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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 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.

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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.

Reports: Napoli agree record fee for Hirving Lozano

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Mexico’s most expensive player ever will soon be Hirving “Chucky” Lozano.

According to multiple reports, PSV Eindhoven and Napoli have agreed to a $46 million transfer fee for the Mexican international. According to Sky Sport 24‘s Francesco Modugno, the 24-year-old will travel to Rome on Tuesday and complete his medical on Wednesday morning, ending the Serie A club’s summer-long pursuit.

Lozano will reportedly sign a five-year deal with Gli Azzurri worth $4 million per year plus bonuses.

Over the course of the past few months, Napoli were also linked with Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez. In the end, Carlo Ancelotti, who is planning to give Juventus a run for their money this season, is adding the speedy winger to his attacking corps that features the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik.

Despite coming off injured in the 50th minute against ADO Den Haagg in his last PSV appearance, it is believed it won’t influence Lozano’s medical. He will break the transfer record for a Mexican player set by Raul Jimenez in his summer move to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica worth $43 million.

Having sold Memphis Depay for nearly $39 million in 2015 to Manchester United, Lozano’s departure would set a new record for the Dutch giants as well.

What does USMNT’s, Mexico’s FIFA Rankings surge tell us?

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Rising eight and six places respectively, the USMNT and Mexico can be referred to as the clear-cut big winners – at least within the Top 30 – from FIFA’s latest world rankings released on Thursday. 

El Tri, 12th in the rankings, behind Switzerland and a step above Denmark, had a picture-perfect showing in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, hoisting the trophy in Chicago after winning all six games in the team’s first tournament under Argentine coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino. 

Greg Berhalter’s men, on the other hand, surged their way back into the Top 30 after a solid runner-up performance in the aforementioned tournament. 

But what do the positive, upward trends say about CONCACAF’s giants, though? 

Well, that the new era for both sides, despite being in a premature stage, is looking promising not only for the future of the national sides, but for the overall trajectory of the American and Mexican player along with the sport in North America. 

As both rivals – and their domestic leagues, MLS and Liga MX – continue to amp up the competition and collaboration efforts among each other, the quality and opportunities are increasing exponentially. Such effect continues to garner eyes and interest from worldwide audiences and from scouts in Europe’s top-five leagues. In other words, North Americans are, slowly but surely, becoming constant go-to marquee signings for some of Europe’s best. 

In January, American star, Christian Pulisic, signed for Chelsea after the English giants and Borussia Dortmund agreed to a record $73.1 million fee. An over-the-top purchase for many initially – keeping in mind the 20-year-old’s performance this summer and ascending marketability – the price tag the Blues paid for his services doesn’t seem inflated one bit.  

The Gold Cup also allowed Mexican promise Edson Alvarez to finally make the leap to the other side of the Atlantic. Astute, composed and a natural leader, Alvarez slots in as the natural replacement for either Mattijs de Ligt or Frankie de Jong at Ajax. Both historical and record departures, it speaks volumes about the confidence and legitimacy a recent Champions League semi-finalist has given the Club America and Mexico national team product.  

The USMNT and Mexico swarming up the rankings hand-in-hand is not a new trend, but with the interconnection of current times and the slew of Americans and Mexicans already making a name in Europe, Thursday’s latest rankings is a visual representation that the new era is all about rampant growth for North America’s giants. 

Lozano withdraws from Mexico Gold Cup squad due to knee injury recovery

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He was out, then he was in. Now, it’s official. Hirving Lozano is out of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The Mexican Football Federation (FMF) made the announcement on Monday afternoon, stating that after consultations with their medical staff and the medical staff at PSV Eindhoven, Lozano needed more time to recover from damaging MCL ligaments in his right knee. It’s a huge blow to new Mexico manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who likely was counting on a big summer from the World Cup goalscorer.

[READ: Grealish thrilled to lead Aston Villa back to PL]

In a statement, the FMF said that Lozano was evaluated in Mexico City on Monday, and it was determined he wouldn’t make it back in time to contest the tournament. Mexico’s first match is on June 15 against Cuba at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

After initially suffering damage to the MCL of his right knee in late April, it appeared Hirving Lozano would miss out due to the injury. However, the second prognosis looked more promising, with Lozano then feeling he’d be able to recover in time. And yet, it didn’t come to pass.

Under Martino, this was to be a summer of change for El Tri. Despite being able to select up to 40 players for each nation’s preliminary roster, Martino just picked 29 players, leaving out veterans including Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, Hector Herrera and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona. Martino had a falling out with Corona after reportedly finding out Corona ignored his international call-up last March due to injury from a press release, and not word from the player himself.

Without those players on the preliminary list, Martino has little to choose from, though his choices to wittle down the squad have become easier. It’s now down to 27 with Miguel Layun suffering an injury last week. With Lozano out, now players like Erick Gutierrez and Uriel Antuna of LA Galaxy have a chance to impress on a continental stage.