When Javier Aguirre first started his second tour of duty with the Mexican National Team, he allowed the working media to watch a full practice, not the customary 10 minutes or so most teams offer before they close the tent. The quote that earned the honor of most appearances in the press was Aguirre scolding his forward, Miguel Sabah, after a series of misses. “You can’t miss, Miguel, because in game you may only get one shot.” It was everywhere.
The Gold Cup saw Sabah lead all scorers with 4. But, like all strikers, he had more misses than he would care to admit. His penalty miss in Chicago was a textbook example of how not to execute one. Luckily for him, Mexico advanced to the final despite his gack. He didn’t let it bother him, though. Strikers, after al,l know they’re going to miss. And the good ones don’t let the misses clog the memory banks. Once back in League play, Sabah got one for his club, Morelia, at the Azteca to help them beat America, 2-0.
And so with less than 20 minutes to go last Wednesday, it was Sabah whom Aguirre called in as the last sub. How many chances would he get, if any?
He got one and scored, as Andres Cantor, said, “the most important goal of his life.”
Mexico had to have the win. They could not drop any home points and expect to have a chance at finishing in the top three. Javier Aguirre got through to Sabah. And thanks to his goal, Mexico is very much alive for an automatic spot.
And, with only three points separating the top four places, any points any points dropped at home would be devastating to the cause. But if the top 4 hold serve at home, then the away points will tell the difference. What home games are the biggest minefields for each team?
USA vs. El Salvador. Laugh if you want, but El Salvador has been the toughest out of the hex, losing each of their away ties 1-0. Carlos de los Cobos has a plucky little team with one or two decent playmakers. The yanks are definitely going to have to earn it.
Costa Rica vs. Mexico. If Costa Rica lose this game, they will go from 1st to 4th just like that. Don’t think it can’t happen. Mexico won here back in 2005, and tied in their previous 2 other Hex games. For the first time all hex, Mexico will be playing a game where the pressure is on their opponents more than them.
Mexico vs. Honduras. Mexico escaped a Catracho upset in SGE’s first game at the Azteca. The Catrachos could be in position to put 6 points between them and Mexico with a win at the Azteca.
Honduras vs. USA. The US has won here before, and their style of play can definitely frustrate Honduras into making mistakes. Depending on previous results, Honduras might be facing a must win. It’s one thing to play qualifiers when you have nothing to lose, but when there's something on the line, Honduras has historically wilted. They collapsed in 2001 and it happened as recently as the 2007 Gold Cup. They ripped apart their group only to come up woefully short vs. Guadeloupe in the knockouts.
Buckle up. We're all going to matchday 10.