severo Meza (now starting regularly in midfield for Monterrey) in the wake of encouraging performances with Club América, but he did not hit those heights here. His spotty service from good positions and his penchant for allowing the opposition to counter may inspire a rethink about how to approach the position against a Jamaica team capable of exploiting space on the break.
De la Torre will hash out the particulars about those spots and relish the arrival of reinforcements as the focus shifts toward World Cup qualifying duties. The arrival of the four European-based players will facilitate the implementation of the preferred 4-2-3-1 (the dalliance with the 4-4-2 here provided few dividends in the final third and forced a halftime shift back to the usual operating principles) formation and supply the extra bit of quality missing against the capable Danes.
“They’re part of the team,” de la Torre said. “They play outside of the country, but they also have time working with us. They have a nice dynamic. They are coming, like anybody, to help the team and add their grains of sand to the team. We’re going to play against Jamaica in Mexico. We have to be great at our home. We have to give a great performance at home.”
This final tuneup laid much of the groundwork necessary to meet that goal next week. There is work still to be done before the Jamaicans visit Estadio Azteca, but this friendly offered an encouraging sign that this group – augmented by its returning stars – will not let its attention slip as next Wednesday approaches.