Carlos Vela's importance and more: Five things from Mexico's win over Honduras

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Pedro Pardo
The Real Sociedad attacker easily found spaces where he could hurt Los Catrachos. Goal looks at that and more takeaways from Thursday's WCQ victory

Thursday night was the first of what Mexico hopes is many wins this summer.

Several players got a chance to play in a qualifier when those opportunities don't always come as Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio prepares for Sunday's match against the United States and the Confederations Cup just after that.

Mexico stays fresh in win ahead of U.S. showdown

Before looking ahead to those upcoming matches, let's look back at five things to take away from Friday's qualifier...


Vela the key for Mexico's attack this summer


Carlos Vela Mexico

The attention might still be drawn by Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, but it's up to Carlos Vela to lead the line for Mexico this summer. Vela didn't score or even provide an assist Thursday but he did spur the attack on a number of times. Coming into Mexico camp in from from his La Liga season with Real Sociedad, the forward may be the most important player for El Tri's attack.

Even if he doesn't take up that made-up role of 'most important', Vela will contribute. On Thursday he was able to easily glide from the right into another space to force Honduras' defenders out of positions of comfort in the first half but then shifted into the middle when Hirving Lozano came on for Giovani dos Santos nearly an hour into the contest. There he continued to be a menace. Vela can do that against better teams, as well. He'll get the chance at the Confederations Cup and if he's able to carry out the job successfully could finally be the player so many Mexico fans dreamed he would for the national team after starring at the youth level.


Luis Reyes' rise continues


Luis Reyes Mexico

He didn't have too much to do defensively and some of his efforts getting forward were well off the mark, but Luis Reyes' overall body of work convinces that Mexico finally has another option at left back after Miguel Layun. The Atlas product has benefited from Tigres left back Jorge Torres Nilo's struggles to get fit but also has carved out his own path by avoiding mistakes and playing good cross-field balls, something essential for Osorio teams.

Just a year ago, "Ricky" was outside the top division, struggling to find a way through. Now he's set to be on a plane to Russia where he could represent his country alongside some of the country's biggest stars.


Alanis makes Gold Cup starting case


Oswaldo Alanis Mexico

Chivas center back Oswaldo Alanis is headed to the Confederations Cup, but it doesn't seem likely that he'll see many minutes in Russia. That could put him in the group that Osorio mentioned who will go to the Confederations but perhaps not play a role there and then will see minutes in the Gold Cup.

"Alanis has seen his chances limited by Hector Moreno's good performances and today he had an extraordinary game," Osorio said after the match.

The opening goal scorer in the win, Alanis is just a year younger than Moreno, and it's difficult to see the Chivas man or anyone else beating out Moreno for his spot if he stays healthy. But the Gold Cup could provide the perfect opportunity for Alanis to stop CONCACAF's top forwards, as he did Thursday with Alberth Elis finding it tough to get room to breathe. He also was able to start the attack by passing between Honduras' forwards and midfielders, applying pressure to find forward Raul Jimenez dropping in. If he's not needed in this summer's first tournament, Alanis could represent his country regularly at the second.


Central midfield crowded


Joanthan dos Santos Mexico

Don't look for Osorio to drop Jonathan dos Santos from central midfield any time soon. The Villarreal midfielder was superb in last week's friendly against Ireland and grew into the game Thursday, eventually serving up an assist from a corner kick and helping control the game in the second half with his passes from the middle. But his struggles in the first half-hour matched the team's overall difficulty getting settled.

Lozano set for Man City move

In the same match, Hector Herrera put in a solid showing, assisting the team's second goal, while Andres Guardado was kept out to stay fit. Having three, four, or five players who can start in the middle of the park is a good problem for Osorio, and perhaps not even a problem at all with the manager's rotations. But how he deals with the capable players will be fascinating to watch throughout the summer.


Mexico only can beat who's in front of it


Juan Carlos Osorio Mexico Mario Martinez Honduras

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The criticism that has been lobbed at Mexico after the game is that Honduras isn't a great opponent and that while El Tri's play was good enough to beat Los Catrachos, it perhaps wouldn't be good enough to beat one of the world's best. That misses the fact that Mexico was playing Honduras, not one of the world's best. It also overlooks a match less than a year ago in the same stadium when Honduras was able to get out of Estadio Azteca with a point in the previous round of World Cup qualification.

Mexico didn't put its strongest side out against Honduras and was still able to get a comprehensive victory, controlling more than two-thirds of possession in a game in which the goal was to move the ball cleanly and find options. A different group of players will face the United States on Sunday. Mexico can only beat the teams it has in front of it. Criticizing the team's indecisiveness in the first half-hour is fair. Taking shots because the opponent is struggling is not.

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