Mexico's fringe attackers shine, backline crumbles against Honduras
Amidst a chaotic and historic Tuesday night in CONCACAF's Hexagonal, Mexico stumbled to a 3-2 away loss against Honduras.
El Tri already had a spot guaranteed in the World Cup, but the defeat snapped Mexico's undefeated run in the final round of qualifying. Following the result, El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio will likely feel disappointed that his side couldn't surpass the Hex points record of 23 set by Costa Rica in 2001.
Still, Mexico was able to finish at the top of CONCACAF's qualifying table with 21 points and the World Cup now awaits.
Looking at Mexico's starting XI, it was clear that numerous backup players were being given a chance to shine. Of those fringe options, names such as Oribe Peralta and Raul Jimenez stood out.
There's still plenty of time until Russia 2018, but for now, the future is bright when it comes to Osorio's depth in the attack. Although some may point out that the frontline should have collected another goal or two, most of the blame from the loss should be focused on a different area from Mexico's starting XI.
While the attack thrived, the backline gradually fell apart against Honduras. Defenders Oswaldo Alanis, Hugo Ayala and Nestor Araujo were all underwhelming on Tuesday.
Mexico is in desperate need of more reliable names in the backline, and after the recent defeat, there are now more questions instead of answers for Osorio's defense.
Manager rating (out of 10)
6 -- Everybody knew that Osorio was going to go with a backup roster and an alternative formation, but the manager shouldn't have taken Honduras so lightly. Giving more time for Andres Guardado, Jesus Corona or a start for Diego Reyes and Osorio might have walked away with at least a draw.
Going with a three-man defense, especially away from home, was also a massive risk.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Guillermo Ochoa, 6.5 -- Ochoa should have done a better job for the third goal by Honduras, but were it not for his incredible saves in the first half, the opposition could have had a bigger lead. Also, there was little he could do in the own-goal which bounced off his head.
DF Nestor Araujo, 5 -- Araujo is a favorite of Osorio's, but Tuesday's performance won't do much to help him earn more minutes. The defender was also partially at fault for the last two Honduras goals.
DF Hugo Ayala, 4.5 -- Another lackluster member of the backline. Unfortunately for Ayala, the recent start might have been his last with Mexico before the World Cup.
DF Oswaldo Alanis, 4 -- Of the three-man defense, Alanis was the most quiet. It wasn't much of a surprise to see Osorio substitute him out in the 67th minute.
MF Miguel Layun, 6.5 -- Although a bad offside trap from Layun essentially gifted Honduras its final goal, the high-pressing wing-back was crucial with active distribution of the ball. The Porto player also helped create Mexico's first goal of the match.
MF Jonathan dos Santos, 6 -- A productive yet quiet evening for Dos Santos. Despite his accurate passing, the midfielder was substituted out at halftime after earning a yellow in the 42nd minute.
MF Hector Herrera, 7 -- There's room for improvement, but Herrera is currently Mexico's best defensive midfielder. The 27-year-old was efficient with not only coverage in the center of the pitch, but also with his well-placed assist for Carlos Vela's goal.
MF Jesus Gallardo, 6 -- On Tuesday, Gallardo proved that he has plenty of potential that still needs to be fine-tuned. The energetic player was adventurous with his runs but could have also done a better job halting Honduras' second goal.
MF Carlos Vela, 7.5 -- Vela was one of Mexico's best on Tuesday. The future LAFC player was eager in the attack with his his crafty runs, passing and his goal in the 39th minute.
FW Raul Jimenez, 7.5 -- Hard-working as always, Jimenez provided the assist for Oribe Peralta's lone goal in the first half. The striker was unlucky to not find the back of the net on Tuesday.
FW Oribe Peralta, 7.5 -- The aging veteran proved that he can still make a big impact for El Tri. Peralta might not be a starter in Osorio's best XI, but his goal against Honduras once again helped his case for at least a backup position.
MF Edson Alvarez, 6 -- Was substituted in for Dos Santos during halftime. Alvarez wasn't much of an upgrade over Dos Santos. Tasked with a defensive midfield role, the 19-year-old only managed to collect a few interceptions and tackles.
MF Andres Guardado, 7 -- Was substituted in for Vela during the 59th minute. Guardado was a welcome source of composure and poise in the midfield. Unfortunately, the team captain only had around 30 minutes to help find at least a draw.
FW Jesus Corona, 6 -- Was substituted in for Alanis during the 67th minute. Little to say about Corona. The winger immediately pushed forward but didn't have enough time to alter the result for Mexico.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.