PASADENA, Calif. — Mexico is through to the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario, but its 2-0 victory against Jamaica showed that the team still has weaknesses it must correct.
The Mexican federation's goal for this tournament - and the one the team says it has adopted - is to finish in the top three. That's something El Tri won't be able to do if they defend like they did Thursday night. Juan Carlos Osorio's decision to use three center backs against Uruguay's two-man forward line paid dividends in the opener, which Mexico won 3-1. It was less organized against the Reggae Boyz and was fortunate to escape with the eighth clean sheet of Osorio's nine-match tenure.
"We leave satisfied, but obviously with the task of reviewing everything that happened in the game, all the options that they had like ours, but we're still satisfied with how the team worked," the head coach said in the news conference after the match.
Maybe the issues at the back can be put down to midfielder Andres Guardado, one of the Americas' best two-way players, missing the Group C match because of a suspension. Or perhaps it's just the difference in quality between having Rafa Marquez and Yasser Corona playing center back. While Mexico came away with the victory without too much sweat, there were clear weaknesses exposed in the triumph. Jamaica forward Clayton Donaldson should have finished at least one of the handful of clear-cut chances he had. But the Birmingham City forward was unable to beat Guillermo Ochoa, as the Mexico goalkeeper kept a clean sheet.
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's early headed goal made things easier on Mexico, and maybe the team let down its guard a bit too much with an early lead. Jamaica used its speed and athleticism to stretch Mexico, ending the match with multiple shots on goal that called Ochoa into action. There were too many defensive breakdowns
"For me, the three most clear chances (for Jamaica) were because of individual errors we made," Osorio said. "It also seems to us that Yasser Corona's block and Guillermo Ochoa's save are as important as the goals Oribe or Javier scored."
Ultimately, Mexico's attack did what it needed to do. The stronger unit pulled Mexico up and made sure the match wasn't going to slip away. Hernandez had the opener and Oribe Peralta added an insurance goal in the 81st minute. Those goals are reminders that this is a very powerful team. Hirving Lozano continues to add flavor to the attack when he enters as a substitute, and did so again in kick-starting the play that led to Peralta's finish.
But even after Mexico got its second goal of the night, Ochoa had to make a save in the 84th minute, his fourth of the night, and Dever Orgill's late effort nearly dipped below the goalkeeper's crossbar. The Jamaica attack let Mexico's back line off the hook as Yasser Corona was beaten several times in the error and the Reggae Boyz had a handful of penalty shouts.
"We’ve got to do a lot of things better," said Miguel Layun, a defender by trade who has played in midfield during this tournament. "Without doubt, the most important thing will be to analyze film, calmly watch the match and try to correct these errors. We have to take more advantage of the possession we have, I think we have to move the ball better against teams of this quality that have such quick players who can counterattack."
Mexico is a team with depth, even at the back, but it won't encounter Donaldson's wastefulness against teams like potential quarterfinal opponent Chile. More than 83,000 fans at the Rose Bowl can celebrate a well-earned victory, but Osorio is the first to realize that there's still more work to do before his side lands among the elite in this tournament.