What El Tri learned from friendlies
There is always a danger in reading too much into friendlies. As a rule, friendlies often involve tons of experimentation, moments of sloppy and disorganized play and, some would argue, loads of indifference. Yet Mexico manager Jose Manuel de la Torre had a clear mission with his team's three U.S. friendlies that precede El Tri's first World Cup qualifier on Friday at Estadio Azteca against Guyana.
Firstly, de la Torre wanted to get playing time for his mostly out-of-form forwards Giovani Dos Santos and Pablo Barrera. Secondly, De la Torre, having come to the conclusion that Efrain Juarez was much further away from game form than either Barrera or Dos Santos, so much so that even three games would not rescue him, needed to find a right back. Lastly, he needed to find an ideal pairing in the middle of the defensive area, spots which included not only center backs, but also holding midfielders.
How did de la Torre do in achieving these objectives? Let's take a statistical look at those three items and a few more.
Here's what we learned from El Tri's three U.S. friendlies against Wales, Bosnia and Brazil:
Jesus Zavala might be Mexico's most improved player.
Zavala was handed Mexico's starting defensive midfielder spot at the beginning of the year and only now has he flourished. In Mexico's first two friendlies this year against Venezuela and Colombia, Zavala didn't show the ability to handle the grind of such a position.
On the surface, Zavala's numbers looked great. He passed for an 87.5 percent completion rate. Yet a disturbing trend had occurred. In both matches, Zavala's form severely dropped in the second half. While he compiled a 91.6 percent completion rate in the first half, his rate dropped significantly to 71.4 percent in the second half.
Also concerning was that Zavala had just two tackles in two games. Was the long and lean Zavala not physical enough for the position?