It was not surprising to see Mexico struggle in the first half vs. Cuba last week. Only a few hours earlier, the FMF had announced that 5 of their players had tested positive in their pre-tournament drug screen. The players in question were removed from the squad, and it is likely that their situation will not come to any resolution until after the Gold Cup has concluded.
Sucks for them, but the show must go on.
The incident, though, seems to have galvanized the remaining 17 players on the squad (Ricardo Osorio left the squad for medical reasons) appear to have been galvanized by the entire ordeal. They are as tight as I have ever seen a Mexico Team.
Mexico completely dominated a group that included 3 members from the previous hex (no other group had more than one) and, played their finest half of soccer in quite some time last Sunday vs. Costa Rica. A few players, in particular, have benefited the most from the sudden roster reduction: Giovani Dos Santos and Hector Moreno.
Gio has been Mexico’s most impressive player thus far in the Gold Cup. But he probably would have not gotten the minutes he has played had Antonio Naelson Zinha been available. Chepo de la Torre had his full faith and confidence in his former Toluca player, which is why Zinha was higher on the depth chart.
But Dos Santos has let his play on the field speak for itself. He got Mexico of the schneid with his darting runs vs. El Salvador and then got 2 goals himself vs Cuba. He was a constant headache for the Ticos and was nearly rewarded for his troubles, but the crossbar had other ideas. He has built nicely on his loan stint at Racing Santander, and his summer is not over after the Gold Cup. Tottenham has granted him permission to play with his brother, Jonathan, in next month’s Copa America. Another good showing there will practically ensure his transfer out of White Hart Lane. His coach at Racing is now at Sevilla. Stay tuned.
Another player who looks to be on his way to la Liga is Hector Moreno. The Pumas product would have likely been on the bench once Rafa Marquez was able to return from injury to play along Maza Rodriguez. But Maza was one of the implicated, so Moreno got the call (he had to, there was no one left) and has run with it. They make an interesting pairing, these two – the grizzled veteran and the youngster with a bright future. Moreno is similar to Marquez in the sense that he adds an elegance to way he plays. His game is based on timing and positioning, not brute force. And he has been doing it very well so far: Mexico has only allowed one goal in the tournament.
Strong rumors have Moreno switching teams from AZ to Espanyol. Continued success in the Gold Cup will go a long way to making that happen for Moreno.
Gio and Moreno are part of a group of national team players that are all 25 or under, including Javier Hernandez, Pablo Barrera, Efrain Juarez, Andres Guardado (who are all starters) Elias Hernandez, Jorge Torres Nilo, and Jesus Zavala. Add to this Jonanthan Dos Santos and Marco Fabian, who are getting ready for the Copa America, as well as Carlos Vela (who was denied permission to play in Argentina by Arsenal) and Mexico has a solid base for the upcoming World Cup and beyond.
For now, Gio, Moreno and the remaining 15 players will try to advance this weekend as they play Guatemala in the quarterfinals at the New Meadowlands Stadium.