Date: June 19th, 2019
Home Team: Mexico
Away Team: Canada
Competition: 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup
If I’m Canada:
I am feeling good after after beating Martinique 4-0. There has always been a lot of talk about when Canada will break through and become a real contender in North American Soccer. The talent pool has slowly been getting better and now with Alphonso Davies they have a player to build around and finally meet expectations. Now this lineup has me scratching my head. I am a firm believer of getting your best players on the field in their respective positions. I am seeing two main issues with this lineup and a sign that they are kind of overthinking playing a team like Mexico. The first is Hutchinson playing center back in a three man defense. Now when you play that formation you need to have at least one of your center backs be comfortable on the ball and able to distribute the ball confidently and Hutchinson in theory, but taking him out of midfield is in impact on the game is limited. The next issue I have is playing Larin on the wing. Yes he has not had the best start to his career in Turkey. But I think you have to appeal to his instincts and try to unlock the talent he showed at Orlando as a striker. One this I do like to see is Kaye playing in his natural position at center midfield. I would have really liked to see him and Hutchinson together but alas. So with this lineup, my plan would be to concede some possession which Mexico would certainly accept. This means you have to pick and chose when you press which I would do around midfield especially on the two midfielders, Alvarez and Alvarado. I think you have to make them work and they could be susceptible to some bad turnovers which could start some counters higher up the pitch. Canada has the ability to actually possess the ball after winning it back so hopefully they just don’t hopelessly clear it after winning it back. Hoilett would be perfect in this situation on the break but he is not in the lineup. The other thing I am doing is consistently man marking Jonathan Dos Santos. He has been killing it with LA Galaxy this year and I am assuming he will be the main outlet for creativity. I think constantly having a man on him will be important.
If I’m Mexico:
I am also feeling pretty good after thrashing Cuba 7-0. There was a lot of talk about the missing talent this team from the team that showed out at the world cup. However they were able to qualm some of those concerns with that win. This is probably Martino’s first test as coach so I would come out guns blazing and try to put the game away early. This means if they are in possession, aggressively working the wings to get crosses in. This also means pressing high early in the game to force some mistakes. I would dare Canada to try and beat your press. They will either crumble under the pressure or have to go long. If they beat your press so be it but you need to be confident in your abilities. Raul Jimenez is the main guy I am focusing on. He had an amazing year at Wolves and I want to see if he can translate that success to this Gold Cup. He is pretty much your standard target man who is asked to convert crosses and hold up play on the break. Jimenez deserves a little more respect than that. His distribution while holding up play was one of the things I was most impressed with. That hold up play may not be necessary if they have most of the possession but he will still be presence in the box and especially on set pieces. One thing I like to see is Diego Reyes as a center back as opposed to a holding midfielder. Playing a center back at holding midfield has been an experiment that is often tried and sometime it does make sense however I think you need the right player to do that and Diego Reyes is not really that. He didn’t have much playing time this year at Leganes so it is better to play him at his natural position. All though in a game against Cuba you can try things like that. Lastly I would be giving free reign to Dos Santos to roam around in the final third. He needs to be the talisman to create opportunities. Linking up on the wings is usually the best way to attack this formation because there is space in between the outside center backs and the wing backs. If you play through those area and whip in crosses to Jimenez I think you will end up with the three points. Also if I am Mexico I am telling my fans to stop chanting homophobic slurs on goal kicks. Thats just me though
What Actually Happened:
This game went according to expectations and I would just say that Canada was a little more negative than I though they would be. Usually when you play a 3-4-3 it can turn into a 5-2-3 when you are playing so deep in your own zone. Mexico dominated the ball and Canada had to make due with the limited chances they received on the break and on set pieces. Canada was able to get some opportunities on the break because of Mexico’s high line when they were on the ball. Some times when Canada won the ball back they were able to find a forward, usually Davies, to start a counter. However more often than not Mexico pressed hard when they lost the ball and all Canada would do is clear the ball. Larin was piratically invisible out there which was disappointing and I would attribute that to playing out of position and really not being in the best game shape. I would say the two bright spots for Canada were Kaye and Davies. Davies is a stud and it is hard to believe he is only 18. He is confident on the ball and has no problem retaining possession and gliding by defenders. He had a few opportunities in the final third but couldn’t convert but he did have the quality to get himself in those positions. Kaye has some key qualities you want in a central midfielder and they showed in this game. The ability win the ball back, retain the ball under pressure, and start attacks with progressive passing. I Kaye had a few moments where he was able to show his qualities even through there wasn’t that many. Also it should be noted that Borjan was amazing in goal and the score could have been much more lopsided if it wasn’t for him.
Mexico was really the dominant team in this one and they couldn’t do much wrong. When they were in possession they were attacking, not passing it around the back, they were going forward which is nice to see. They’re main focus on attack was on the wings. Antuna really impressed me in this aspect. It seemed as if every play down the left side ended in either a solid cross or a corner and it was mainly thanks to him and his ability to take on defenders and create space. It was his cross that led to the first goal. We was great against Cuba and he was able to replicate that performance against an opponent with more quality. Next is the performance of Andres Guardado who came in as a sub in the 37th minute. He came in and did what I expected Dos Santos to do. He was finding most of his space between the backline and the midfield. From there he was linking up with Gallardo on the left wing. Obviously he had the wonder goal he scored to extend the lead to 2-0 in the 54th minute, but he was making the right decision on the ball every time he touched it. Then he shut down any momentum Canada had after they scored to make it 2-1 by getting that last goal. That last goal was also a great example of everything that went well for Mexico this game. Jimenez flicks on a long ball to Antuna running down the right with space. He finds himself in the box and instead of forcing a shot he find Guardado. He too has the composure to take a touch to his right which give him room to shoot after the defense anticipated a shot. Overall this was a fair result for Mexico who could have easily scored three more if it wasn’t for Borjan in net. As for Canada they had some quality to earn a few chances but could not finish. They probably could have had a few more if they played a little more aggressively as opposed to how passive they were.