Mexico's 1-1 draw vs. the United States will provide much food for thought for El Tri manager Juan Carlos Osorio, as for the second consecutive World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Azteca, Mexico was unable to break a resilient U.S. team. It's nothing too alarming–Bruce Arena’s players are not exactly slouches and Mexico didn’t play badly. But Mexico is definitely left with something to contemplate for the future: How can it move to the next level and perform with more creativity?
Yes, Michael Bradley’s goal was spectacular, but Osorio should be less worried about lobbing Memo Ochoa and more about a lack of offensive innovation against tough opposition.
Miguel Herrera, Osorio’s predecessor, was working as a pundit for Univisión Deportes for the evening and commented on the fact that this should be a warning sign for El Tri.
“There was a lot of time on the ball, but not enough creativity,” he said. “I don’t think Mexican fans are leaving angry tonight, but they’re also not leaving happy. It’s true the team had more of the ball but the people want to see their team win.”
Herrera echoed the general opinion that the U.S. came to Mexico City and fought a good fight, was composed and tough to break down. Having said that, there seemed to be a lack of offensive ideas, which is an issue considering it's the one area where Mexico has the players to succeed (and that's even with the absences of Jesus "Tecatito" Corona, Miguel Layun, Giovani Dos Santos and Raul Jimenez on Sunday). Carlos Vela, Javier Aquino, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Hector Herrera all had their moments, but, save for Vela's fantastic equalizer they ultimately couldn't make good on about 75% of the game's possession and break down a strong U.S. defensive unit, which was led by an excellent Geoff Cameron.
Regardless, Mexico, with 14 points, needs just one more win to essentially book its trip to Russia for next summer. Every CONCACAF team that has accumulated 17 points in the Hexagonal has gone to the World Cup, so a home win over Panama on August 31 should do it.
But Mexico has bigger ambitions than just reaching a World Cup–it wants to excel on that stage. In the last six World Cups, Mexico has gone out in the round of 16, which means that Osorio must use the Confederations Cup as more than just a dress rehearsal. He must test his squad to see what its can do against the European champion, Portugal, in the group stage. Should Mexico advance, it could face African champion Cameroon, World Cup champion Germany or Chile, which embarrassed El Tri with an infamous 7-0 result in Copa America Centenario last summer, in the knockout rounds. More importantly, Mexico can use this as an opportunity to challenge itself creatively.
A pair of dropped points at Azteca notwithstanding, this is Mexico’s time to shine, but it’s up to Osorio and his players to take more risks and deliver.