Duenas and Pizarro come to Mexico's rescue in puzzling win vs. Senegal
Second half goals from Jesus Duenas and Rodolfo Pizarro handed Mexico's national team a 2-0 victory over Senegal in Miami in El Tri's first match of 2016.
The Mexico side -- made up exclusively of Liga MX-based players -- struggled for cohesion for large swatches of the game, but extended coach Juan Carlos Osorio's winning run as coach to three out of three.
Here are some takes from the game:
1. Duenas, Lozano spare Mexico's blushes
The mission going into this game was for Mexico coach Osorio to see which of his Liga MX-based players are closing in on making his squad when the Europe-based legion are also available.
On Wednesday's evidence, those that didn't play actually got some bonus points. There was little to be really positive about from the Mexican point of view, although when you play a Senegal 'B' team the conclusions a coach can make are unlikely to be "infinite" and "immense," as Osorio said they would be in the pregame news conference. Ironically, it was Tigres duo Jurgen Damm and Jorge Torres Nilo -- the players closest to starting games when the full squad is available to Osorio -- who seemed to struggle.
Torres Nilo may well have been sent off in the first half had this been a World Cup qualifier, while Damm had no luck down the right wing. Right-back Gerardo Flores did his chances harm rather than good, as did Monterey holding midfielder Jesus Zavala, while first half center-backs Yasser Corona and Nestor Araujo failed to show the confidence required on the ball playing out from the back.
The best outfield players were debutant winger Hirving Lozano and goal-scorer Duenas. Lozano bristled with energy and looked dangerous cutting in from the left wing onto his natural right foot. The Pachuca youngster set up his club teammate Rodolfo Pizarro for Mexico's second in the 87th minute, after Tigres' Duenas burst forward from his central midfield position to head in from a Candido Ramirez cross and hand Mexico the lead in the 73rd.
A mention should also be made for Leon's Luis Montes. He was key in Mexico's first two chances and looks to be back in the national team mix after injury cruelly kept him out of the 2014 World Cup. Unfortunately, Montes came off at half-time with another apparent injury. Osorio said after the match he hoped it wasn't serious.
However, the fact this Senegal came across the Atlantic, created chances and would argue it deserved a draw tells you Mexico wasn't at its best.
2. El Tri struggles against Senegal's style
A quick, direct, counter-attacking team that was happy to sit back, soak up pressure and wait for errors caused problems for El Tri on Wednesday. Sound familiar? While Mexico should really coast past Canada and into the "Hex" phase of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying next month, the game against Senegal highlighted the weak spot this team has against the type of tactics and game plan the African team displayed.
It was Mexico's inability to get past sides that defended staunchly and compacted space between the lines that eventually led to coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre exiting the national team, before Miguel Herrera's side at last summer's Gold Cup had the same problem. In the end, Senegal's resistance collapsed and the team looked tired as things wore on.
Mexico may now have gone 270 minutes under Osorio without conceding a goal, but that was more down to poor Senegal finishing on Wednesday than solid defense from his team.
3. "Meaningless friendly" charge could be valid
With a poor turnout -- 15,588 -- an opposition made up of young, inexperienced players and a pitch inside a baseball stadium in less-than-ideal conditions, it wasn't difficult to understand Chivas owner Jorge Vergara's decision to only let one of his players attend the camp.
Ages of Senegal players vs. Mexico: 23, 27, 29, 22, 22, 20, 21, 20, 20, 20, 23- Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) February 11, 2016
Average: 22.5 years
The "partidos moleros" (meaningless friendlies to earn the federation money) charge has been around Mexican soccer for years and centers around games in the United States. Wednesday's match in Miami was a case in point. How important are these games? Should Mexico be playing them? And is it fair to the Liga MX to be asking players like Nestor Araujo, Jesus Molina and Candido Ramirez to play domestic matches -- Santos Laguna plays Monterrey on Friday -- 48 hours after a national team game?
The debate was already surging ahead in Mexican newspapers and sports programs ahead of the game. It will likely be a talking point in Thursday morning's sports pages.
Vergara was clearly wrong to agree to the friendly and then not allow his players to attend because of Chivas' poor form, but he may just have opened the floodgates. A serious discussion to settle the debate over these games is required, without turning it into the back-and-forth slanging match of recent days.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.