Jesus Duenas leads Mexico to semis with thorough performance
After a brilliant Gold Cup quarterfinal start for Mexico, which included an early goal from Rodolfo Pizarro, El Tri later shuffled to a 1-0 win against Honduras on Thursday.
Although Mexico appeared destined for another goal or two through its aggressive and creative distribution in the first 45 minutes, the CONCACAF giants failed to sneak another opportunity into the back of the net.
Regardless of the result, El Tri and suspended manager Juan Carlos Osorio clinched a place in the next round of the tournament. Following the narrow victory, the only thing separating Mexico from a spot in the final is a semifinal clash against Jamaica on Sunday.
Throughout the first half, it was thoroughly enjoyable to watch Mexico weave in and around Honduras' backline with clever passing. During that time, El Tri were near-perfect with a constant supply of vertical passing and high pressure.
Even though many will point out that Mexico should have had more clear-cut chances on net, El Tri's exciting movement and cohesion were positive signs for the national team.
Mexico needed to take advantage of their opportunities. On numerous occasions, El Tri's beautiful playmaking never amounted to much in the final third. Against a more daunting opponent like the United States, Mexico will need to be more efficient in the attack.
Manager (rating out of 10)
8 -- Due to the fact that the suspended Osorio was left watching from a club box, assistant Luis Pompilio Paez was El Tri's decision-maker on the sideline. Whether it was more of a decision from Osorio or Paez, Thursday's starting 11 was strong enough to garner a more one-sided result.
For those who are worried about the infamous rotations from Osorio, they can rest easy after seeing a more practical and pragmatic squad against Honduras.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jose de Jesus Corona, 8 -- During the rare moments that Corona needed to step up, the veteran never failed to take control of his net. A very convincing performance from the 36-year-old.
DF Edson Alvarez, 7.5 -- Another surprisingly confident evening from the versatile youngster. Alvarez provided much-needed tackles and clearances as a right-back and defensive midfielder.
DF Hugo Ayala, 7.5 -- Ayala had his best match of the Gold Cup on Thursday. The captain took charge of the back line and produced a handful of crucial interceptions.
DF Jair Pereira, 6.5 -- A couple of hesitant moments, but nothing too detrimental from Pereira. The Chivas player must also be given credit for his accurate distribution going forward.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 6.5 -- Despite the fact that Gallardo was at times far too quiet, the 22-year-old showcased significant defensive improvements as El Tri's left-back. An intriguing option in the near future for Mexico.
MF Jesus Duenas, 8 -- Duenas was a key part of a midfield that helped keep possession away from Honduras. In the fourth minute, the 28-year-old also created the assist for Pizarro's goal.
MF Jesus Molina, 7.5 -- Molina proved to be hard-working and dominant in the heart of the starting 11. Unfortunately, after a knock too many, he was taken off on a stretcher in the second half.
MF Rodolfo Pizarro, 6.5 -- Credit must be given to Pizarro for scoring the lone goal, but the 23-year-old was too reserved and cautious afterward.
FW Elias Hernandez, 6 -- Hernandez was frustratingly passive with his possession. When Mexico was in desperate need of someone to take risks, the winger avoided any type of selfish play on the right flank.
FW Angel Sepulveda, 7 -- Playing mostly as a false nine, Sepulveda did an excellent job of confusing Honduras' back line with his movement. All that was missing was more than one shot on target.
FW Orbelin Pineda, 6.5 -- Similar to Hernandez, Pineda at times failed to take advantage of clear chances that could have secured another goal. That said, the 21-year-old was proactive with his distribution and crosses in the first half.
DF Luis Rodriguez, 5.5 -- Was substituted in for Molina during the 65th minute. Honduras' attack found a way to run past the right-back on a few dangerous occasions in the second half. An ineffective evening for Rodriguez.
FW Erick Torres, N/A -- Was substituted in for Sepulveda during the 75th minute.
FW Raul Lopez, N/A -- Was substituted in for Pizarro during the 91st minute.
Cesar Hernandez covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @cesarhfutbol.