Mexico changed for the better

Posted by David Faitelson

... And the next morning, like a dream, everything changed: the attitude, the reviews, the dreams and even the ambitions.

Is soccer as simple as the results of a friendly game on a hot night in August in the outskirts of New York? If it isn't, it sure looks that way.

But we can't get caught up in exaggerations. Just as you can't call them the worst team in the world when things aren't going well, neither can you take to the streets with flags to celebrate something you don't have. Mexico played better soccer, it had better possession, rhythm, creativity, timing, passing and shooting accuracy and it took full advantage of an opponent like the Ivory Coast, who left much to be desired, to win the game by four goals, in addition to increasing its confidence and morale for the tests which will lie ahead.

It's true that Mexico showed another side on the field. That it didn't have to do much to show improvement, is also true.

A credit goes not just to the standout players: Angel Reyna, Christian "El Chaco" Gimenez, Fernando Arce, Giovani dos Santos and Oribe Peralta, among others, but also to the tactical decisions of the Mexican coach. Jose Manuel de la Torre laid the field with a more aggressive style and from then on, the team got the message, knew what to do as a group, and as it should be, Mexico gave its best performance of the year. Also, "Chepo" laid the field in the best possible way: He let the playmakers make the plays under those conditions, in which Mexico kept its cool, the team also passed the ball well, changing up the rhythm, and going deep in the opposing end, to give it the night it badly needed. It isn't rocket science. It was, clearly and simply, the type of soccer which the Mexican national team can and should play.

I think that most readers will agree that "El Chaco" Gimenez passed the test on his first night in "green" -- which was black -- and wearing jersey No. 14. But even that isn't remarkable. "El Chaco" provided something which he has delivered during a long and fruitful career in Mexico: professionalism, commitment, ability to play good soccer and mental discipline. Adding "Chaco" to the Mexican national team was not a huge mental leap.

Individual shout-outs would have to include Angel Reyna's current streak; he is a player who is playing with intelligence, showing immense joy for the game and leadership. Let's hope he can stay at that level for a long time. Always a player with many technical gifts, but who has been mentally lackluster. The return of Oribe Peralta has been a stroke of luck. There's a player who can score, with personality -- in his own way, but he has personality -- and an element which will help the problems with converting Mexico has faced at home in the Azteca Stadium.

We may now see another type of controversy or problem arise for the national team: Where to put "Chicharito" Hernandez or Andres Guardado in Wednesday night's team lineup? Incredibly, we've gone from not having a team or players, to having too many. Such is soccer.

The names are not the issue for me. I think the most important change started in the locker room. "Chepo" was able to change in time, leaving behind his stubborn, bossy, cocky attitude. He listened to some advice and was able to place the players in the right positions on the field. This isn't rocket science. It's soccer. One game, one result, can lift you up and one bad moment can bury you.

With the soccer that Mexico showed on Wednesday night in the outskirts of New York, it could easily qualify for the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Once in the World Cup, that's another story ...

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