Derlis Gonzalez’s second-half goal gave Paraguay a 1-0 win over Mexico in a friendly on Wednesday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Held during a non-FIFA window, Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino brought a squad composed entirely of players from Liga MX, with notable Europe-based players such as Raul Jimenez and Hirving Lozano staying back.
Paraguay took charge in the second half when La Albirroja found the back of the net in the 50th minute. Following a shot off the woodwork, Gonzalez picked up the rebound and placed the ball into the back of Carlos Acevedo’s net.
Despite a total of five subs from Martino during the second half, Mexico failed to sneak anything past Antony Silva. With Paraguay happy to continue giving up possession, El Tri were unable to find an equalizer.
Although both teams utilized alternate rosters, Martino will likely be frustrated with the result that finished with chants of “Fuera Tata” (Tata out) just months away from the World Cup.
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Here is our reaction to Wednesday’s match.
1. Different look, same finishing issues for Mexico
No matter the roster or attacking names placed into the starting XI, Mexico has had no lack of matches this year in which the frontline fails to capitalize on numerous opportunities. Wednesday night was no different. After 23 shots, El Tri walked away empty-handed from the friendly that was initially promising with a near-frenetic start to the game.
Perhaps due to Gerardo “Tata” Martino fielding a false nine through Roberto Alvarado — or the high-flying MOTM-like performance from Antony Silva in net for Paraguay — the absence of a true goalscorer became more and more apparent as the match progressed.
The good news for Martino is that it’s unlikely that most of his alternate players involved in match would be in a strongest XI for Mexico at the World Cup. The bad news though is that a change in squad or players in the field hasn’t done much to alter the team that has now scored one goal or fewer in nine of their 13 matches in all competitions this year.
2. Vega, Antuna make case to replace ‘Tecatito’
Perhaps just as important as Wednesday’s result was who was going to start for Mexico. Despite having an alternate roster, Martino said on Tuesday in a news conference that up to 50% of the players involved in today’s game could go to the World Cup. Looking at the starting XI, the argument could be made that all of the players selected are on the cusp, if not a near-guarantee, for a place in Qatar.
In the attack, Martino also highlighted possible replacements for the injured Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, who would traditionally be a starter as a winger for El Tri. While European-based names like Diego Lainez and Orbelin Pineda are also in the running, Liga MX-based options like Alexis Vega and Uriel Antuna are candidates that were given the start on the wings against Paraguay.
Of the two, Vega made a great case for himself as one of Mexico’s top playmakers, in spite of going quiet in parts of the second half. Antuna was a bit erratic with his play, but he does have the upper-hand of regularly being given minutes in the Martino era.
3. Silva spoils Martino’s return to Atlanta
By far, Silva was the man of the match on Wednesday. Of the handful of Mexico’s 23 shots that hit the target, the Paraguayan was exceptional with stopping them through his quick reflexes.
In what was set to be a footballing party for the pro-Mexico crowd, Silva silenced the announced crowd of 51,000 that were growing frustrated with Mexico’s attacking chances. Unfortunately, some in the stands did eventually begin making noise once again to belt out “Fuera Tata” (Tata out), and later, the anti-gay goalkeeper chant that has marred national team games for years.
Even with a xG (expected goals) tally of 1.93, Mexico just couldn’t find a way to score one single opportunity.
Mexico: Carlos Acevedo 6, Kevin Alvarez 7, Cesar Montes 6, Jesus Angulo 5, Jesus Gallardo 5, Luis Romo 6, Carlos Rodriguez 7, Luis Chavez 7, Uriel Antuna 6, Alexis Vega 7, Roberto Alvarado 7
Subs: Luis Reyes 6, Emilio Lara 6, Eduardo Aguirre 6, Erick Sanchez 7, Fernando Beltran 6
Paraguay: Antony Silva 9, Ivan Piris 6, Bruno Valdez 6, Saul Salcedo 5, Mateo Gamarra 7, Andres Cubas 6, Richard Ortiz 6, Richard Sanchez 7, Lorenzo Melgarejo 6, Derlis Gonzalez 8, Carlos Gonzalez 7
Subs: Diego Gomez 6, Matias Galarza 6, Angel Lucena 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Antony Silva, Paraguay
An absolute wall in net. Mexican soccer fans will likely not be surprised to see the talented 38-year-old Puebla goalkeeper shut down so many of his fellow Liga MX compatriots.
WORST: Jesus Gallardo, Mexico
Another lackluster evening from Gallardo that seemed to get worse through the second half. Although he was occasionally active going forward, he often left far too much space for Paraguay to counter and left much to be desired with his crosses. A failure to score a close-range chance didn’t help either.
The silver-lining for Mexico? Seeing their incredible secondary World Cup kits on display for the first time.
PERFECTION. ❤️🔥❤️🔥❤️🔥#MEXTOUR | #SomosLocales pic.twitter.com/L73AlCBFkB
— Mexican National Team (@miseleccionmxEN) September 1, 2022
Despite the loss, those kits are 100% triple-fire-heart-emoji worthy.
After the match: What the managers, players said
“Not just a public enemy, but public enemy No. 1 … They don’t know me, they don’t know how I am as a person, if they knew how I am as a person, surely it wouldn’t happen.” — Mexico coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino on the boos, criticism
“I think today was a special night for Antony [Silva], you have to acknowledge his saves.” — Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Acevedo on the Paraguay keeper, to TUDN.
Mexico: El Tri have two friendlies in California next month — the first against Peru on Sept. 24 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and then Colombia on Sept. 27 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Two more friendlies are scheduled in November against Iraq (Nov. 9, location TBD) and Sweden in Spain on Nov. 16. Then it’s the big show: World Cup group stage action against Poland (Nov. 22), Saudi Arabia (Nov. 26), and Argentina (Nov. 30).
Paraguay: Two upcoming friendlies on the docket — vs. United Arab Emirates on Sept. 23 in Austria and World Cup-bound Morocco on Sept. 27 in Spain.