Mexico's finishing still a work in progress in Chile defeat

El Tri had chances to score but couldn’t put any away in a 1-0 defeat to close out the October friendly window

Erick Gutierrez sent a gorgeous pass in behind the Chile defense in the 73rd minute and the rapid Jurgen Damm was there to pick up possession. He cut back on his left foot, took a shot and…sent the ball into the side netting.

Half of the Estadio Corregidora went wild, thinking the goal they’d been waiting to cheer finally had gone in. Instead, they’d be left to singing to lift their spirits after Nicolas Castillo’s 89th-minute goal lifted Chile to a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

The match was a friendly being overseen by an interim manager who was working to get his young players into the national team setup. The result, though it snapped a 17-match winning streak for El Tri on home soil, isn’t that big of a factor.

The performance from Mexico was good, with the Europe-based players like Hirving Lozano of PSV, his club teammate Gutierrez and Celta de Vigo center back Nestor Araujo improving on the showing a domestic-based team put in last week.

“Chile is a great opponent, they always have great players. We looked better than them at times, I think the majority of the game,” Lozano said after the contest. “We played the way the manager asked us to, and I think the team looked good.”

It’s a fair assessment. Especially the first hour when Lozano was joined in the lineup by Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Marco Fabian – two more Mexico players based in Europe – El Tri had control of the game. The biggest thing missing – from Corona, from Lozano, from Damm, from Wolves forward Raul Jimenez – was the final touch.

That should be a concern for the manager who takes over Mexico on a long-term basis. Those players are the attackers of the future, and while they’ve scored goals in the past, all have seen their shot go cold at times. When it all happens in the same night, you get a game and a result like the one Mexico settled for Tuesday.

“They had chances. We did as well. I think we have to get better on that, we have to be more precise in what we have because that’s how they are,” Gutierrez said. “They’ve got a lot of skilled players. We have to do the same. It’s a friendly, and it hurts us (to lose), but we have to keep working a lot more.”

In the end, Mexico put three shots on target and sent eight wide of the net – several into the side netting. This generation has few attacking prospects beyond the current group of players Ferretti is calling in, so this could be a recurring issue for Mexico. Chicharito, the all-time leading scorer for the country, isn’t coming back into the national team any time soon the 30-year-old playing well enough to be considered for the 2022 World Cup is a doubt. The same can be said of Carlos Vela.

Ferretti could get more creative with his call-ups. Toluca forward Alexis Vega deserves a look with the current squad and Chivas forward Alan Pulido reportedly was kept out by virtue of so many other players from the Guadalajara side being called in. But with only two Mexican players in the top 10 of Liga MX’s scoring charts, and both of those players over 30 (one of them, Oribe Peralta is retired from the national team), it will fall either to an even younger generation to score goals in this cycle or for Jimenez, Corona, Lozano and Co. to start finishing off scoring moves.

Those players have plenty of talent and they’re getting in the right position. Now they need to put the ball away to get the fans on their feet again and start to find a winning rhythm before next summer’s Gold Cup.

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