An anemic Mexico attack has only scored three goals in the last four World Cup qualifiers, as El Tri tied its first six games of 2013.Let’s not try to cover it up. Mexico’s four points against Jamaica in the two sides’ games in the CONCACAF Hexagonal could very easily have been a big fat zero.
In the Estadio Azteca, Jamaica had chances to score and Jesus Corona came to the rescue, while on Tuesday in Kingston, the Cruz Azul goalkeeper was a strong contender for the man of the match award after a string of second half saves that only strengthened his already swelling reputation.
But, in the end, Mexico didn’t leak a single goal, despite the chances. The real problem over the two legs was at the other end of the pitch. El Tri could only score once in 180 minutes against a team ranked 53rd in the FIFA rankings. Over the last six games, Mexico has scored only five goals and none of them have been against teams ahead of El Tri in the same rankings.
What happened to that offensive force that had the United States defense dizzy in the 2011 Gold Cup final? It certainly hasn’t kicked on.
On Tuesday, Mexico failed to create enough chances. Yes, Javier Hernandez spurned a glorious opportunity near the end of match, but he has scored enough goals with La Verde to be forgiven once in a while.
The balance of the team around Hernandez has not clicked and it has become frustrating to watch El Tri struggle this year to try and find chemistry, especially with the belief that Mexico does have some very talented forwards.
Who should accompany Hernandez upfront has become one of the major talking points in De la Torre’s lineup. With Oribe Peralta out, Aldo De Nigris started on Tuesday, scored the goal and caused some problems for Jamaica.
Moving forward, Giovani Dos Santos could tuck in behind Hernandez to replace De Nigris – who is a good option off the bench to provide a different kind of threat. The speed of the Dos Santos, Hernandez, Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado in combination is frightening, at least on paper.
The other real option is Raul Jimenez, who looks set to star for El Tri for years to come. The 21-year-old plays alongside out-an-out striker in Christian Benitez for Club America and possesses a natural footballing brain in terms of positioning and forming an understanding with teammates. It could be time to give him a start in a meaningful match and use Dos Santos on the right wing.
In fact, the right flank as a whole needs a rethink. Right back is a problem position -- Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre has said as much. Tuesday’s game with Andres Guardado and Carlos Salcido on the left and Severo Meza and Pablo Barrera on the right highlighted the difference in quality between both wings. Whereas Salcido was pushing up - on one raid assisting De Nigris’ goal with a splendid cross - Meza largely stayed back and looked nervous in defense. El Tri needs a right back who can work in tandem with whoever is the right winger and provide something more than Meza is at present in the final third of the pitch.
A potential solution to Mexico’s slow starts and general lack of intensity and relentless pressure – key components of this Mexico side, when it is on-form – is by taking more risks. That could mean replacing Gerardo Torrado in the center of midfield for a player like Hector Herrera, who has the ability to create and poses a genuine threat going forward.
It could be to give more options in the attacking third and players piling on pressure to try and get early goals to open up the game. De la Torre should perhaps back the natural attacking instinct of the side, rather than reining it in.
Whatever it may be, Chepo needs to find the magical offensive formula before the Confederations Cup. If Mexico can’t get out of its attacking rut before then, it won’t be going very far.