SEATTLE – In the middle of a scathing post-match inquest into his job security after the 2-1 defeat to Panama on Sunday, Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre attempted to provide a modest dose of perspective to the increasingly dire state of affairs.
One poor match at the Gold Cup would not prevent Mexico fulfilling its overarching goal of claiming a third straight title. It may have complicated the path a bit and it definitely reduced the already limited supply of goodwill for de la Torre and El Tri at the moment, but the setback for this inexperienced group did not scupper their chances of success in the tournament.
"We have to analyze the situation," said de la Torre through a translator. "We have to review the work we are doing to get on the right path and go forward with better form as we look to get to the next round with the best level possible for the team."
The path toward redemption - long and winding, particularly in the wake of the struggles at the Confederations Cup and World Cup qualifying with a different set of players - starts with a manageable match against Canada ( live, FOX Soccer, 11 p.m. ET ).
It's an ideal opportunity to restore some sense of pride in the wake of the chastening defeat to the Panamanians. Canada will improve markedly after a wretched display in the last-gasp 1-0 defeat to Martinique on Sunday, but Colin Miller's outfit remains flawed, frail and inherently limited due to a rash of absences and injuries. This rebuilding and tattered side will try to replicate the disciplined and organized effort Panama used to quell Mexico at the Rose Bowl on Sunday, but it lacks the consistency and individual quality to do so barring a Herculean display.
Video: Mexico faces touch challenge
Even if Canada musters it's that type of response (even with captain Will Johnson ruled out with illness) and sets out a defiant defensive shape, Mexico should claim its first victory of the tournament with a minimum of fuss. Then again, El Tri has floundered in this sort of situation - expected to win and forced to press the initiative - time and time again this year with a different group of players. And a performance similar to the one against Panama would permit doubt to creep into the outcome once more.
"I think the players have not found their rhythm, individually or collectively," de la Torre said after the defeat. "This is what I am trying to work on. Of course, a result would help in order to get confidence, in order to keep working. When things are going this way, you have to observe the players and see what they are made of. If it is a player that is compromised with the team, then it is of course something we need to look into."
De la Torre will examine his personnel choices and his tactical approach in a bid to provide his charges with the necessary lift ahead of this affair at CenturyLink Field. The continued vacillation between formations - 4-3-3 at the start, 4-4-2 at the end - failed to produce the necessary spark as the game progressed, while the reliance on direct play stripped the side of some of its best qualities in the final third. This group must sort out its strengths - bypassing the midfield to the two forwards, leaning on mobile, tidy work with three or ideally mixing the two disciplines - and lean on them accordingly.
Mexico's manager Jose Manuel de la Torre reacts to his side's loss against Panama. (Photo: Robyn Deck/Getty Images).
The emphasis ahead of this game should fall on coherence instead of tactical tinkering, though. The team selection must align neatly with the style of play after the disjointed effort in southern California. De la Torre pondered how to use Marco Fabián (as a wide player or as part of the attacking three?) and Raúl Jimenez (would he benefit from playing centrally with a partner, either Rafael Márquez Lugo or the more robust Javier Orozco?) to extract the best from both integral players. Carlos Peña could earn a start in central midfield with only one holding player likely required for this task, while natural wingers Isaac Brizuela and Luis Montes will hope to contribute some genuine width. There are also questions to answer in defense after a rickety showing against Panama with options available to alter the current back four and both fullback spots.
Each choice assumes additional importance given the desperate need for success to mollify an irate country, but this match against Canada offers a chance to obtain a mere sliver of solace on that account. A victory will not erase the concerns created by the defeat to Panama or reduce the pressure on de la Torre substantially, but it could supply some of the curative effects required to boost morale and reinforce the notion that this final goal of this Gold Cup quest remains firmly within grasp.