A 3-1 win over Venezuela in a friendly gave an inexperienced El Tri attack a boost in confidence it needed
Rodolfo Pizarro knows there are a lot of forwards and wingers who could be on Mexico’s Gold Cup squad but aren’t. It just does the Monterrey attacker no good to think about them.
He, along with forward Raul Jimenez and Cruz Azul’s Roberto Alvarado, are set to solve the problem of how to get goals during the Gold Cup without players like Hirving Lozano, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Jesus “Tecatito’ Corona and Javier Aquino.
Things got off to a good start Wednesday, with Pizarro, Alvarado and midfielder Andres Guardado all notching goals in a 3-1 friendly victory over Venezuela.
“Honestly, it helps us a lot, most of all with our confidence,” Pizarro said after the win. “We know that a lot of important players, unfortunately, have had to leave the national team because of decisions.
“Those who are here are here, and we have to give everything for the national team.”
Those who are here are here. It may sound like something from a Jean-Paul Sartre book (Those who are not in camp are condemned to be free to miss the Gold Cup), but it’s a good mindset for the players to be in. Those of us in the press have written so much about the players who are missing, most have barely focused on who is on the list. Of course, with so many key names absent, it’s been tough to evaluate much aside from things like who will step in for Hirving Lozano?
The friendly will ease many of those fears. Pizarro showed he’s more than capable of playing as the left winger, cutting inside to create for teammates like Jimenez and Alvarado when the opportunity was there to combine. He worked well with left back Jesus Gallardo, helping to overload the right side of Venezuela’s defense and get his head up with players in dangerous positions in the box.
Mexico manager Tata Martino was set to bring Pizarro off around the 53rd minute but ended up leaving him on for one more play. That play turned out to be the one in which Pizarro’s Monterrey teammate Gallardo bolted up the left side and set up him with a cross after the initial entry attempt was blocked. Pizarro set the touch past the goalkeeper to double El Tri’s lead.
“He told me that’s why I should stay on, play one last play and give him a goal,” Pizarro said with a laugh, describing his conversation with Martino.
It’s no mystery why Martino has been a fan of Pizarro early on. His work-rate helped lead to the first goal, with Pizarro poking the ball free in the box from a Venezuela defender for Alvarado to blast into the net.
Mexico’s goals were more scrappy than spectacular Wednesday, but that’s not a huge reason for concern. Mexico has probably tried to play too pretty of soccer against Concacaf opposition in the past, and at least against Cuba and Martinique in the group stage of the Gold Cup likely will be trying to break through a resolute low block from those teams.
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That’s also how the goals may come initially. Martino’s idea of how he wants the team to play will produce sweeping, beautiful scoring moves, but the goals won’t always be like that. It’s especially true when players lack chemistry with each other. Wednesday’s match was just the second time Pizarro and Jimenez had played together and it was the first time either of those players had been on the field with Alvarado.
Maybe Martino will put the trident back out against Ecuador on Sunday, maybe not. He doesn’t have many options,but at a venue, AT&T Stadium, that has been unlucky for Mexico players suffering injury, he might not test his luck. That said, the more these players can play together the better. Everyone knows Jimenez can score, he did it 12 times in the Premier League. The more understanding he has with Pizarro and Alvarado, neither of which are outright wingers, the better.
That chemistry comes in training, in preparation matches and even during the group stage of the Gold Cup. If things progress like they did earlier this week, the El Tri attack should be firing all cylinders when they arrive in the knockout stage of the tournament. All three players have the raw material. Now, they must come together to become something stronger.
It’s those who are here who will make it happen if Mexico is going to win back the Gold Cup and become Concacaf champion once again.