Raul Jimenez keeps his nerve as Mexico wobble
It wasn't pretty, but Mexico stumbled into the Gold Cup final after a 1-0 extra-time win over Haiti on Tuesday. Following a tedious 90 minutes that featured little more than El Tri dominating possession and launching inaccurate shots, Mexico was then given a lifeline through a penalty in extra time.
The lone goal that followed from Raul Jimenez was one of the few highlights in a game that showed a lack of creativity for Mexico going forward. Nonetheless, that goal was enough to guarantee a place in the final.
There's something brewing there in the buildup of attacking plays for Mexico. Names such as Jonathan dos Santos and Rodolfo Pizarro were all fun to watch as they zig-zagged their way up the field with diagonal passes and dangerous runs.
Defensively, it is also worth noting that this was only the second game in the early tenure of manager Gerardo "Tata" Martino in which Mexico kept the opposition scoreless.
Breaking down the opposition remains a glaring problem. Other future CONCACAF opponents should be thrilled to see Mexico struggle with highly defensive approaches in two consecutive knockout-round matches.
Manager rating (out of 10)
7 -- Martino started with the right tactics and made the right subs that should have carried Mexico to a straightforward victory. On Tuesday, most of the blame of the unconvincing performance should be put on the players. That said, Martino could have changed his approach or formation late in the game to catch Haiti off-guard, thereby avoiding a need for extra time.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Guillermo Ochoa, 7 -- No complaints about the goalkeeper, who needed to make only a couple of saves. The starting spot in net remains his for the foreseeable future.
DF Luis Rodriguez, 5 -- "Chaka" Rodriguez was the weak link in the backline. The right-back lost possession far too many times and didn't step up in the attack until late in the win. Time for the return of Miguel Layun?
DF Carlos Salcedo, 7 -- Alongside Hector Moreno, Salcedo was a trustworthy figure who wasn't afraid to get scrappy while fighting for the ball. The 25-year-old had a resolute performance that should keep him in the conversation for a continued starting spot.
DF Hector Moreno, 7 -- Moreno, who was a leader in the back line, finished the game with more completed passes than any other player on the field. The veteran formed a solid partnership with Salcedo as well.
DF Jesus Gallardo, 6 -- At once active in the early stages of the match, Gallardo's exciting runs on the left flank soon began to run out of energy. As the game progressed, the left-back spent most of his time dishing out short passes.
MF Jonathan dos Santos, 7 -- Dos Santos was proactive and aggressive with his tireless coverage in the midfield. The 29-year-old was a vital figure in the buildup of Mexico's playmaking.
MF Edson Alvarez, 7 -- The defensive midfielder had another solid performance as a reliable and aggressive leader against Haiti. When needed, Alvarez seamlessly dropped back to support the defense.
MF Andres Guardado, 6 -- Mexico's captain has still looked off since returning from injury. A lack of focus or precision on the field might have been due to his not being 100 percent.
FW Roberto Alvarado, 5 -- Not much to say about Alvarado. When Mexico desperately needed another player to take charge in the attack, the winger unfortunately emerged as one of the more quiet players on the pitch.
FW Raul Jimenez, 7 -- Although Jimenez missed shot after shot, he found a way to score the one that mattered. Stepping up to take the penalty in the first half of extra time, the striker clinched the game winner for Mexico. Jimenez also should have had an assist after Luis Montes missed an easy chance on net.
FW Rodolfo Pizarro, 7 -- Some of the best and worst from Mexico was seen from Pizarro. One minute he created much-needed and risk-taking runs. The other, he held on to the ball for too long or failed to connect with a member of the attack. Despite his occasional mistakes, watching Pizarro take his chances on the field was a breath of fresh air in a stale Mexico attack.
MF Carlos Rodriguez, 7 -- Substituted in for Guardado during the 68th minute. Rodriguez, like Dos Santos, did well to help create a number of attacking plays going forward.
FW Uriel Antuna, 7 -- Substituted in for Alvarado during the 69th minute. Antuna's pacey runs were an immediate headache for Haiti's backline. Given more time, it wouldn't have been surprising if he had been involved in a goal or assist.
MF Diego Reyes, N/A -- Substituted in for Alvarez during the 91st minute.
MF Luis Montes, N/A -- Substituted in for Dos Santos during the 105th minute.