Mexico can take its unbeaten streak heading into the Copa America Centenario to 19 matches when taking on defending South American champions Chile in San Diego on Wednesday. The friendly contest comes just four days before El Tri will kick off its Copa America campaign against Uruguay and should provide the sternest test yet of Juan Carlos Osorio’s thus far unblemished reign.
El Tri extended its record under the Colombian to six wins and no goals conceded with a solid if unspectacular 1-0 win over Paraguay on Saturday. As well as furthering the perfect streak, the match also saw Osorio continue to display flexibility with his tactics and personnel.
Ahead of the game, Osorio strongly hinted that he would switch to a three-man defense in preparation for the similar threat Uruguay would pose on Sunday. It is an illustration that the former New York Red Bulls and Sao Paulo coach is far from welded to any one system and rather that the qualities of Mexico’s opponents will dictate his plans.
That thought process stretches beyond tactics. Osorio has also said that he will look to rotate his three goalkeepers through the Copa America, depending on how each of their strengths match up with the specific requirements of each game. Thus the concept of a No. 1 goalkeeper may not exist for Mexico at the tournament.
Against Paraguay, Guillermo Ochoa made his first appearance for Mexico since the final of the Gold Cup last summer. While not exactly overly tested, the 30-year-old, who got some much-needed first-team action with Malaga late in the season, did nothing to harm his chances. But he is likely to be watching from the sidelines again on Wednesday, when Alfredo Talavera, who has been Osorio’s preferred choice in goal thus far, and Jesús Corona will be vying to get some minutes ahead of the Copa America.
The identity of the man between the posts is unlikely to be the only change to the lineup at Qualcomm Stadium. Jesús “Tecatito” Corona, Hector Herrera and Miguel Layun all could be in line to start after their exploits in the Portuguese Cup final with Porto, while center-back Diego Reyes is also likely to earn a place in the lineup after coming off the bench against Paraguay. It could well be that the team that begins the match against Chile will bear a stronger resemblance to that which will feature when the real business gets underway against Uruguay.
Also at Osorio’s disposal in San Diego will be starlet Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. The 20-year-old winger now joins the squad fresh from sealing the Liga MX Clausura title with Pachuca with victory over Monterrey on Sunday. His arrival should only further improve the mood among a squad that has plenty of reason for confidence heading into the centenary celebration of South America’s showpiece event.
The same can’t quite be true for Chile. Winners of the country’s first ever international title at the Copa America last year, Chile suffered a shock 2-1 loss to Jamaica in Viña del Mar last Friday. It continues a difficult run for the team since the mastermind of the 2015 Copa America success, Jorge Sampaoli, stepped down in January to be replaced by Argentine Juan Antonio Pizzi.
Having also lost his opening match at home to Argentina, Pizzi still has much to prove. He should, though, at least have plenty of knowledge of many of the players his side will be facing off with on Wednesday. His previous job before stepping into the breach with Chile was at Liga MX side, León, where he not only came up against many of the Mexican squad, but coached midfielder Carlos Peña.
Osorio’s side will be boosted by the arrival of midfielders Marcelo Diaz and Arturo Vidal, although the Bayern Munich star’s fitness remains in doubt after joining the squad late. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo will again miss out due to the ill health of his daughter.
Venue: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Kickoff time: 10 p.m. EDT