Five Things to Know: Mexico U-20s at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team will take on Mexico in its fourth match of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship on Monday, Feb. 27 at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in Tibas, Costa Rica. The match will be the first of the classification stage, which consists of two groups of three teams each. The top two teams in each three-team group will qualify for the

2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, with the first-place teams playing for the tournament championship. The game can be seen live at 5 p.m. ET on the official CONCACAF Facebook page.

Here are five things you should know about the USA’s upcoming opponent:

All 20 players on the U-20 Mexico roster play for a professional club in Mexico. A total of 19 players represent eight clubs from Liga MX, Mexico’s top league: CD Guadalajara (5), Santos Laguna (4), Club America (3), CF Pachuca (2), Club Atlas (2), Queretaro FC (1), Monarcas Morelia (1), CF Monterrey (1). Only one player, midfielder Diego Aguilar, plays for a club currently sitting in Ascenso MX, Mexico’s second division.

Goalkeepers (2): Fernando Hernandez (CF Monterrey/MEX), Jose Hernandez (Club Atlas/MEX)

Defenders (7): Juan Aguayo (CD Guadalajara/MEX), Edson Alvarez (Club America/MEX), Diego Cortes (CD Guadalajara/MEX), Joaquin Esquivel (CF Pachuca/MEX), Alejandro Mayorga (CD Guadalajara/MEX), Ulises Torres (Club America/MEX), Brayton Vazquez (Club Atlas/MEX)

Midfielders (7): Diego Aguilar (Lobos BUAP/MEX), Uriel Antuna (Santos Laguna/MEX), Alan Cervantes (CD Guadalajara/MEX), Sebastian Cordova (Club America/MEX), Kevin Lara (Santos Laguna/MEX), Pablo Lopez (CF Pachuca/MEX), Kevin Magaña (CD Guadalajara/MEX)

Forwards (4): Eduardo Aguirre (Santos Laguna/MEX), Ronaldo Cisneros (Santos Laguna/MEX), Paolo Yrizar (Queretaro FC/MEX), Claudio Zamudio (Monarcas Morelia/MEX)

2017 Tournament Dominance
So far in the 2017 CONCACAF Championship, Mexico looks to be the favorite going into the classification stage. El Trí went undefeated in the group stage, scoring nine goals while conceding none in their victories against Antigua and Barbuda (3-0), Canada (5-0) and Honduras (1-0).

In Mexico’s first game against Antigua and Barbuda, the team dominated across the stat sheet, tallying massive advantages in shots (17-2), corner kicks (12-1) and possession (63%). In just the second minute of play, El Trí’s Ronaldo Cisneros took in a cross from Diego Aguilar, popped it up to serve himself a volley, and finished with his left to beat the ‘keeper. After Antigua and Barbuda conceded an own goal in the 15th minute, El Trí sealed the victory in the first minute of first half stoppage time, a header from Cisneros.

In the second game, Mexico continued more of the same against Canada. Sebastian Cordova got the scoring started in the 36th minute, with a run-on diving header. Four minutes later, El Trí perfectly executed a three-on-two breakaway opportunity with Cisneros side-footing a targeted cross to the back post. In the 65th minute, Cisneros would find the better end of a rebound and record his second brace in a row. Goals in the 82’ and 90’+2 from Claudio Zamudio and Eduardo Aguirre, respectively, capped off a one-sided win for El Trí that included 64% of ball possession and a 12-4 shot advantage.

Mexico’s only test of the group stage came in their finale against Honduras, who also came into the match with victories against Canada and Antigua and Barbuda. Playing for positioning in the group after both teams had already clinched their advancement to the classification stage, it wasn’t until the 67th minute the either team was able to break the goalless draw. A Mexico corner kick, that appeared to be cleared of any real threat, was directed back into the dangerous area only to find Cisneros lurking near the back post in anticipation. Cisneros headed the ball down into the ground, creating an acute angle for the ball to sneak past the goal line and kiss the overhead netting. The goal marked the fifth and tournament leading goal for Cisneros.

Minor lineup movement for Mexico
Under the 4-4-2 formation Mexico has deployed in their three group stage games, the midfield line of Diego Aguilar, Uriel Antuna, Alan Cervantes (captain) and Sebastian Cordova have each started and played the entire first half of each contest. Defensively, El Trí has also maintained a core group for most the tournament. Edson Alvarez, Diego Cortes and Ulises Torres started and went the distance in all three of Mexico’s group stage matches, while Juan Aguayo played 90 in the first two games.

Ronaldo Cisneros Chasing the Golden Boot
Followed closely by United States forward Brooks Lennon and Panama midfielder Ricardo Avila, Mexico’s Ronaldo Cisneros has proven to be a deadly and clinical finisher that the U.S. will have to keep a watchful eye on. On the all-time tournament goal scoring list, Cisneros only trails El Salvador’s José Alvarado and Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell, who each scored six goals in the 1994 and 2011 CONCACAF tournaments, respectively.

Mexico U-20 History
Since 1962, Mexico has participated in 24 of the possible 25 CONCACAF U-20 tournaments. During the tournaments before 2017, Mexico posted a 86-19-11 record and qualified for 14 World Cups. Their CONCACAF dominance includes 13 titles and two runner-up finishes. Mexico has won the last three CONCACAF U-20 Championships: 2011, 2013, and 2015. At the World Cup level, El Tri’s best finish came in 1977, where they finished as runners up to the

Soviet Union. Their most recent success came in 2011, where the team finished third.

Scoring 297 goals while conceding only 68, Mexico has remained atop the CONCACAF statistics charts, distancing themselves from the next closest nation, the United States, by 50 points.

Mexico’s dominance does not come unblemished, however. In 1988, Mexican news journalist Antonio Moreno wrote an article during the final games of the CONCACAF U-20 Tournament that disclosed an age discrepancy of four U-20 Mexican national team players. Mexico placed second overall in the CONCACAF U-20 Tournament and initially qualified for the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship. Known as the cachirules scandal, the four players in question were ruled ineligible by CONCACAF. As a result, the team was disqualified from the World Youth Championship, with the third place finishing United States taking their place. The consequences would prove enormous to the senior team of the Mexican Football Federation, with FIFA ruling that sanctioned international competitions would be off limits for Mexico for two years, including the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1990 FIFA World Cup.