Miguel Herrera

World Cup: A look at Mexico's 5-3-2 formation ahead of Wednesday's qualifier vs. New Zealand

After a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign, Mexico decided to hire a recent champion as their new national team head coach. After a dramatic Liga MX title in last year’s Clausura and a historic start to this year’s Apertura, Miguel Herrera (above) came to the national team level to right and ship, and brought with him a formation that is rarely seen in Major League Soccer.

Formations using three center backs have become common in Mexico with teams like Puebla and Morelia, among others, employing these types of formations to varying success. Herrera’s version uses two traditional fullbacks to form a back five. While these players have many defensive responsibilities, they also have the freedom to get forward. In a 3-0 drubbing of Atlas earlier this season, we can see how Miguel Layún and Paul Aguilar – both Mexican internationals – were able to move into the attacking half.

Paul Aguilar

Miguel Layún


Getting a full view of the average positions of América’s starting XI that day can give us a better look at how Herrera likes to deploy the rest of his team.

Club América Average Positions


We can see here that No. 26 (Juan Carlos Medina) sits right in front of the back three much in the same way a Kyle Beckerman or Osvaldo Alonso would. From here, No. 14 (Rubens Sambeuza) and No. 15 (Luis Mendoza) have the freedom to create behind the two strikers and both had outstanding seasons with América. Sambueza and Mendoza each scored at least three goals and collected three assists in the Liga MX Apertura tournament.

With two creators behind them the two forwards for No. 7 (Narciso Mina) and No. 9 (Raúl Jiménez) were each able to put their names on the score sheet against Atlas.

In his first game as Mexico coach in a friendly last month vs. Finland, Herrera deployed his usual formation with seven of the same starters from the game against Atlas. El Tri won the game 4-2, controlling 69 percent of the possession in the game. Mexico were able to spend most of the day in Finland’s half so Layún and Aguilar were more advanced than they would typically be. Given that, we can see the rest of the starters had similar average positions than the América players did against Atlas.

Mexico Average Positions


If the reports are true about Mexico’s lineup for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against New Zealand (3:30 pm ET, ESPN, Univision), seven of the players from that previous game will start. Some fans who have not had the opportunity to see Herrera's teams in the past should be in for an eye-opening day.