Wednesday night's opening victory against Ecuador in the Pan-American Games was in many ways a symbol of all that's wrong with the Mexican U-22 team right now. After an early defensive lapse put the hosts in the hole, El Tri's tying goal came after a series of headers bounced around the box for Oribe Peralta to head home. The winner came late when a clearance freakishly rebounded off Jorge Enriquez and into the net in a play resembling a blocked punt more than a streak of the young midfielder's potential brilliance.
That the 27-year-old Peralta was the focus of the attack for 90 minutes, while future star Enriquez only came on for a few late minutes, reveals Coach Luis Tena's mentality for a misfit competition on which few nations place much importance: win at all costs.
After a streak of mediocre results, Tena is a coach fearful for his job. The result is a disjointed squad incapable of providing the offensive flow that fans have come to expect of Mexican teams at every level. And the emphasis on winning now is also affecting the U-22 side's longer term chances of making a mark at the London Olympics next year -- clearly the most important tournament on the U-23 schedule, and probably the only one Mexico should really care about right now.
Instead, with Tena at the helm, Mexico has decided to underline the games in Guadalajara with a red marker. While other powers like Argentina and Brazil sent watered down versions of the U-20 teams that competed in the World Cup in Colombia in August, Mexico has assembled a squad more geared towards winning matches now than preparing for the challenges down the road.