Tactically and in terms of playing personnel, the Mexican national team has gone through sweeping changes since Miguel Herrera took the reins in late 2013.
To go through those changes and what to expect from El Tri both against the United States on Wednesday and at the World Cup, Goal USA caught up recently with former America manager Daniel “El Ruso” Brailovsky, who is known for his sharp tactical analysis of the game on Fox Deportes’ "La Ultima Palabra" show.
Brailovsky won three titles for Club America as a player and featured for three different national teams – Argentina, Uruguay and Israel.
Can you briefly describe Herrera’s system?
Very simple. Miguel likes to play very similarly to how Ricardo La Volpe played, with three men in defense: two stoppers and one libero … two very open wingbacks that become offensive wingers and that help in midfield. In the middle, he plays with one holding midfielder and two either side that are box-to-box midfielders that recover the ball and also help out the attack. Then there are two forwards. Sometimes, (Herrera plays) with two center forwards and other times with an attacking midfielder that becomes a center forward.
What are the keys to the system?
At least with how Miguel uses it, the two wingbacks. Very rarely will you see a team in which a wingback is attacking down the right and the other on the left is also high up the field. They take advantage of the wings to try to be fast on the counterattack and make the most of open space. At the moment, with Rafa Marquez in the center, (the opposition) has to be careful because when he has the ball at his feet he can find his teammates at 30 or 40 meters away.
In which positions do you think Herrera still has doubts?
I think he has doubts about one of the center backs, the holding midfielder, a midfielder on the right side and a striker. It depends too on form. Football depends a lot on moments and somebody can come and take the position of someone else if they arrive ahead of the World Cup in better form.
Who should be Mexico’s holding midfielder?
I like (Jose Juan) “Gallito” Vazquez a lot personally for the position, but from what I’ve heard and seen Miguel Herrera likes (Juan Carlos) Medina, who has also done well. It is a question of taste. Medina understands perfectly what Herrera wants from that position.
Does Paul Aguilar have the quality to play right wingback at the World Cup?
Aguilar has played a lot with the national team. He was a reference point for Miguel Herrera’s team in America. He is, without doubt, one of the players going through their best moment, as much for club as country. I don’t see anyone coming and taking that position from him.
What about playing Miguel Layun on the right?
Miguel Layun’s best position is on the left, from where he can cut inside and shoot at goal.
Many in the United States believe Rafa Marquez to be a weak link for Mexico. Do you agree?
No. You saw Rafa Marquez in a different era two years ago (in MLS) and when he hadn’t had a good preseason … he wasn’t at his best. Rafa came back here with (Gustavo) Matosas (at Leon), he had an extraordinary preseason and became champion with his club. He has timing that very few players’ posses in his position and I have no doubt that he’ll be a very important guy in the World Cup.
Which Mexico player that perhaps isn’t known internationally do you think can shine in Brazil?
If they give him chance, (Isaac) Brizuela. He is a player that has all he needs to make a difference at the World Cup.
What are the differences between La Volpe and Herrera tactically?
Tactical differences will be difficult to notice … La Volpe’s team had a four-year process and a preparation that enabled him to (make tactical changes at various points, including playing 19-year-old Andres Guardado against Argentina in 2006). Now, Herrera has had and will have very little time with his team.
Do you think Herrera will deviate at all from the 5-3-2 system?
I think it’ll be complicated to change. But I’d also like to correct something. In my humble opinion, it’s not a 5-3-2, it is a 3-5-2. The difference I see in a team that has a back line of five and a back line of three is that the two wingbacks are attacking from the midfield forward. The main idea (for Herrera’s system) is that there are three men in the defense.