B/R Exclusive: Why the Mexico vs. USA International Friendly Was Full of Lessons

Karla Villegas GamaFeatured ColumnistApril 4, 2014

Mexico defenseman Rafael Marquez (4) steals the ball from U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan (10) during the second half of an international friendly soccer match Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. (AP Photo/Rock Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri

Mexico came from a 2-0 deficit in the first half of their friendly against the United States to tie it in the last 45 minutes.

It was a game with two different stories. Jurgen Klinsmann's side overpowered El Tri during the first half, but Miguel Herrera made some adjustments and managed to overturn the score. 

Central Fox anchorman and Debate Final collaborator Alejandro Blanco discussed what the match taught to both sides with Bleacher Report.


Bleacher Report: Which was the most valuable lesson of the match?

Alejandro Blanco: Several. First, Mexico arrived late due to a traffic jam. There are little things that are taken for granted and all of a sudden can become a factor on the pitch. This is not an excuse at all; however, it hurts the players' concentration.

Second, Herrera needs to understand in which position he can take the most of his players. It is very important that he take a close look at how they play with their clubs. Marco Fabian is the clearest example. If he plays good on the left, leave him there. He wanted to experiment, he did and it was not good, so he shouldn't repeat it.

Third, the set pieces. Mexico suffered a lot when the United States had free-kicks or corner kicks. Herrera must work twice as hard in that area.


B/R: The first half was quite complicated, but Mexico fought and tied the game; what are your thoughts?

AB: It was very bad. I believe since Miguel Herrera took over we hadn't seen something like that. To me, the worst 45 minutes Mexico have had lately.

On the other hand, I was amazed by the United States, with their football level. A lot of people didn't like the way they play, and they changed that against Mexico. The team was vertical, had possession and was very intelligent when they touched the ball in tight spaces.

Michael Bradley was a key factor in the first half, proving he still has what it takes to play in Europe.


B/R: Speaking of Bradley, he was involved in almost every play in the first half; his shape and skills are impressive. He should be a player to follow in the World Cup, no?

AB: Yes, although the United States will not have it easy in Brazil. However, I think we haven't seen the team like we did against Mexico, and if they continue to work like that, they have a big chance. I was surprised with their level because we are used to seeing a certain style of play. Now they have a lot of talented footballers who know how to touch the ball and create goal opportunities, like Clint Dempsey, Chris Wondolowski and Eddie Johnson.

If they keep polishing the style we saw earlier this week, I am sure they will have a great performance.


B/R: The second half was completely different, why?

AB: Mexico's substitutions in the second half worked, plus the United States were not as deep or intense. Jurgen Klinsmann sent in Landon Donovan and Julian Green, but they didn't make much of a difference, but those kind of things happen. Of course both took lessons from the game. For starters, Klinsmann will try to understand why his side couldn't keep up the pace they had in the first half, while Herrera was pleased with the mentality of his team in the last 45 minutes.


B/R: Let's talk a bit about Mexico's central midfield. Jesus Zavala had a tough time against the United States, but Juan Carlos Medina was not good either in front of South Korea, maybe the issue is the 5-3-2 system.

AB: Yes. I was talking to Fabian Estay, and we agree that it is a very risky formation. I do believe people trashed Zavala when it was not all his fault. All the players had a poor performance in the first half. I think that playing a World Cup with one central midfielder could be very tough.


B/R: We talked earlier about the goalkeepers, can you share your thoughts on Alfredo Talavera?

AB: I feel the same way. Herrera will pick Jesus Corona, Alfredo Talavera and Moises Munoz. Talavera is going through a great moment, and he will be on the World Cup team.


B/R: Marco Fabian played, and he did it in two different positions. Was his performance enough for the coach?

AB: It is obvious that Fabian couldn't do much when he was paired with Alan Pulido, plus the United States dominance in the first half made it even harder. In the second half, Herrera moved him to the left side, where he plays with Cruz Azul, and his performance was better. I am not sure if it was enough; "El Piojo” is not a big fan of his, so we'll see.


B/R: What do you think about El Tri's chances in the World Cup?

AB: It will not be easy. They need to work hard in their preparation games and take advantage of them. Portugal will be a great rival for its hierarchy and fierceness. By that time, all the players will be available and Herrera will have the final list ready. The manager needs to trust his principles. Retired NBA coach Phil Jackson wrote in one of his books that sometimes he made a decision without taking his instincts into consideration and he realized that he did wrong. That is what Herrera needs to do. He needs to stick to his plan because he is convinced, not because he wants to please somebody.

There will only be one available spot in Group A, because Brazil will definitively qualify to the knockout stage so Cameroon and Croatia will be tough rivals.