El Tri's best performance of 2013

Posted by Andrea Canales

With the addition of two former Argentines, Mexico defeated the Ivory Coast 4-1 in an international friendly, revealing an El Tri squad capable of potent offense, a key element that had been missing from Mexico's play all year.

The emphatic win and the stylish play that delivered it may have saved the tenure of coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre and at least for a brief while quieted some of the doubts that have been generated by the team’s poor play to this point.

De la Torre wasted no time adding the experience of Christian "Chaco" Gimenez to Mexico's roster soon after the citizenship of Gimenez became official. The experienced midfielder started the match and seemed to fit right in, making attacking runs and putting in precise passes. He was indirectly responsible for the 9th-minute opening goal, as his position to receive Oribe Peralta's pass in front of goal was so dangerous that it forced Ivory Coast defender Artur Boka into a risky block that resulted in an own-goal.

It's unfair to say that Gimenez or Damien Alvarez, who also played well once he entered the match, saved Mexico. They contributed to a united team effort that was better on every front than Mexico has generally produced this year.

Peralta scored the second goal, a scorcher of a shot that announced to everyone in the stadium that he has truly returned from his injury troubles. He also put the finishing touch on Mexico’s third goal, a play built up by Giovani Dos Santos in the final minute of the half.

Perhaps expecting the distracted, unfocused El Tri squad that has often appeared on the field of late, the Ivory Coast players seemed alternately stunned and befuddled by the dynamic performance of Mexico.

During halftime of the match in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium, the song blasted over the venue's speakers seemed to encapsulate the change evident in Mexico's play.

Work it harder, make it better
Do it faster, makes us stronger

Jesus Corona was solid in goal, though he could do nothing to prevent the Ivory Coast from scoring via a penalty kick in the second half. Gerardo Torrado was whistled for a handball in the box, and Didier Drogba put the spot-kick chance away well.

Corona's dependability in goal, as well as the Mexican defense in general, have been bright spots during De la Torre’s time with Mexico. The midfield and the attack, however, have been dismal -- with few exceptions -- time and again.

This time, however, it wasn't just one enterprising player, such as Dos Santos, having a good game. Peralta was probably the most impressive, but the team was a revelation as a whole, with cohesive movement of the ball, and consistently probing possibilities to create goals.

El Tri's black uniforms seemed to be ninja outfits, based on how the players managed to beat an athletic Ivory Coast squad to nearly every ball, how well they anticipated runs and weighed passes to the right people at the right time.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising that the game’s final goal was claimed by Mexico. Minutes after Alvarez had gift-wrapped a pass to Angel Reyna, who managed to head it wide even though he was wide open, Reyna found redemption in the 90th minute. This time, a pass from Diego Reyes gave him an opportunity, and he did not waste it.

Perhaps De la Torre’s new humble attitude helped changed things around for Mexico. It might have been that the critics and media have provoked the players to rally around their embattled coach. Perhaps the new naturalized players brought needed energy to the squad. Maybe they just pushed everyone on the squad to prove their level. Or perhaps it was just the combination of all those factors and some unknown ones as well.

For whatever reason -- or reasons -- this is the best Mexico has looked all year, and those ingredients need to be bottled and kept for the next match when it really matters.


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