Victory fails to mask problems for El Tri

Posted by Tom Marshall

Aldo De Nigris and Javier Hernandez celebrate Mexico's openerAPAldo De Nigris and Javier Hernandez celebrate Mexico's opener

Mexico defeated Jamaica 1-0 in Kingston on Tuesday to record its first win of 2013. That, however, didn't tell the full story as El Tri again struggled to find fluency and, in the end, had to rely on some world class saves in the second half from goalkeeper Jesus Corona.

There were again myriad problems linking plays between the midfield and the offense and the two games against a dogged Jamaica side in this Hexagonal have proved that Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre still has plenty of work to do if El Tri is to make the jump from also-ran to being a feared side at Brazil 2014.

Mexico again failed to get out of the blocks quickly. El Tri has now scored only two first-half goals in its past 13 games. That statistic needs to be analyzed. Perhaps, against teams that are weaker on paper, it might be time to take greater risks earlier on, throwing more caution to the wind. In terms of team selection, that could include setting up with only one defensive-minded central midfielder.

While the central defense was solid and Carlos Salcido again excelled at left back, there was a major lack of spark between Severo Meza and Pablo Barrera down the right. Neither played well and Chepo will have to think long and hard about solutions ahead of Friday's game against Panama.

But, in the end, a win is a win and the three points improve Mexico to first position in the Hexagonal, albeit having played one more game than everyone else except the Reggae Boyz.

Making the World Cup is the name of the game for El Tri in these qualifiers and Chepo's side took a step in the right direction on Tuesday.

Player Grades (Out of 10, 10=best)

GK Jesus Corona, 8: Returning to the starting XI after missing out on the previous two qualifiers, the Cruz Azul player was quiet for long periods but came to the rescue in the 54th with a couple of stunning saves.

RB Severo Meza, 5: The Monterrey man headed behind from a corner in the 25th when no-one was around him. It seemed to sum up Meza's night. He gave the ball away, looked shaky defensively and must be a doubt to start on Friday against Panama.

CB Francisco 'Maza' Rodriguez, 7: Mexico's captain had El Tri's best early chance and was generally commanding in the center of defense. Will be provided with much tougher tasks later this month.

CB Diego Reyes, 6: The 20-year-old Porto player was steady in his first road World Cup qualifier and continued his push for a permanent place.

LB Carlos Salcido, 8: Like a duck to water in his "new" left-back role. Salcido launched an inch-perfect cross for De Nigris' goal and was still bombing down the wing late on in the game.

CM Jesus Zavala, 6: Had an opportunity in the 19th with a header from a corner, but didn't have his best night for El Tri. Solid, but far from spectacular.

CM Gerardo Torrado, 6: A mixed night for the midfielder, winning his 141st cap. There were too many poor passes, especially in the first half, but he did track back well and does provide the defense with a reliable safety net. Picked up his regulation yellow card late on.

RW Pablo Barrera, 5: After a promising start against Nigeria, Barrera was a shadow of his direct, cunning self against Jamaica, giving away possession far too much and looking void of confidence.

LW Andres Guardado, 6: The Valencia player cut inside regularly to allow Salcido to overlap and the left-hand side of the field was by far the most threatening. Nevertheless, Guardado, now 26 years old, needs to be making more impact in these types of games.

FW Aldo De Nigris, 7: Worked hard, planted a perfect header to hand Mexico the three points and was one of Mexico's better performers. Can be considered unlucky to have been taken out, when he was the better of the two center forwards.

FW Javier Hernandez, 5: Anonymous for large periods and sloppy when he was involved, Chicharito missed a golden opportunity to put the game beyond doubt in the 84th. This was one of the Manchester United player's poorest performances in a glittering career in a Mexico shirt.

Subs:

RW Gerardo Flores (for Barrera, 59th), 7: Injected some energy and pace on the right flank, which was previously lacking.

FW Giovani Dos Santos (for De Nigris, 67th), 6: Wasn't really involved as much as he would've liked and gave the ball away a little too regularly.

FW Raul Jimenez (for Hernandez, 86th), N/A: Not enough time to make an impact.

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