Torres and Lozano help Mexico secure a spot in Olympics after Canada win
Mexico's Under-23 national team got a smooth 2-0 win over Canada in Rio Tinto Stadium and will play Honduras for a second time in a span of a week to decide the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying champion.
Houston Dynamo's Erick "Cubo" Torres and Pachuca's Hirving "Chucky" Lozano's scored the goals that handed El Tri's fourth win in the competition.
Here are three takeaways after Mexico secured a place in next year's Summer Olympics.
1. Mexico continues to have youth national team success in CONCACAF
The last time El Tri lost a match in the CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers was when Hugo Sanchez was Mexico's senior national team head coach in 2008. The team was knocked out of the Olympic Qualifier tournament in the group stages after a 2-1 loss to Guatemala. Since then, the team has had an impressive record of 10 wins in 10 games.
At the end of the semifinal between Canada and Mexico, where El Tri dominated possession with 66 percent, Mexico's players opted to keep celebrations at a minimum after winning a place in next year's Olympics.
Instead, they huddled in a big circle and reminded to each other that they had barely achieved the first step -- qualifying. Their ultimate goal is to repeat the feat of 2012, winning in the London Olympics, and become the fifth participant to win the gold medal back-to-back in football. The other four teams to accomplish that are Great Britain (1900, 1908 and 1912), Uruguay (1924 and 1928), Hungary (1964 and 1968) and Argentina (2004, 2008).
Still, Mexico hasn't dominated its opponents in the qualifying tournament, but the statistics show a balance that other teams didn't have. For example, Mexico has scored nine goals in and conceded once, against Honduras, the other finalist in the tournament. Overall, the Mexico Football Federation (FMF) should be happy with the progress shown by its youth teams.
In 2015 alone, Mexico's youth national teams have won CONCACAF's U-17 Championship, U-20 Championship, and are one game away from winning the Olympic Qualifying Championship. Since 2010, the amount of regional championships won by Mexico's support the claim that its youth national teams are ahead of the pack in CONCACAF.
The key for Mexico and its new senior national team head coach, Juan Carlos Osorio, will be to translate all of Mexico's recent successes at youth-level into success at the senior-level. That will be critical in World Cup qualifying considering the last cycle, which needed a playoff battle against New Zealand in order to go to the 2014 tournament.
2. Lozano quickly escalating the ranks in El Tri
"Chucky" Lozano is one of Mexico's youngest players in this edition of CONCACAF's Olympic qualifiers. The 20-year-old proved to be Mexico's most tactically aware player in the win against Canada.
Coming from Pachuca where he has more freedom on the pitch, Lozano has had to adjust to a more rigid approach from Mexico. The 4-4-2 system employed by manager Raúl Gutiérrez gives El Tri order, but it prevents footballers like Erick Gutierrez and Lozano to shine as they do at their club, where they play in a 4-3-3 formation.
With this in mind, Lozano sent in crosses with his right and left foot, using an ambidexterity he has rarely shown in Liga MX. Torres' early goal into the first six minutes of the match against Canada came after an excellent left-footed cross from Lozano. The winger also picked up a goal in the same match.
Even though he has only started in two matches (Honduras and Canada), Lozano has picked up two assists and one goal during the tournament.
It has been a memorable year for Lozano. Early in the year, he participated in CONCACAF's U-20 Championship and finished that tournament as the top goalscorer with five goals. In the U-20 World Cup earlier this summer, he scored one goal, and in the semis of the Olympic qualifiers, he was Mexico's best player.
It will not be surprising to see his name on one of El Tri's upcoming senior national team call-ups in the future.
3. "Potro" Gutierrez proves that patience can work in Mexico
Gutierrez's success is a culmination of his previous work with the Under-17 team. He led Mexico's U-17 team to back-to-back World Cup finals in 2011 and 2013. In 2011, Mexico hosted the U-17 World Cup, and won its second U-17 World Cup in front of a sold out crowd at Estadio Azteca.
Several of the players who won that title in 2011 are now with "Potro" in the U-23 team, including midfielder Arturo "Ponchito" Gonzalez and forward Marco Bueno.
While Mexico's senior team changes head coaches almost every year, the longevity of Gutierrez's tenure sets precedence. His tenure is likely to end next year in Rio de Janeiro and he could be responsible for a historic feat if Mexico manages a repeat win in the Olympics. The manager's tactical decisions moving forward will be one to keep an eye on.
Under Gutierrez, Mexico's youth national teams have gone from a 4-3-3 system in 2011 to a 4-4-2 system in 2015, it will be interesting to see if he goes back to the 4-3-3 system in 2016. Considering the number of excellent midfielders and forwards that the team has, it might make sense for the Olympic Games.
Nayib Moran covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @nayibmoran.