1. So the Canada roster is now out. Any names on there that Mexico fans will recognize, nevermind actually be concerned about facing?
If Mexico fans follow MLS, then they will know the name Cyle Larin. The Orlando City striker should be the one who gets the lion’s share of the publicity this week. Folks will also remember Julian de Guzman because he played with Andres Guardado at Deportivo la Coruña.
Personally, I just saw Tesho Akindele provide a spark for FC Dallas against Les Québecois, so he should be on the radar as well, at least for the people that matter.
2. I understand Benito Floro had a well-regarded spell with Monterrey in the late 90's. Does the fact he currently manages Canada mean there is additional interest or curiosity around this Canada team among Mexico fans or media?
If he would have won a title at Monterrey, then people might hold him in higher regard (or, as a God in Monterrey) than they already do. [Lasting] four seasons with one club is a decent record for any coach who has worked in Mexico. Honestly, the fact he coached Real Madrid carries a lot more weight among the Mexican media snobs.
3. In terms of the Mexico roster, what are the biggest surprises in terms of additions or players being left out?
The focus this week was on the omissions of Giovani Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, and Guillermo Ochoa. Dos Santos was left out because he is injured, Real Sociedad asked the [Mexican federation] not to call up Vela, and Memo Ochoa saw his first league action in two years at Malaga just two weeks ago. The lesson here, do your homework when you are looking for a team as a free agent. Ochoa could have gone anywhere after his performance at the World Cup, then zeroed in at Malaga without realizing that the current keeper, Carlos Kameni, is coached by his Cameroonian countryman.
But, none of these three are a bigger omission than Oribe Peralta – Olympic hero, consistent goal scorer for club and country, and the only Mexican striker of note who is on any kind of a hot streak. As far as unexpected additions, people tend to focus their wrath on the dudes that will never see the field. In this case, third-string keeper Pikolin Palacios and the defender Yasser Corona, who just came back from injury in January. The player who could force the issue and will likely come in as a substitute is Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, fresh off a hat trick over the weekend.
4. Benito Floro will likely line Canada up in some variation of a 10-1-0 and 11-0-0 for these two matches, hoping to steal a draw. What can we expect from Mexico in terms of starting eleven, tactics and/or formation knowing that a large part of the job will involve waiting patiently to break down the bus and not getting busted on the counter or on set-pieces?
Juan Carlos Osorio has different tactical philosophies for road and home games. He will be much more cautious and defensive on the road, so he will line up in a 4-4-2 with defensive minded wingbacks. As he did against Honduras, he will stress organization to avoid getting caught out on numbers on a Canadian counter. I suspect he will use his subs in the second half to bring in a fast, technical player who can tip the balance in Mexico’s favor. Jesus Corona and the aforementioned Chucky are the likely candidates.
The Azteca will be a different story. Osorio will play a 4-4-2 that will turn into a 4-2-4 for most of the match. He understands that the Azteca has to once again become that intimidating fortress with an armada of trebuchets at the ready to devastate their opponents. Mexico lost that in 2013. They need to get it back.
5. There's been a lot of talk among Canada fans about the crowd at BC Place. Almost 50K tickets have been sold, a huge crowd by Canadian soccer standards, but the worry is that the majority of those seats will be occupied by Mexico supporters. The Canadian Soccer Association has tried to mitigate this by limiting sales to people with a Canadian mailing address. We know El Tri is a big business in the U.S., do you think those fans will find a way to make it up to Canada and fill the stadium?
Mexico has fans all over the U.S., and that includes the Northwest. I expect there will be those who make the drive, just as I will (I am flying to Seattle and driving across). Mexican fans also have the tendency to buy tickets day of, so any unsold seats may be filled by fans wearing green.
6. Let's talk feelings. Mexico obviously has a huge rivalry with the U.S. men's team, and there's certainly no love lost when it comes to certain countries in Central America either, but what about Canada? Do Mexico fans have any special feelings or memories when it comes to playing Canada? Are we an afterthought?
Not at all. You have to remember that the U.S. is a relative newcomer to the upper echelon of CONCACAF. It has only been 20 years that the U.S. has staked their claim. Before that, Mexico’s biggest rivals in the region were Canada and Costa Rica. I still remember the nerve racking qualifier in 1993 in Toronto where Mexico had to come from behind, and the 2008 game [in Edmonton] where Mexico struggled to draw 2-2, a point that they needed just to get out of the semi-final round.
7. Alright, brass tacks time. Is there a chance Canada steals a point over the course of these two games? (And we're not talking a Dumb and Dumber 'So you're saying I have a chance?' type of chance.)
Of course there is. The stench of Mexico’s 2013 hex still hangs in the air. The longer the game goes scoreless, especially at the Azteca, the stifling pressure that nearly drowned Mexico last cycle will begin to weigh heavily on the players again. This is not the 1990’s, where Mexico dominated their regional rivals. That was due to the fact that Mexico had better players, but also because Mexico was almost entirely a 'local league' national team who was used to playing at altitude. As talented as this side is – and make no mistake they are VERY talented - up to nine starters will be European based. That's nine players who do not play at altitude on a regular basis. Now, if Mexico scores an early one, then things change. And then it could get ugly for Les Rouges.
8. I would probably pass out and then repeatedly douse myself with cold water for several hours afterward to make sure I wasn't dreaming, but I'd like you to describe how you'd react at the final whistle of a Canada victory at Azteca Stadium on Mar. 29?
I would not be happy, of course. But I learned long ago to hedge my emotional investment in sports teams. That said, Mexico’s inevitable elimination at any World Cup still causes me to go into a major funk that lasts a few weeks.