Gerardo Martino

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‘It’s all right’: Martino pleased about Mexico’s internal competition

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Unlike in the USMNT’s current landscape, there aren’t questions being raised about Mexico’s deficiencies following their 3-0 bashing of their fierce rivals in New Jersey.

The glaring reason for that is based on the fact that Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side, who have yet to suffer a loss since the Argentine took over in March, are in divine shape. Equally, it’s rare to find El Tri in such a peaceful state when it comes to results, but it’s the team’s current world.

To put the situation in perspective, some of the “tougher” questions being asked on Friday night – by what has always been considered a taxing and pressuring press – were regarding the complications that El Tri’s feisty internal competition for playing time may be giving Martino.

“It’s all right,” the 56-year-old said in respects to his outlook on his current decision making. “It’s what all coaches particularly want [a tough time selecting a starting lineup] – having this kind of difficulties due to abundance [of players] at the time of putting together a game.”

“We have the possibility of playing two friendlies, of playing in a match with some, giving minutes to the majority [of players], without losing sight of what we want which is to win games,” he added.

Assembling a lineup to take on his former team will not pose as difficult, however. Team captain Andres Guardado is expected to fly back home for the birth of his child, who is expected on Monday. Rodolfo Pizarro, who was ruled out of Friday’s hours before the first whistle, is on the verge of being operated on for appendicitis. Monterrey-based players, Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez and Cesar Montes, will return to Tigres and Rayados, respectively, due to injuries.

It is also expected that the players who earned 90 minutes against Gregg Berhalter’s side will not feature against Argentina in San Antonio, making Tata’s selection process that much more straightforward with a number of key players unused on the bench at MetLife Stadium.

Mexico’s positives are coming in bunches – a major reason for the team’s current internal battle for minutes.

For the first time in the Martino era, Atletico Madrid’s recent arrival and longtime El Tri midfielder, Hector Herrera, played side by side with former Porto teammate Jesus “Tecatito” Corona at the national level. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who opted from the Gold Cup due to the birth of his son, joined the national side this time around, too. In other words, some of Mexico’s most valuable assets making a return all at once might be fueling Martino’s conundrum, but is it really that when the results are flooding in like the goals were in New Jersey?

Definitely not – Mexico are currently rejoicing, and it shows on the field.

“We had a few goals in addition to winning the game,” Martino said. “For the first time, Tecatito (Corona) played with Héctor (Herrera), we used even Héctor (Herrera) as a holding midfielder, Javier (Hernandez) returned to the team after what had happened with Paraguay and Chile. [We need] to continue to keep the team working, we are very satisfied.”

Mexico’s player ratings shine after lopsided win against USMNT

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Gerardo “Tata” Martino and Co. picked up exactly where they left off: outlasting their rivals. Ironically, when nothing was on the line expect bragging rights this time around, Mexico played better than in the Gold Cup final over the summer.

[ RECAP: USMNT 0-3 Mexico ]

The Martino era only gets better with every passing day – for now.

Starting XI

Jonathan Orozco — 8 — It’s 2019, and 33-year-old Orozco recorded a clean sheet and a last-minute penalty save with El Tri. I’m sure even he can’t wrap that around his head. Nonetheless, he showed up for the few times he was called upon.

Jorge Sanchez — 7 — Sanchez can, potentially, be an integral part of the team that will compete in the CONCACAF Nation’s League next month. If so, the fullback is heading in with good standing.

Diego Reyes — 5 —  Reyes wasn’t excruciatingly poor, but one could see that he’s been lacking stability at the club level, specifically when he awarded the USMNT a penalty in the dying minutes of Friday’s game.

Hector Moreno — 7 — Despite showing some weaknesses here and there, Moreno is clearly still one of Mexico’s best defenders. (We all know the reason, but I’ll still ask.) Why is he playing in Qatar?

Jesus Gallardo (Off 87′) — 7 — Monterrey’s fullback has grown into quite the player.

Hector Herrera — 8 — Herrera now has more assists with El Tri this year than minutes with Atletico Madrid. That has to change.

Carlos Rodriguez (Off 90′) — 7 — It’s hard to appreciate a player like Rodriguez. Tonight his valiant work on both sides of the field wasn’t mesmerizing, regardless of how much one analyzes it.

Andres Guardado (Off 77′) — 7 — The captain showed glimpses of creativity, but was in the middle of the spectrum the majority of the game.

Roberto Alvarado (Off 76′) — 4 — Alvarado struggled on the field in New Jersey. Period.

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona (Off 70′) — 9 — The last time Tecatito made headlines was for his national team absence. Time to turn the page and enjoy his pristine skillfulness.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez (Off 87′) — 8 — It’s refreshing to see Chicharito score, especially when he’s just entered a new chapter in his legendary career.

Subs

 Hirving “Chucky” Lozano (On 70′) — 8 — Lozano is clearly Mexico’s most talented player, and everyone hopes it will remain that way for a long time.

Uriel Antuna (On 76′) — 8 — There is no one who has benefited more from the Martino era – no one.

Erick Gutierrez (On 78′) — 8 — Things have turned around for the PSV Eindhoven man, and a goal will only speed up that healing confidence.

Alexis Vega (On 87′) — n/a — J.J. Macias may be the popular choice, but Vega is the chosen one.

Fernando Navarro (On 87′) — n/a — There’s no way Navarro is complaining about playing three minutes against the USMNT at MetLife Stadium.

Orbelin Pineda (On 90′) — n/a — Any time on the field is better than nothing, I guess.

Mexico makes statement, wallops USMNT

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It was all Mexico at MetLife Stadium, as Gregg Berhalter’s U.S. men’s national team failed to find their groove in El Tri’s 3-0 win against their heated rivals on Friday.

Recent Sevilla signing and Mexico’s all-time leading scorer Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez scored in the first half. Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna chipped in second-half goals for Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side, which has won consecutive games in convincing fashion against the USMNT.

[ MORE: 3 things | USMNT player ratings ]

As in the majority of meetings between the rivals, the opening minutes were cautiously slow – each team doing their best to hide their weapons while trying to figure out one another. El Tri facilitated the ball with urgency through the wings, yet were unhesitant to go back and redraw their approach. The Stars and Stripes, on the other hand, made it clear they’d lean on playing from the back – a tactic that would eventually backfire on Berhalter and Co.

Debutant Sergiño Dest — who made headlines heading into Friday’s friendly for his first senior cap — was unafraid to show his worth, rifling a shot from distance 15 minutes into the bout. With a semi-extended save, Mexico’s Jonathan Orozco quietly put away the home’s side only noteworthy attempt on goal in the first half.

Dest, however, appeared against shortly after for unfavorable reasons.

Settled with dominant possession of the ball, El Tri had a plethora of areas of the field to exploit. And in Jesus “Tecatito” Corona’s mind – at least in the 21st minute – the 18-year-old fullback’s left side of the USMNT’s first third was it, doing so with a bit of wizardry and supreme technique to avoid Christian Pulisic and Dest, before assisting Hernandez.

[ MORE: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

The USMNT’s night was plagued by two deficiencies: the inability to move the ball out of the back and the lack of efficient passing in space. In the 33rd minute, El Tri nearly punished Weston McKennie’s poor ball. Corona, though, missed out on recording a brace by inches.

In the second half, with his first touch of the night, Jordan Morris fueled an explosive Mexico counter-attack. With the game moving at a low-scoring pace, it was only fitting that debutant Miles Robinson bailed the Sounders forward.

The low-scoring aura to fade was merely a question of not if but when.

Similar to his impact on his Napoli debut, Hirving “Chucky” Lozano rose fans off their seats. He didn’t score this time, however.

Despite clearly being the inferior team, Berhalter’s side stuck to their game plan, starting the buildup from the back. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long, despite being known for being defenders comfortable on the ball, suffered when Martino ordered his frenetic frontline to press viciously for the ball.

It felt pre-destined that one of Berhalter’s go-to strategies would soon give out in front of a Mexico side that had caught on to the tactics. Zack Steffen, who has started his season with Fortuna Dusseldorf on a positive note, topped off the shaky sequence of passing with a gift to Erick Gutierrez, who made no mistake with the ball in enemy territory.

Alfredo Morales, representing the Yanks for a first time in three years, was the closest to spoiling Oronzo’s clean sheet, volleying a low ball into the ‘keeper’s far post in the dying minutes of the match.

And just as the USMNT’s bite became nothing more than a nibble, El Tri responded with one more chomp of its own. LA Galaxy’s speedy winger, Uriel Antuna, who has unexpectedly become a household name under Martino, did the honors. Along the way, Lozano, gave the New York crowd something he will showcase on a weekly basis in Italy.

In the game’s last breath, it was clear it wasn’t meant to be the USMNT’s night. Josh Sargent, from the spot, had his strike saved by Orozco, solidifying the narrative that El Tri’s night was perfect and nothing else.

Martino: Mexico’s players, Liga MX ahead of USMNT, MLS

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Mexico head coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino has admitted that Mexico as a team and as individual players are ahead of the USMNT.

Right now.

Ahead of their ‘friendly’ at MetLife Stadium on Friday, Tata was asked about USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter saying that Mexico are “slightly ahead” of the U.S. national team due to recent results.

“I think that as a general panorama, our players are competing in leagues that are better than the players in the United States national team and I also think that the Mexican league is above MLS,” Martino told reporters. “Which means it’s very probable that [Berhalter] is right and that from his position he sees the Mexican national team as a little bit better than the U.S. in a general context.”

That sound you can hear is the former Atlanta United head coach stirring the pot, but he did it in a respectful manner.

Martino also suggested that the USMNT’s best young talents have to keep heading to Europe in order for them to be successful, while Mexico’s young stars should also do the same thing.

“The United States has transformed into a country that exports a lot of young players to Europe,” Martino said. “Evidently the development of those players will bear fruits in the future for the United States national team. That doesn’t mean we don’t have the same possibility. I think we have some young players, and others that are already there, that could go to Europe soon and that would be beneficial for us.”

There is quite a lot to unpack here and although Tata is being respectful, he is also clearly saying that Mexico’s players are better than those in the USMNT and that MLS is not a good breeding ground for youngsters.

Can we argue with him on those points?

The fact that Martino beat the USMNT in the Gold Cup final this summer with his second-string side suggests that El Tri are way ahead of the USA. Only John Brooks was missing for the USMNT in the Gold Cup this summer and it is clear Mexico’s squad depth is vastly superior to the USMNT.

With Hirving Lozano, Javier Hernandez, Miguel Layun, Jesus Corona and Hector Herrera all returning to Mexico’s squad for this friendly, the USMNT will have to cope with Mexico’s first-choice lineup on Friday and it could get ugly.

When it comes to MLS v. Liga MX, Martino has now had a chance to weight up both competitions and due to the CONCACAF Champions League success of Liga MX sides we all know that MLS has a lot of catching up to do on that score. That said, MLS academies have produced the likes of Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, with plenty of others now starting to come through and head to Europe at a young age.

And when it comes to players in Europe, Christian Pulisic is flying the American flag at Chelsea, but Mexican players are now at Napoli (Lozano), Sevilla (Hernandez), Porto (Corona), Atletico Madrid (Herrera) and are generally at the next tier up in terms of their club teams.

Martino is basically respectfully telling the truth about where Mexican and U.S. soccer is at right now.

Sometimes, at least for U.S. Soccer fans, the truth hurts.

USMNT balancing separate goals in friendly against Mexico

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It’s a friendly, but is it really?

The United States meets its biggest rival for the first time since falling in the Gold Cup final as Mexico waltzes in to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ at 9pm ET.

Gregg Berhalter is gearing up the squad with high-powered friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay to get ready for CONCACAF Nations League matches against Cuba and Canada to come in October. While there is still some talent to be evaluated, the team is now in winning mentality, hoping to develop further cohesion after falling just short in the summer tournament.

As far as evaluating talent goes, all eyes will be on 18-year-old Sergino Dest, who is still choosing between the United States and Netherlands, after Berhalter confirmed the youngster will get the start against Mexico at one of the full-back positions. Full-back is a position of extreme need for the USMNT and has been for years, and Dest’s potential commitment is a massive priority for the federation, hoping to develop him long-term for a potential partnership with DeAndre Yedlin.

With Yedlin currently injured, Dest will get the start as Berhalter looks to sway the youngster on picking the country he represented at the youth level, impressing this summer at the U-20 World Cup. He can’t be cap-tied in a friendly, but he can get a feel for the biggest rivalry the United States has to offer.

On the other hand, squad cohesion is just as important as evaluating talent at this stage of the cycle, and Behalter will look to work his best players in to build a rapport. With that in mind, the starting center-back partnership on Friday could potentially be a window into Berhalter’s vision for the future. The boss has chosen Red Bulls starter Aaron Long on multiple occasions of late, and Berhalter could choose him to partner with Matt Miazga yet again. However, John Brooks is back in the fold and in good form after missing the summer foray with an injury, and he could challenge for a spot along the back line. Developing that defensive partnership will be critical as the United States looks to perform at a high level in competitive matches and build towards a return to the World Cup in 2022.

Mexico, meanwhile, comes in looking to move on from the Gold Cup success, with a pair of their own high-powered friendlies this international window. After a battle with the United States comes a meeting with Lionel Messi-less Argentina, using those two bigtime matchups to prepare for Bermuda and Panama in October’s Nations League play.

Still, Mexico’s focus is on the USMNT, evident as head coach Tata Martino – who is coming off a Major League Soccer championship with Atlanta United – took shots at the United States before the match.

While Mexico has seen success on the field recently – Martino has won all 10 of the matches he has led for Mexico thus far – plenty of questions remain for his squad. Martino said in his press conference Thursday that Jesus “Tecatito” Corona will play as a winger in the United States match, but with the 26-year-old moving to full-back with his club side Porto, the possibility for a positional switch with the national team as well remains down the road.

Finally, the weather will be a big factor. There are heavy rains in the forecast for northern New Jersey, and both sides may consider the conditions before risking high-value players like Corona, Christian Pulisic, or Raul Jimenez.

There will be plenty of ingredients mixed in to produce Friday night’s match. The need to evaluate talent with Nations League play closing in, the necessity of playing starters together to develop cohesion, the rivalry between neighboring sides, and the consideration of weather all will play a factor in who plays for how long and at what position. At the end of the day, it’s a friendly, but against these two opponents, is that ever truly the case?