Three thoughts following Mexico's 2-1 friendly loss to Croatia in Los Angeles.
1. Chicharito breaks scoring record
Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez became Mexico's record scorer on Saturday, but he couldn't stop El Tri from falling 2-1 to Croatia in a friendly in L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Hernandez scored his 47th goal for Mexico -- to take him one beyond Jared Borgetti -- three minutes from the end as the team came close to equalizing, but couldn't find a second.
The loss was only manager Juan Carlos Osorio's second with the Mexico national team and his record now reads: 21 games, 16 wins, three draws and two defeats.
If everything goes to plan this summer, Saturday's loss to Croatia will have been the first of 17 games for El Tri as Osorio's team negotiates two World Cup qualifiers, the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup and friendlies.
The Mexico manager will be hoping this was a preseason hiccup, or the loss that will help focus his team moving forward, like a cold bucket of water being dumped over their heads.
The fact Mexico used three substitutes at half-time told a story, as did the way Osorio could be seen screaming at the officials -- which isn't normal for him -- and Mexico's goalkeeping coach being sent from the bench in the second half. This was a poor performance and an evening to forget in L.A. against a young and reserve Croatia squad, which brought only a total of 16 players for the match.
The Mexico starting lineup wasn't exactly without experience. The likes of Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, Diego Reyes, Hector Herrera, Hirving Lozano and Guillermo Ochoa can all be considered regulars.
Mexico's problem in the first half was an inability to find the final pass and, most crucially, a lack of concentration at two vital times in defense.
The first saw Fran Tudor square for Duke Cop to tap in, but the Mexican defense had been asleep as the ball was lofted over them. Only Tudor reacted.
One minute later, Tudor turned scorer when a back-pass from Reyes fell short of Ochoa. The Croatian forward rounded Ochoa and finished. It was a nervous period and one that didn't do much for Reyes after his very good season with Espanyol.
Hernandez stole the headlines when the substitute headed in at the back post from an Andres Guardado free kick from the right with three minutes left. By that point, Croatia had been down to 10 players after Mile Skoric was sent off in the 77th minute.
Hernandez's goal took him one beyond Borgetti as Mexico's highest-ever scorer. It is a remarkable and worthy achievement for a 28-year-old, but the real story on Saturday was Mexico's first-half ineptitude in front of what was a weak opposition on paper.
2. Herrera struggling for form, place
At 27, Herrera is hitting his prime. By this point you would like to see him exerting more influence on this Mexico team. The Porto midfielder has the range of passing, the engine and the guile to be the centerpiece of El Tri's midfield and dictate games, especially against opposition like this young and inexperienced Croatia side.
But the game kind of passed him by on Saturday, again. The long passes didn't come off and the confidence just wasn't there. This is simply not the same "Zorrillo" Herrera that had Rio Ferdinand suggesting he would sign him if he was a manager and who looked to be the future of Mexico's midfield at the 2012 Olympics.
Herrera started only four games for Porto in the league since end of January. The former Pachuca player has gone from pushing for a move to a bigger club than Porto a couple of years ago to being relegated to the bench for half the season.
And when you look at how Jesus Duenas is in the form of his life for Tigres, Herrera's place in El Tri -- virtually assured since the last World Cup -- is now under serious threat.
3. Thursday's game now more important
In all likelihood, this was a blip. Of course, it was worrying and better teams will punish Mexico's first-half sloppiness even more than Croatia did. But it was an experimental team from Osorio who, despite the criticisms he receives for his rotations, doesn't play an altogether different starting XI for big matches as most Mexico fans would pick.
Osorio said he'd play a stronger side on Thursday against Ireland in New Jersey in the final tune-up before the June 8 World Cup qualifier against Honduras in Estadio Azteca.
Saturday's game will have been good for Layun -- who hadn't played a single match since March 28. And when Guardado, Hernandez, Jonathan dos Santos, Carlos Vela and Nestor Araujo came on, Mexico improved greatly. There was more zip in the passing and chemistry in the play.
It won't be an easy game against Ireland. And in the ultra-critical environment in which the Mexico national team operates, there is now at least a degree of pressure. The atmosphere in camp is very good, at least judging by players' social networks, but El Tri will want to put this loss behind it as soon as possible. And that means a much-improved display over the 90 minutes against Ireland.