Mexico's Hector Herrera (pictured) races for the ball in a World Cup qualifier against host Trinidad & Tobago on March 28, 2017, in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago. (Photo: John Bacon/Straffon Images)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Juan Carlos Osorio used the lessons learned from a pair of high-scoring draws against Trinidad & Tobago two years earlier to mastermind the plan that helped Mexico defeat the Caribbean power on Tuesday in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In 2015, Mexico and T&T met in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and then seven weeks later in an international friendly, which finished 4-4 and 3-3, respectively.
Analyzing the good and the bad from each of those encounters gave Osorio – who was not in charge of either -- the insight he needed to pinpoint the keys to what turned out to be a road victory. The 54-year-old head coach said his players performed as expected in a 1-0 win, with Diego Reyes’ 58th-minute header proving to be the difference.
“First, from the two previous matches that we analyzed, the ones that finished 3-3 and 4-4, we decided on three objectives,” Osorio noted in his post-match press conference. “The first…keep a clean sheet. That was key. Second…limit their set pieces. They are a team that has scored goals on us in that manner, from a throw-in and a corner kick. Third…control their direct football.”
Mexico was extremely effective in each of those areas, improving to 3W-1D-0L in the Hexagonal and extending its lead atop the table to three points over second-place Costa Rica.
Even though limiting the aerial game of opponents has been a priority for the Tricolor, its ability to develop one of its own has been pivotal. In the final-round opener last November at the United States, Rafael Marquez nodded in the game-winner with two minutes remaining in normal time. Then, Reyes repeated the feat to silence the T&T fans at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
“We had the great fortune of scoring a goal with our aerial game, which was good today,” finished Osorio. “In the end, we leave happy because we beat a great opponent. It’s a team that’s going to be very difficult to take points from at home.”
Osorio did the scouting and Mexico used its head to do just that.