Players from the Mexico U23 team (pictured) train in Carson, California, on October 3, 2015. (Photo: Mexsport)
CARSON, California – At first glance, judging by the margin of victory, many observers would look at Mexico’s 4-0 win over Costa Rica in the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship as requiring a relatively straightforward performance.
That’s not what Raul Gutierrez, the Tricolor’s head coach, thinks.
“Starting a tournament like this one with a win, it always relaxes you,” said the 48-year-old. “But the important thing here is to note that it wasn’t an easy game. The score can tell you the opposite, but it was a very hard-fought result in a game that didn’t become clear until the later parts of the game. I am happy with the players because they did what they were told to do and they did it well.”
What Mexico did against the Ticos was jump out to a quick start in a tournament that sends two teams directly to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. It displayed an explosive offensive style, showing that there is strong internal competition for positions in this tournament and beyond. Players want to be part of the starting lineup as much as Mexico wants to defend its Olympic crown.
“I think we will always be tagged as the favorite because of history, because this is the defending championship team,” Gutierrez remarked. “That is something that motivates us and, like always, it will be a responsibility we will always assume.”
With all the good things El Tri displayed, however, it also revealed areas that required improvement, according to Gutierrez. He wants to correct those items before Mexico plays Haiti in the second Group B match for each on Sunday at the StubHub Center.
“The team dropped back all of a sudden and I don’t like those type of things,” Gutierrez noted. “I don’t think any coach likes the fact that you give your opponent a chance because you drop back. I think we did that in the first 20 minutes of the first half. That was one of the things we fixed a halftime.”
Mexico will look to fine tune those adjustments against a Haiti team that fell 1-0 to Honduras, also on Friday.
“We make game plans to win,” finished Gutierrez. “We then have to do what is necessary to win. These tournaments expose the work of all players. Some will start, others will not, so we can keep that diversity going. It’s always been that way and it doesn’t have to be different on this occasion.”