Lessons Learned from Mexico's October International Friendlies
Mexico continued its new process with friendlies against CONCACAF teams Honduras and Panama, but several doubts surround the team despite winning both matches.
The new generation of footballers has yet to understand what Miguel Herrera is trying to achieve through his 3-5-2 system. They have to mature and prove why they have been called upon.
The experienced players, those who have already played under Herrera's command, were also far from delivering the results they were supposed to.
Only a handful of footballers proved to be on the right track, but El Piojo is in desperate need to find those who are up for the challenge.
There are key areas that need to work more efficiently, such as the back line.
But there is good news too, like Guillermo Ochoa's momentum and Javier Hernandez's 37th goal.
Let's take a look at the lessons learned from these games.
The Wins vs. Honduras and Panama Are Deceiving
Mexico defeated Honduras and Panama, but they have to improve.
These results are deceiving for several reasons. First, La H and Los Canaleros are far from being top squads.
They are also teams that are going though a generational change, like Mexico.
El Tri have proved that they are capable of being true competitors, with fierce footballers. It's true that this is a new generation of players, but they have what it takes to wear "La Verde" in style. Youngsters like Erick Torres, Alfonso Gonzalez, Rodolfo Pizarro and Javier Guemez are a thriving force for their clubs, and it is worrying that they cannot perform the same way with Mexico.
All the players have to pour their hearts onto the pitch and give it all.
It is fair to say that Honduras isn't at its best; Panama has improved but is still far from having as many talented players as Mexico.
El Tri never took advantage of playing on home soil, and the victory over Los Canaleros came in a less-than-exciting match, and due to a goalkeeper's mistake.
Rafael Marquez and Hector Moreno Are Missed
The back line didn't work as it was supposed to. Rafael Marquez and Hector Moreno's absence raised red flags.
Miguel Herrera's 5-3-2 formation allows the right-back and the left-back to join the attack, leaving the centre-backs with a huge responsibility.
The newcomers have not impressed. Between nerves and inexperience, they left enough space for Panama and Honduras to test Guillermo Ochoa and Alfredo Talavera.
Hugo Ayala and Julio Cesar Dominguez were the best of the pack; they had appeared before with Mexico, and it showed.
Marco Fabian Needs to Step Up
Marco Fabian is wasting time with El Tri. He hasn't impressed, because his bright moments have been fewer than his bad ones.
His inconsistency should be enough for Miguel Herrera to realize he needs to try other footballers in the left midfield.
Fabian had the worst passing-accuracy average against Panama, with 36 percent. He is very far from being the unbalancing player he was with the U23 squad that won the 2012 Summer Olympics.
This is a problem that has haunted him with Cruz Azul, too. He missed the game against America, the first time he started on the bench during the 2014 Apertura tournament.
Antonio Rios Should Be a Regular in Miguel Herrera's List
The central midfielder is one of the toughest positions to hold in Miguel Herrera's formation.
Jose Juan Vazquez did a fantastic job during the World Cup. He worked closely with Hector Herrera and Rafael Marquez, becoming a good link with the defense and the offense.
However, the coach hadn't found a sub for him. Antonio Rios is the best man for the job so far. The Toluca footballer kept and distributed the ball in style.
He didn't fall short, despite being one of the newcomers. He deserves to be capped regularly, especially when Herrera has all the European-based players at his service.
If he adjusts and keeps up his good performances, he will definitively become a regular on the team.
Erick Torres Is on the Right Track
Erick Torres has been a changing factor for Chivas USA since he arrived in the team last year.
With 22 goals in 42 appearances, as per MLSSoccer.com, Torres has been working hard to get a chance with El Tri, and every time Miguel Herrera has put him in, El Cubo has delivered good performances.
Last month, he had a good game against Bolivia in which he had four scoring opportunities. This time, he didn't miss and took advantage of a defensive mistake to put the ball away and secure his first goal with Mexico.
Torres is fighting for a key spot on the team. This is the line that offers fewer openings and is also the one with more experienced players: Giovani dos Santos, Javier Hernandez and Oribe Peralta, just to name a few.
If he keeps pushing himself toward perfection and gives his best every time he is on the pitch, like he has done so far, he will have a good chance at making the Copa America or Gold Cup list.
It's Urgent to Find Another Player for the Right Midfield
Hector Herrera is one of the best Mexican footballers in the world right now. However, he didn't perform at his best against Honduras and Panama.
Herrera has been a regular with his club in the Primeira Liga and the Champions League, so it is understandable that he was worn out while wearing La Verde.
Add Mexico's lack of depth and creativity in both games, and that results in Herrera having to work harder in order to compensate for those missing elements. During the World Cup, he had Paul Aguilar and Jose Juan Vazquez to support him.
Unfortunately for the Mexico coach, Javier Aquino hasn't figured how to shine in the 3-5-2 formation, so it is imminent that he finds a suitable sub for the Porto footballer.
Paul Aguilar Is Still in Command of the Right Flank
Rodolfo Pizarro played against Panama instead of Paul Aguilar. However, it seems like the Pachuca defender hasn't understood Miguel Herrera's strategy.
Pizarro has been a thriving force for Los Tuzos, but while playing for El Tri, he has been out of place. He doesn't take his time to create plays, so his speed becomes a disadvantage instead of one of his most valuable assets.
If no one steps up and gives Aguilar a run for his money, the America footballer will continue to play through the right flank.
Pizarro has a lot of talent; he just needs to channel it correctly.
Mexico Must Find the Way to Finish Plays
Javier Hernandez was the best man in the attacking zone. He scored his 37th goal with El Tri, tying Cuauhtemoc Blanco's record, and he put Panama's Oscar McFarlane in distress during the first half.
However, Mexico is far from being solid in the last third of the pitch.
El Tri's flexibility and verticality is far from helpful if the forwards can't put the ball away. Mexico has become a predictable side.
Miguel Herrera needs to try different formations in order to surprise the rival and allow his players to have more freedom.
El Tri have only scored three goals in the past couple of games, one of them as a result of McFarlane's mistake.
El Tri Struggle More Than Necessary with Other CONCACAF Teams
Mexico tends to play at its rival's pace. In return, the team forgets its own strategy and engages in a battle that includes fouls and desperate measures.
Miguel Herrera has to work on the mental side of his team. Mexico must stay focused and working like clockwork against other CONCACAF sides, especially since the Gold Cup will put it head to head with them.
Honduras and Panama proved that they are no longer the kind of teams that clear the ball to avoid danger, or that hope to take advantage of a mistake. They create plays and take advantage of their physical attributes.
The quicker the Mexico players understand it, the better results they will get (and without losing their heads).
All stats appear courtesy of Mi Seleccion GameCast (Spanish), unless otherwise noted.