Mexico's finishing woes worrying despite win in World Cup send-off friendly
MEXICO CITY -- Mexico defeated Scotland 1-0 on Saturday thanks to an early Giovani dos Santos goal inside a full Estadio Azteca in its farewell game before heading to Europe to continue its World Cup preparation.
Here are three thoughts from the match.
1. Finishing problematic for El Tri
Saturday's game was slightly overshadowed initially by the announcement just three hours before kickoff that Jesus Molina, Oswaldo Alanis and Jurgen Damm won't be traveling to Denmark and are out of El Tri's World Cup squad.
The news reshaped the narrative of the game slightly, with the talk beforehand about how the three players, plus the likes of Giovani dos Santos, Hugo Ayala, Edson Alvarez and Erick Gutierrez, would be battling it out for the final spots in the squad. Twenty-four players will travel to Denmark on Sunday night.
As for the game itself, this was another 90 minutes in which El Tri was clearly the dominant and better side but didn't show it in the score line. Mexico drew 0-0 against Wales last Monday in Pasadena, California, and but for Dos Santos' early goal, it could've been another scoreless draw in Estadio Azteca.
Mexico had 34 shots (10 on target) compared to Scotland's four (two on target). El Tri had 64 percent of possession and hit the frame of the goal twice. Those kinds of stats don't always turn into victories, but by the end of Saturday's game, Mexico's wastefulness in front of goal was bordering on the incredulous.
There is no easy solution to Mexico's recurring issues with turning positive play into goals, and El Tri simply can't afford to spurn such chances against Germany, South Korea or Sweden in Russia.
On the plus side, Osorio was able to put a side out that included six or seven likely World Cup starters, and there were some solid performances from Edson Alvarez, Hiving Lozano -- aside from his finishing -- Hector Herrera and Miguel Layun.
Osorio should be particularly encouraged by Layun's performance in a more advanced midfield position than he is used to, although Raul Jimenez up front didn't have one of his better nights.
Boos rung out on the final whistle, and cries of, "Osorio out" could be heard. It wasn't the way Mexico would've wanted to end its farewell game, but this is a manager who has never been particularly popular with El Tri's faithful.
A good run in Russia would turn that on its head.
2. Relief for Giovani
It has been a tough week for Giovani dos Santos. There was so much debate about his place in Osorio's squad that the LA Galaxy forward must've felt the pressure, even with his vast experience.
Dos Santos was handed the start by Osorio, alternating between the left and right side of midfield. He went 57 minutes in a performance that wasn't wind-blowing, but in the 13th minute, he offered a reminder of just what he can bring to this squad.
Dos Santos found space on the edge of the box and struck a Carlos Vela pass first time into the bottom right corner of the net. It was a sweet finish to put Mexico into the lead.
But the celebration also hinted at the relief Dos Santos felt at being in the World Cup squad. The 29-year-old ran all the way to the bench, shrugging off teammates and going directly to Osorio, whom he hugged.
It was another sign of the unity in this Mexico squad. Dos Santos isn't considered one of Osorio's favorites, but the goal celebration said more than 100 interviews could have.
Dos Santos will be at his third World Cup in Russia and has a role to play, even if it is coming off the bench.
3. Herrera shaping up to be holding midfielder
The injury to Diego Reyes and the unknowns about whether he will be available for El Tri at the World Cup has forced Osorio to rethink his midfield, especially the holding role. Osorio's answer appears to be Porto's Hector Herrera.
The 28-year-old started there in the Confederations Cup last year, and with Molina out, there aren't many options. Edson Alvarez and Rafa Marquez could step in, but one -- 20-year-old Alvarez -- is at the start of his career, and the other -- 39-year-old Marquez -- is at the end of his and probably incapable of playing 90 minutes in a game as intense as El Tri's opener against Germany will be on June 17.
If Reyes is fit, it is likely he could slot in at center-back in the role Nestor Araujo was pencilled in for before he pulled out of the squad with a knee injury.
Herrera dominated the midfield in the first half against Scotland and was always trying to get on the ball. Mexico benefits greatly with the Porto player in there when it has the ball.
The downside is when Mexico isn't in possession. Herrera doesn't offer the same comfort blanket. Positionally, he is more likely to get caught out than Molina, and he is average in the air.
In the second half on Saturday, Alvarez slotted into the holding role, with Herrera pushed forward. He was effective there, as well, and Alvarez did reasonably, although Scotland's midfield and attack is a very different proposition to Germany's.
But the positives seem to outweigh the negatives, and playing Herrera in front of the defense is a calculated risk Osorio appears willing to take.
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.