HOUSTON – For the third consecutive game, Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio trotted out a different starting lineup and formation on Monday night against Venezuela.
But, unlike in Mexico’s previous two Copa America Centenario contests, this lineup had to play from behind early.
A 10th-minute goal by Jose Manuel Velazquez gave Venezuela an early 1-0 lead at NRG Stadium. El Vinotinto held their advantage for the next 70 minutes, looking at times like the more dangerous side and edging toward a win that would’ve given them the Group C title.
Osorio opted to make substantial changes to the lineup that beat Jamaica 2-0 last Thursday. He switched nine of 11 starters from that match, leaving Corona, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Miguel Layun on the bench while also using his third goalkeeper in three games.
Corona entered the match early, coming on the 18th-minute for the injured Javier Aquino. Layun subbed on at the start of the second half and Hernandez entered in the 68th minute to a huge ovation.
Mexico started the match in a 4-1-4-1, after previously using a 4-3-3 against Jamaica and a 3-5-2 against Uruguay.
The changes didn’t exactly lead to a sloppy performance – Mexico had plenty of chances throughout – but they did cause a bit of a scare for El Tri. A loss would’ve left them in second-place in Group C and prompted a likely encounter with tournament favorites Argentina in the quarterfinals.
While they left things until late, Osorio said after Monday’s match that he’ll still consider continuing to tinker with the lineup and his formation as Mexico moves into the Knockout Rounds. They’ll face the Group D runner-up in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
“Again, we always analyze the upcoming rival and depending on that and the level of our players we’ll make that decision,” Osorio said in his postgame press conference. “We’ll wait to see who our opponent is and we’ll get ready the same way for the next game.”
Osorio wouldn’t directly acknowledge whether the lineup changes negatively affected the team’s play, instead saying that player rotations are a principle of life for the team.
“A principle in which we give everyone an opportunity, because we consider that all the players are important,” said Osorio. “Today, personally, I and the assistant coaches think we selected a good group. We controlled the game, almost totally and during open play we have yet to concede a goal.”
He’ll run out another talented side in the quarterfinals this weekend, likely selecting the majority of his “base players” – a group that he’s said includes Corona, Hernandez, Layun, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera, among others – while potentially including a few surprises on the margins.
“I’ve expressed it many times. There is no 11 that play every game but there are between five and seven players that almost always will be in the lineup,” he said. “These are the players I think are the most influential.”