Guardado Finding his Stride


With 2 goals vs Costa Rica, Andres Guardado was named Man of the Match

CHICAGO - As part of the process of his World Cup cycle as Mexico’s coach, Ricardo Lavolpe called up nearly 100 players for the litany of friendlies and qualifiers Mexico played. One of those call-ups late in 2005 was a skinny teenager from Atlas named Andres Guardado.

He made an immediate impact.

Guardado made such an impression that he ended up displacing Jaime Lozano, a player who had been instrumental in Mexico’s World Cup qualifying campaign, on the World Cup roster for Germany 2006. He only started one match, that Round of 16 classic vs. the Albicelestes.

He has been a fixture on the left side of Mexico’s formation ever since.

Almost.

Guardado’s last World Cup proved to be a lot more frustrating than anyone imagined – the odd man out of Jaiver Aguirre’s 4-3-3 formation. When he did play, though, he made his presence felt. Most Mexico fans wondered why he wasn’t part of the plans all along.

The disappointment from South Africa seeped into his club play as well. Guardado spent most of the year at Deportivo injured from a muscle problem that had plagued him throughout his tenure in Galicia. Without the “principito” in the lineup, Depor struggled. He rejoined the squad late in the year, but could not help the Gallegos dig out of the drop zone hole. They were relegated on the last match day of the season.

Tough year to say the least.

Despite Depor’s struggles, Guardado seemed to be rounding into form for his country. Chepo de la Torre did not hesitate to name him a starter, and Guardado responded. He looked good in the few friendlies in which he played, and has been one Mexico’s bright spots in the first two games of the Gold Cup.

Before the Costa Rica game, Guardado recognized Lavolpe’s influence on his professional career: “He had a positive effect on my career. He took me to a World Cup when I was 19, so I have great affection toward him, and when we see each other I always great him very warmly.”

And then at Soldier Field, Guardado showed Lavolpe and the other 62,000 people in the stands why the former Mexico coach took a flyer on him on the first place.

The Ticos never knew what hit’em.

The Little Prince scored two unqualified golazos seven minutes apart as Mexico systematically took apart Costa Rica, 4-1. It was the first time in an official tournament that Mexico won all three of their group games. They now await a 3rd place team from group B or C next weekend at the Meadowlands. Guardado was named Man of the Match.

Guardado’s phenomenal Gold Cup could not have come at a better time for him. It is doubtful that he will remain at Depor, and he has been linked to number of teams in both Spain and Portugal. If he keeps playing at this same level, even more suitors will surely come calling.

Not bad for that skinny kid from Atlas that Lavolpe took a chance on six years ago.

A reporter asked “was that To Sir With Love, then?”

“That’s right.” Guardado joked.