Newcomer Alan Pulido scored three and Oribe Peralta had one to lead Mexico to victory following a forgettable World Cup qualifying run in 2013.Following a disappointing 2013 that saw Mexico barely sneak into this summer's World Cup in Brazil, coach Miguel Herrera's team appears to now be headed in the right direction.
Mexico is off to a strong start in the new year, after cruising to a 4-0 victory over World Cup-bound South Korea at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday night.
National team newcomer Alan Pulido had a hat trick in his debut and World Cup qualifying hero Oribe Peralta added one to lift El Tri in the international friendly.
Herrera named an entirely domestic-based team, with his European contingent bound by club commitments. The lone exception was Porto center back Diego Reyes, who was allowed to leave by his club after failing to lock down regular playing time and started for El Tri.
The team also featured some new faces, with Pachuca’s Rodolfo Pizarro, Leon’s Jose Juan Vazquez and Tigres striker Pulido being called up for the first time. Enrique Perez and Miguel Ponce were back with the national team after long absences.
Korea was also without the services of its European-based players, as stars like Bayer Leverkusen's Son Heung-Min and Augsburg's Ji Dong-Won stayed with their clubs. The Asian side's 23-man roster contained 20 players from the Korean league.
Peralta set the tone early for Mexico. He had the closest chance to open up the scoring in the 11th minute when he worked his way past Korea's back line in the 18-yard box, but his shot went just wide left.
Korea countered in the first half with a pair of headers. First, Kang Min-Soo was left wide open from six yards out but bounced his header out for a goal kick. Two minutes later, Kim Kee-Hee cleanly won a header from a corner, but it flew straight at goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera.
While El Tri's defenders had a tough time with marking in the first half, the attacking players stood out for Herrera's squad, and it was the team's 2013 breakout player who helped Mexico get on the board first before halftime.
In the 36th minute, Carlos Pena opened up the field and found Ponce, who delivered a beautiful feed into the box for Peralta. The striker had a nice first touch before spinning around and finding the net with his right foot from about seven yards out.
Peralta now has 11 goals in his last eight games for the national team.
Some of Peralta's magic may have rubbed off on his forward partner seconds before the halftime whistle, as Pulido was in the right place at the right time to score in his first international appearance. The 22-year-old took a pass from Pena in front of the keeper and put in his own rebound.
Holding a two-goal lead, Herrera made three substitutions at the half, taking out captain Rafa Marquez along with Ponce and Pena. Less than 10 minutes into the half, the coach made three more substitutions, including removing Peralta.
With all the changes, Mexico lost the rhythm it showed at the end of the first 45 minutes. The second half got off to a back-and-forth start with neither side getting any real scoring opportunities for about 30 minutes, before Pulido worked his way toward the net only for his shot to be deflected.
The two sides appeared happy to call it a day as the clock ticked down, but Pulido wasn't done as he made it a memorable night in Texas with his second goal of the match in the 85th minute. Isaac Brizuela made a great run past the defense, and delivered a perfect cross which Pulido volleyed home in front of the goal.
And for good measure, Pulido made it a hat trick three minutes later when he put in another rebound, this time off back-to-back saves from South Korea keeper Kim Seung-Gyu.
Mexico will be back in action on U.S. soil on March 5 when it takes on Nigeria. The friendly will give Herrera a chance to take a closer look at European-based players, including Giovani dos Santos, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and perhaps Carlos Vela.
El Tri will have only have a handful of friendlies before the World Cup, where it is grouped with host Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon.