Martino accomplishes Mexico mission with big wins, imposing style of play

Thearon W. Henderson
The manager is two for two after a convincing win over Paraguay once again showed the team is grasping the style of play he desires

Mexico is two for two in the Tata Martino era. 

No, not in victories, though El Tri moved its record to 2-0-0 since the Argentine took over with a 4-2 victory against Paraguay on Tuesday, but in going up 3-0 on opponents. This time, it took less than 25 minutes as Mexico came out firing and was rewarded with an insurmountable lead midway through the first half. 

Paraguay didn't help its case, with defender Bruno Valdez heading an attempted clearance straight to Jonathan dos Santos on the opening goal and Gustavo Gomez putting the ball into his own net for Mexico's second.

The third, like in last week's game against Chile, was straight out of the Martino playbook. Pressure helped Mexico win the ball back, Erick Gutierrez held off his player to put a pass in to Dos Santos who used his first touch to play in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez for the third with Luis Montes adding a late fourth to cap off the night. 

It was another example of the team playing how Martino wants it to. Already this team is looking like some of his previous squads - at least like Atlanta United if not Barcelona - with its seamless transitions from defense to attack and with his players concentrated on keeping the ball at their feet, keeping possession and getting it back as quickly as possible when a mistake is made.  

Getting a style of play hammered into players' minds can be much more difficult on the international level, where training sessions are far less frequent. That's why the manager said prior to making his debut that the most important thing is for his team to understand how he wants it to function. 

"To aspire for a fifth game, I think we have to have a style of playing. That’s what will give us fundamentals to dream about what can happen in a hypothetical World Cup," he said before the Chile game. "Today, that’s what I’m worrying about most, being able to quickly set up an idea of play that after the team might be able to maintain." 

After the team's showing Tuesday, the manager said he can be satisfied with his team's desire to learn his system and are understanding the lessons he's teaching.

"I’m pleased to see something that I can’t say I didn’t expect, which is the disposition of the players, and I’m also pleased by the fact that they’ve incorporated an idea of play so quickly, they've taken on how we want to play. I think that showed today," Martino said.

Mexico won't be able to maintain its streak of consecutive matches with a 3-0 lead, nor will its winning streak last forever. The way it is playing, however, could last. Understandably, many of the veterans who were involved in the first game of the FIFA window and some of whom started in Tuesday's contest (like Chicharito and Nestor Araujo) are catching on more quickly than others.

Miguel Layun Mexico Paraguay 2019

It's not only the old guard playing like Tata wants, though. Erick Gutierrez stood out Tuesday both in attack and defense, and while neither made a huge impact on the stat sheet, young wingers Diego Lainez and Roberto Alvarado gave the team loads of width to work with and provided lanes for the fullbacks to come into in attack. 

"I think we have only been a few days, but, yeah, we’ve understood the manager’s style of play," Alvarado said after the match. "I think everyone worked really well and did things as well as possible. That’s what the manager really is asking for."

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There's still plenty to polish before the Gold Cup. Paraguay's second goal showed a young player letting his concentration slip with Jorge Sanchez turning agonizingly slowly before losing the ball and allowing Derlis Gonzalez a free shot on Raul Gudino.

The Chivas goalkeeper couldn't make up for an earlier error and conceded. Neither of those players is likely to be in the XI for the continental championship, however, and those are the sorts of mistakes Martino mentions when he says he wants the young players in this camp to learn on the field. 

The coach has shown his experience by putting a priority on telling his team the type of soccer he wants his team to play and asking them to execute. So far, they're showing a grasp of how Martino will ask, no, demand of them as he looks to take El Tri first to regional glory then to success on a much larger stage.