With back-to-back 1-0 defeats, a lack of attacking quality will be alarming to El Tri fans.With its World Cup set to kick off Friday in Natal, Mexico has found a very inconvenient time to revert to the form of last summer's hexagonal nadir.
With two friendly losses in the space of a week and a 194-minute scoreless streak on its back, this El Tri side looks a lot more like the directionless mess under Chepo de la Torre than the Miguel Herrera side that scored nine goals across two games against New Zealand to reach the World Cup and came back from 2-0 down on American soil to draw the USA earlier this year.
While varying degrees of doubt remain over other areas of the field — the defense looks shaky any time it has to deal with multiple forward runs and Herrera still hasn't chosen between Jesus Corona and Guillermo Ochoa in net — it's surprisingly the offense that looks like Mexico's weak spot right now.
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The last striker to score a goal for Mexico was Alan Pulido, who equalized against the USA on April 2. Since then, the closest a Mexican striker has come to finding the back of the net was a Giovani dos Santos shot that hit the post and bounced in off Ecuador keeper Maximo Banguera's face last week for an own goal.
Once the great hope for Mexican soccer, Javier Hernandez has not scored for El Tri since the 2013 Confederations Cup. The similarly hyped Dos Santos hasn't found the net for the senior side in two years. Raul Jimenez has a six-game barren patch of his own stretching back to last year.
Pulido has gotten off to a promising start in his national team career with four goals since his January debut, although he wasted a great chance late in the game against Portugal. But with just three caps to his name, he would be a risky and unlikely gamble for Herrera.
Not even "El Cepillo," Oribe Peralta, has looked good. The flood of goals that sustained Mexico in the dark days of 2013 has dried up, leaving just one goal so far this year — the opener in the 4-0 blowout of South Korea over four months ago — and a forward who was simply uninvolved for long stretches against Portugal.
Not everything can be laid at the feet (or heads) of the strikers. While El Tri have been able to out-pass and out-possess their opponents, the final ball has been missing. Against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico played just 27.6 percent of its passes forward, compared to Bosnia's 30.2 percent. El Tri took 30 percent of their shots from inside the penalty area, compared to Bosnia's 38 percent. Against Portugal, a similar imbalance is revealed: Mexico with 34.3 percent of passes sent forward and 40 percent of shots inside the box compared to marks of 42.1 percent and 50 percent. Against both opponents, Mexico delivered more crosses with worse accuracy.
And of course, no goals.
While Miguel Herrera might lament the loss of Luis Montes or complain about Bosnia's "dirty trick" of playing its starters after both teams had agreed to put out their second string, a group containing Hernandez, Jimenez, Miguel Layun and Carlos Pena should be far more threatening than the display offered in Texas. Against a Portugal side missing Cristiano Ronaldo, not to mention Pepe and Raul Meireles, El Tri just didn't show enough quality for huge portions of the game.
Mexico fans have talked for years about the "fifth game," the next step, taking their rightful place among the elite teams of the world on its biggest stage. If their team can't figure out how to score, they'll have to keep waiting.