Mexico will begin its Gold Cup tournament against Cuba on Thursday, July 9th in Chicago and to say that the expectations for El Tri are running high would be an understatement.
There is some important things to note before this first game. For starters, the team that was taken to Copa America and disappointed is not the same team that will be playing here. Although many did not want to admit it, the Copa America team was very much a “B” team that consisted of predominantly domestic players. The style of play was different and the feel of the team was at times frustrating to watch.
The “A” team, however, is much better. That being said, what can be encountered during this tournament is what I call a Tale of Two Teams. There is the team that Mexico should be during this tournament. A team that has the likes and talent of Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Oribe Peralta up top and great players like Maza Rodriguez and Guillermo Ochoa securing the back. The team that showed itself during the World Cup, that scored effortlessly on Croatia and won respect by tying against the home team. A team that has precise passing and structure in the middle with the help of Hector Herrera and Jose “Gallito” Vasquez.
A team that shows strength, agility, talent and most of all, commitment to being the very best on the field regardless of the importance of the match. A team that comes from behind to tie Costa Rica 2-2 and scores two goals right off the bat in the second half of their June 27th friendly.
However, there is also the team that Mexico at times, unfortunately, can be. They can be the team that allows themselves to get scored two goals in the first half of a match they should be dominating. They are the team that ties against Honduras during a friendly while the US wins in an impressive 2-1 victory during their opening match of the Gold Cup, creating a powerful level of competition that could possibly awaiting the El Tri in the later stages of the tournament.
There is a lot of pressure with the “A” team. Some is misguided considering this is not the same team that played the Copa America and lost in the group stages of the tournament. Some of the weight falls on coach Miguel Herrera who has not won a match with the team in seven games.
But the key is the misguided pressure that the team faces. Almost as if the pressure comes from a place of unreasonable expectations where the bar is set in an area that the team never even existed in. And FIFA rankings should not be taken so seriously. The team has a good starting line-up for their opening match against Cuba.
Mexico XI to face Cuba (442): Ochoa, Rodriguez, Reyes, Aguilar, Layun, Vazquez, J Dos Santos, Guardado Herrera, Peralta, Vela.— ESPN Tri (@ESPNFCtri) July 9, 2015
With the loss of Chicharito following the injury against Honduras, Oribe Peralta will take his place up top and has provided just as many scoring opportunities as Chicharito has. Match that up with Vela, and there is sure to be a strong attacking front against a team that is not at the same particular level of the Aztecs. “Gallito” Vazquez and Hector Herrera will also provide a good offensive and defensive center midfield team to better practice their strategies when it comes to counter attacks from the opposing team. Their subs are just as good as well. There is a strong and focused team that has the capability of winning the Gold Cup. Herrera's comments are always transparent and never hyperbolic in any way.
This is the team that Mexico should be. Of course, everyone knows who they at times can be. Let’s see tonight.