Macias among bright spots for Mexico in successful exercise against Trinidad and Tobago

The friendly match should be taken for what it was – a fun night when fans were able to see a bit of what the future of El Tri could look like

A successful exercise.

These words are being written before Tata Martino enters the press room at Estadio Nemesio Diez and gives his verdict on Mexico’s 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago, but you can be sure he’ll label it something to that effect.

This game – a friendly match in which just five players in the whole squad had been in a senior national team camp and in which eight starters were making their debuts – never was going to be more than an exercise. The game wasn’t for points. It’s not part of a tournament. It will fade into the memory – or maybe not. Remember Mexico playing Liberia in Veracruz the summer before the 2002 World Cup? Well, it happened.

The game served its purpose, however. Martino saw the team play in the style which he wanted it to play, with many of the bright spots being players who understand what his system of play demands.

“Sometimes in this game and when the opponent allows it, we can fall into a bit of individualism because they want to show themselves,” Martin said when he did give his verdict. “But generally I think we played with the idea of play we practiced, we carried it out. Sometimes we got deep, other times we didn’t hurt the opponent at all but I think we never were in danger of losing the result, we did well and the first 45 minutes stay with me.”

The best example is Leon forward Jose Juan Macias, a bright prospect who fans are hoping is the first forward of international quality Mexico has produced since Raul Jimenez. There has long been a drought of strikers, with foreign players dominating the Liga MX scoring charts and few number nines hinting they’ll do anything to displace Jimenez and Chicharito at the top of the depth chart.

It’s far too early to crown Macias the next star forward, but he showed on Wednesday he gets what he should be doing for Martino.

The first goal came when Macias started pressuring one Soca Warrior center back and caused him to lay off to the other. Macias closed down Daniel Cyrus quickly, winning the ball near midfield and went to work. He chugged forward and got into the box, taking his time and lining up a shot for the opening goal even as his teammates asked for the ball alongside him.

The pressure, effort and confidence is exactly what Mexico needs from a forward, and at just 20 years of age, Macias looks to have scored the first of many goals for the national team.

“Of course it’s a different feeling. We’re at home, and it’s different to score a goal with your national team,” he said after the match. “I think I’m going to enjoy it and keep moving forward.

“Obviously it’s unforgettable. Now it’s just about working hard and looking for more.”

Another bright spot was at outside back, where Alan Mozo was effective getting forward and putting in crosses from the right and both Cristian Calderon and Gerardo Arteaga showed they are capable on the left. It’s a position of weakness for Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago, even one composed of a strange collection of players available to play on this non-FIFA date, doesn’t lack for wide attacking options. Even so, with Dennis Lawrence trying out a few things of his own in an experimental game. 

But that’s exactly the point for Martino. He said prior to the match that a player’s showing on Wednesday wasn’t going to determine whether or not he’d be on the roster for Nations League games against Bermuda and Panama. There still are obviously positions where more cover is needed than using Olympics-eligible players as well. At center back, Martino went with converted fullbacks from the opening whistle. Perhaps that’s why he’s set to call in center backs Nestor Araujo of Celta de Vigo and Carlos Salcedo of Tigres.

Take it for what it was, though, a midweek game that served as the second half of a doubleheader with a grim Copa MX match between hosts Toluca and Veracruz.

It’s no wonder the crowd in the Toluca seemed to be enjoying it so much, with “Dale, dale, dale Mexico!” songs and several rounds of the wave. That’s the other bright spot we’ll remember from Wednesday. While this is the sort of match that gets brought up only as trivia in going forward, it was…kind of fun!

And isn’t that what it’s about in the end? It isn’t that serious. There was nothing on the line. But we saw Mexico national team hopefuls give it their all for their country in front of fans who were thrilled to see them.

Here’s to more successful exercises.

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