Mexico dominates Ireland 3-1 in final tuneup before a loaded summer

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/raúl-jiménez" data-ylk="slk:Raul Jimenez">Raul Jimenez</a> celebrates his penalty kick. (USA TODAY Sports)
Raul Jimenez celebrates his penalty kick. (USA TODAY Sports)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After a fetid opening to a busy summer in the form of a uninspiring 2-1 loss to a Croatia’s B-team, Mexico aced its general rehearsal with an overwhelming 3-1 victory over Ireland on Thursday.

The pair of stateside tuneup friendlies, with the team practicing at altitude in Denver between the games, were intended to prepare El Tri for back-to-back home qualifiers in Mexico City against Honduras and the United States on June 8 and 11, respectively. After that, Juan Carlos Osorio’s team travels to Russia for the Confederations Cup, followed by two more friendlies in the U.S., and then the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will be held in America as well.

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A team that had lost just once in all of 2016 and had won all three of its games in 2017 dropped a surprising 2-1 result to a second-rate Croatia side in Los Angeles on Friday, though. It was just the second loss in the Osorio era and the first in a friendly.

But in spite of a chaotic trip to the East Coast due to inclement weather, Mexico was its dominant self again on Thursday, running at will through an Irish team missing key players. Without getting out of third gear, the Mexicans got goals from Jesus Corona on a wondrous play and Raul Jimenez on a penalty in the first half, compounded by Carlos Vela’s second-half tap-in. Stephen Gleeson got a consolation goal for the Irish with the game already lost.

Mexico threatened early and often and could perhaps have won by half a dozen. Just minutes in, Vela’s piercing through ball found “Tecatito” Corona, who curled his shot just wide of Darren Randolph’s goal. Corona would get another look before scoring in the 15th minute.

Jorge Hernandez, thriving in a deep playmaker role, started a counter and flicked a cross-field ball to Corona. There, Mexican soccer’s great hope cut inside, beat two men and curled his shot out of Randolph’s reach for a splendid goal.

By the 24th minute, the game was decided. “Burrito” Hernandez dropped a perfect pass on the streaking Vela, who got clipped and earned a penalty. Jimenez converted coolly with a stutter-step for what turned out to be the game-winner.

Jesus Gallardo perhaps should have bagged the third before half-time, dancing through most of the Irish half before rolling his finish across goal. At any rate, Oribe Peralta, a halftime substitute, was initially denied by Randolph on his first attempt in the 54th minute. But he flipped the rebound to his left, where Vela had a simple finish once he waited out a sliding defender.

In a festive MetLife Stadium, packed with 42,000 mostly Mexican partisans, El Tri’s passing was largely crisp, and its press mostly effective. But it wasn’t yet an entirely polished performance. And things got especially lax in the last half hour, when Ireland got on the board.

In the 76th minute, substitute Oswaldo Alanis didn’t clear a tricky cross convincingly. It fell for Gleeson, who slipped in Ireland’s only goal.

And in the 80th minute, Callum O’Dowda came face-to-face with goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota, who denied his low effort.

In spite of the late letup, Mexico will nonetheless be pleased with its final test. Because it will have a tougher time winning against a wily Honduras and the arch-rivals from the United States – to say nothing of the opposition in Russia, which includes European champions Portugal – than this largely ineffective Irish squad.

Above all, El Tri demonstrated that its system and personnel remain the right ones, even if the final performance can improve a ways yet.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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