HOUSTON — Mexico came away with a victory Wednesday in a friendly against Ghana as its alternate side prepares for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Elias Hernandez scored from the spot, his first goal in a national team shirt in nearly seven years, to give El Tri a 1-0 win. And while the team saw off a quality African side, albeit one testing out its own depth, there were plenty of things lacking from the Mexican team.
The chances did come, but Mexico wasn't able to finish them off. With Angel Sepulveda generally playing in the middle of the front three for Luis Pompilio Paez, who is leading the team while Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has the top group in the Confederations Cup, this side lacked a presence up top. Hernandez had an up-and-down game, sometimes surging forward to trouble the Ghana back line, and Rodolfo Pizarro on the other wing did the same. But Pizarro isn't accustomed to playing in that position, generally playing further back and creating from the center with Chivas, and Hernandez had several mis-hits.
Still, the team has plenty of hope that they'll be able to find the back of the net when the regional tournament begins in July. For one, few opponents in CONCACAF will be as staunch as Ghana's back line. And for another, Pizarro's club teammate, forward Alan Pulido, looks made to fill the role El Tri was missing in Space City.
"Having top forwards is fundamental in football," Pompilio Paez said after the match. "Alan is an experienced player, a payer who practically is very close to Javier, Raul, Oribe Peralta. He could’ve been at the Confederations Cup, but having four No. 9s would be difficult. This is the cup for him. We’ve had him in a lot of friendly games.
"He’s really hoping that he can give us a lot. He’s a player who looks for the ball, who gets into games and can score goals. He’s able to hold up play. And he comes in in really good form in this last tournament, being bicampeon with Chivas, a star for Chivas. That’s what we lacked tonight and we’re going to improve."
The temporary coach also mentioned that the defense will be strengthened thanks to the addition of players currently with the top team, like left back Luis Reyes and U-20 star Edson Alvarez. The defense could use the help. Ghana's pace left several defenders wheezing as the Black Stars put nine shots on goal and 12 more off the target.
Mexico kept the clean sheet thanks to goalkeepers Moises Munoz and Jesus Corona, who both will hope the defense improves and look forward to facing teams with less speed. Corona said after the match that he was confident in his teammates' ability to cut down chances from the opposition
"We've got a big responsibility but we also know that we have a chance to show ourselves," Corona said. "If we come to the Gold Cup, it's to win it. Of course, we have to show game-by-game that we're capable of doing that."
If that happens, the attack and how it works together will be Mexico's biggest concern. The tournament could be a huge opportunity for Pulido, with the Mexican federation unable to convince Club America to release Oribe Peralta. The team needs someone to make sure the chances generated by the midfield, which includes Jesus Molina, Jesus Duenas, Orbelín Pineda, Erick Gutierrez and maybe even Pizarro. The opportunities will be there, it's up to someone to put their mark on the tournament by becoming Mexico's goal scorer.