For Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio, Monday’s exhibition against Wales at the Rose Bowl was more about learning than about winning.
And the most important lesson he took from the 0-0 draw was that he and his team still have a lot of work to do before next month’s World Cup opener against defending champion Germany.
“This was an excellent challenge for the team,” Osorio said in Spanish.
A challenge that exposed the holes in a team that dominated in every phase of the game yet, for the second match in a row, failed to score.
That’s not the way Osorio hoped to wrap up his World Cup preparations.
With the deadline to set his tournament roster less than a week away, Osorio is faced with questions about a defense weakened by injury, a lineup sorely lacking in chemistry and the fitness of nearly half a dozen players. None of those questions was fully answered in a game that, at times, looked more like the audition it was than the game a crowd of 82,345 had hoped to see.
But no one else was injured, either, so for Mexico that should be considered a good night. The crowd, the largest for a soccer game in the U.S. this year, didn’t see it that way, though, and greeted the final whistle — and El Tri’s performance — with boos.
Osorio emptied his bench, using 17 players. Among those who needed to make favorable impressions and did so were defenders Hugo Ayala and Edson Alvarez, both of whom played the full 90 minutes, defender Oswaldo Alanis and midfielder Jesus Molina.
Galaxy midfielder Jonathan dos Santos also played well in his 29 minutes but Dos Santos’ brother (and Galaxy teammate) Giovani was unimpressive in a short appearance and to make the team may have to do more in Saturday’s final sendoff game against Scotland in Mexico City.
Los Angeles Football Club forward Carlos Vela, who played 90 minutes in an MLS game Saturday, did not play, watching from a suite with his family.
Osorio batted away numerous questions about how his roster is shaping up. Asked how many had played themselves off the World Cup team, he answered directly.
“None,” he said. “In football, as we know, a situation can change in a minute. There’s very close competition for some positions. We have sufficient elements to judge them on to make a decision that will be just and will be the best for Mexico.
“Right now,” he added, “everyone is under consideration for the final roster.”
Mexico dominated from the start, holding the ball for nearly 70% of the game, outshooting Wales 17-2 and forcing Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey into nine saves. Midfielder Hector Herrera — whose spot in the starting lineup is already secure — was especially dangerous, with Hennessey robbing him twice by redirecting a shot over the crossbar in the first half and making a sprawling save on another Herrera try at the near post early in the second.
“This is the final part we have to work on the most,” Osorio said. “We have to finish our scoring chances.”
Mexico chose Wales, ranked 21st in the world, and 34th-ranked Scotland for two World Cup tune-ups because both teams will test Mexico with the same direct style of play that Osorio expects to see from Sweden and Germany in the World Cup.
Against Wales, Osorio’s team received an incomplete. And that leaves a lot of players with only one more chance to bring up their grade against Scotland.
“Saturday will present a great opportunity for many,” Osorio said. “And we’ll make our decisions based on that.”