What we would have learned from Mexico’s Gold Cup-opening rout (if it wasn’t playing Cuba)

Mexico got off to a dream start in the Gold Cup, beating Cuba, 6-0, on Thursday night in Chicago. Club América striker Oribe Peralta notched a hat trick in a beat down that ended El Tri’s seven-match winless streak. There few remedies that are better for a bad stretch of results than playing a terrible team in a tournament filled with sides that regularly look overwhelming in international competition.

But did we learn from Mexico’s thrashing? We would have, if El Tri was playing anybody other than Cuba. For example …

1. Miguel Herrera’s seat isn’t quite so hot

Seven matches without a win had Mexico manager Miguel Herrera’s job in question. Things had gotten so bad that many believe El Tri must win the Gold Cup for Herrera to keep his job, an unenviable ask for a team without the injured Hector Moreno and Javier Hernandez. But a dominant win in the opener has reversed Mexico’s fortunes. There’s reason to think Herrera will have this team back on top of CONCACAF come the end of the month.

Counterpoint: Mexico was playing Cuba.

2. Mexico should stay with its 4-4-2 formation

Herrera rose to prominence at Club América, where he won Liga MX with a thrilling team that played in a 5-3-2 formation. When he was handed the keys to El Tri, he immediately changed the team to fit that formation and used it during last year’s World Cup, as well as through this spring. But against Cuba, Mexico came out in a 4-4-2.

Maybe it was to compensate for the absence of Moreno, or maybe it was to feature as many of the team’s talented midfielders as possible. Who knows. Whatever the reasoning, it worked as the defense held steady, the midfield dominated the match and most of the action took place in the Cuba box.

Counterpoint: Mexico was playing Cuba.

3. Gio dos Santos should stay on the bench

Real Sociedad standout Carlos Vela’s return to Mexico had many questioning how Herrera would fit him, Gio dos Santos and Chicharito into the same team. Chicharito’s injury seemed to eliminate that problem, but Herrera opted to replace him with Peralta, leaving dos Santos on the bench.

It worked. Peralta scored three goals, and El Tri looked creative without dos Santos. The team was dynamic, and as good as the six goals looked, the ability to break down the Cuba defense was even better.

Having a traditional striker like Peralta and Vela is more than enough for Mexico. Dos Santos can come off the bench and prey upon tired defenses, as he did late against Cuba.

Counterpoint: Mexico was playing Cuba.