SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Juan Carlos Osorio has Mexico winning his way.
Osorio’s mixing-and-matching methodology for his lineup might be scrutinized by some and far from universally popular back home. Yet at least some of his players believe it gives El Tri a much-needed edge that is working pretty well if not completely consistently just yet.
Everybody must stay sharp and ready, because you don’t know when your name might be called in this Copa America tournament. A little healthy competition? You bet.
The coach strays from steady, predictable decisions and seems to go with his gut depending on opponent and situation — and who’s got the hot foot.
No arguing the results. And Mexico hopes that winning its group is just the start of a special Copa America run.
Up next is a quarterfinal matchup against defending Copa champion and fifth-ranked Chile on Saturday night at sold-out Levi’s Stadium. With 70,000 people expected, it very well could be the most hyped atmosphere yet for a sporting event at the 2-year-old, $1.3 billion stadium — perhaps topping this year’s Super Bowl. Hugely popular, Mexico is almost a home team in this Copa, being played in the United States for the first time with a special 100th anniversary tournament featuring six nations from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
Osorio has used three different goalkeepers in as many matches so far this Copa America, and 21 of his 23 players on the roster have suited up for at least one game.
“I’m all up for the rotations because that helps you to stay in top shape all the time knowing that you have a shot to be the starter every game,” defender Paul Aguilar said. “We respect what the coach is doing and, for me, it helps to stay focused.”
Mexico is ranked 16th in the world and riding a 22-game undefeated streak, its best ever, topping an unbeaten stretch of 21 by the 2004-05 team coached by Argentinian Ricardo La Volpe.
Both teams will try to set the tone by attacking from the opening kickoff.
Aguilar is expecting another “back-and-forth” game, and Mexico knows its group-stage win will mean little if it can’t get past a Chile squad that was runner-up to Argentina in Group D.
El Tri Mexico beat Chile 1-0 in an exhibition matchup June 1 in San Diego, getting a goal in the 86th minute from Javier Hernandez but not playing its top soccer.
“The Mexican team has a style of play that when you make a mistake they make you feel it, so we have to be very focused. It’s going to be a tough match like the one in San Diego,” Chile defender Jose Pedro Fuenzalida said. “We will try to play our best game at this stage of the championship to keep advancing.”
Both sides know that their last game only a few weeks ago has little meaning now.
“Chile was not playing at the same level as before, but we are getting there. People remember what we did last year but it’s hard to sustain that level,” Fuenzalida said. “We also have a new manager and you have to adapt to new methods and that takes time, but we are getting closer to what we want.”
Mexico and Chile, playing the 2015 Copa America at home, played to a 3-3 draw in the group stage last year. Chile went on to beat Argentina and Lionel Messi 4-1 on penalty kicks for La Roja’s first Copa championship.
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