Dos Santos and Blanco have been instrumental in Mexico's resurgence
Sven Goran Ericksson left Mexico in worse shape than he found it after a 3-1 defeat to Honduras earlier this year. The coach that Chivas owner, Jorge Vergara, brought in amidst a flurry of fanfare didn’t even get a ride to the airport on his way out of town, albeit with a hefty little buyout in his bank account. It wasn’t all rainclouds and doom for SGE, though. He did manage to get one thing right: he gave Giovani Dos Santos some PT.
Thanks, Sven. Don’t let the door hit you on the arsel on your way out.
Even though Gio didn’t do so well in those first few games, he did have some moments of brilliance: it was his assist on Matias Vuoso’s goal in Edmonton that ultimately proved to be the goal that sent Mexico through to the hex. With Javier Aguirre at the helm, though, Gio’s place on the team was not as secure, and he did himself no favors by stepping almost immediately into the coach’s doghouse. He was not called in for Vasco’s first match at El Salvador because he allegedly used his cellphone at a team function (I guess cell phones were verboten).
It was a humbled and more mature Gio that we saw in the Gold Cup. Javier Aguirre put his faith in the starlet, and the player responded with a virtuoso performance: 2 goals, 4 assists, and the tournament MVP. He continued his torrid streak at the Saprissa with a goal and two assists, putting Mexico in the golden zone. Unfortunately for Mexico, he was clattered down from behind in Tottenham’s Carling Cup fixture at Preston North End. The resulting bum ankle will keep him out for at least a month, which includes the last two fixtures in the hex.
It’s not Mexico’s only injury worry. Cuauhtémoc Blanco strained a hammy a few weeks ago against Columbus. Initially, it was thought he would be out at least a month. But Blanco himself said he would be ready for the El Salvador match, and all indications appear that he’ll be available. How effective he is and how long he can play remains to be seen.
With Gio out, and an iffy Blanco, Javier Aguirre had some decisions to make. The Mexican press didn’t hesitate: Zinha Zinha Zinha. He’s so good, he can replace both of them. The Toluca mainstay had not been called since the Swede left Mexico. And he still hasn’t been called, much to the dismay of just about every talking head and columnist. Zinha is great player, there is no doubt. But great club players don’t necessarily mean they’ll be good at the international level. Mexico could field an impressive all-dissapointing at the international level XI. Zinha has been nothing short of very average in his last few outings in Green.
Nery? If this was 2007, it would be a no-brainer. Sadly, 2007 was the last time Nery Castillo saw any kind of regular action. He currently is languishing on the bench at Dnipro in the Ukraine. Despite his inactivity, Aguirre continued to call him up, until now. Nery has always been hotheaded. But lately he's gone from crazy eyes killa to just plain crazy. The act has grown thin on a lot of fans, and it seems on Aguirre as well. He is supremely talented, no question. But until he gets his head right with ball, there is no need to reserve a spot for him when there are other more deserving players.
What about el Bombardero? Arsenal’s Carlos Vela has finally gotten over his ankle problems and is seeing minutes for the first time this year. He and Gio have different styles, but one thing they have in common is that they are both difference makers. Difference makers are what Mexico has historically lacked. Vela has been largely absent from the hex, either due to sanctions or injury. It’s his turn to reward his coach for believing in him. It’s his turn to make a difference. After all, the payoff could be huge.