SAN ANTONIO, Texas — It’s sometimes difficult to sift through the layers of hype and/or criticism and arrive at objective conclusions when assessing Mexico. El Tri simply generates so much interest.
Over three Gold Cup group games in the United States against minnows El Salvador, Jamaica and Curacao, El Tri has drawn an average of 48,500 fans per match. The news conferences for coach Juan Carlos Osorio are packed and it doesn’t seem ridiculous to suggest there could be more journalists covering Mexico at the Gold Cup than all the other nations put together.
The green-clad supporters packing the stadiums are all there to cheer on the side and expect to see El Tri win. If the victory includes multiple goals to assert the notion of Mexico’s regional dominance, then all the better. But here’s the dilemma for Mexico at the 2017 Gold Cup: the experimental squad and tournament (the best players were all at the Confederations Cup) is all about Osorio testing and getting to know the players likely to be challenging the established figures over coming years. It’s about those players getting used to life with Mexico; seeing how comfortable they are and readying them for the future.
Those inside the squad know that. And perhaps that is why Jesus Duenas was slightly upset after last Thursday’s 0-0 draw against Jamaica, after which Mexico was booed and chants of “Osorio out” rained down from the stands in Denver.
“People are like that,” he said. “If you lose or draw everything is against you; if you win you are the best. We don’t play to make people happy, we play to make ourselves content personally, as a group, and then as a consequence the people [will be happy].”
There was outrage in Mexico and Duenas’ words became the main talking point on many sports shows. The Tigres midfielder was forced to apologize and while his words may have been slightly clumsy, he was only being honest.
The group stage was a chance for Osorio and the coaching staff to draw some conclusions, safe in the knowledge that the standard of opposition wasn’t likely to complicate Mexico’s passage to the quarterfinals. The Colombian coach used 21 of his 23 available players over the group stage in a rotation that is extreme even for Osorio.