They call him "the Brush" on ESPN. Mexican commentators prefer to use "hermoso." In the locker room, players affectionately refer to him as "Horrible." Call him what you want, but there is no hiding the fact that Oribe Peralta has been Mexico's most consistent performer over the past two years.
His story has been well documented on this space. Peralta didn't have a famous family member to help him move his way up the ranks, nor did he emerge from one of the "big 4." He toiled in anonymity for years before finally breaking through with Chiapas. But the Chiapan rain forest is hardly the place for a player to get noticed - for national team duty, at least. It wasn't until he was bagging goals for Santos that he earned a call to the National team. And when he did, no player in North America had a better 2011-2012 for club and country than Peralta. He won the coveted CONCACAF player of the year, after all.
The injury bug nipped at him a few times, though, after he helped Mexico capture Olympic Gold with an unforgettable brace at Wembley. Lost in the muck and mire of Mexico's disastrous summer was the fact that Oribe had missed the Confed Cup as well as the Gold Cup for with a knee sprain. For an offense that was already struggling to even create chances, Peralta was sorely missed.
It was no surprise, then, that as he regained his scoring touch with Santos Laguna, he did the same with the national team. He got Mexico's 1st home goal in the hex (in their 4th game, mind you), and has scored in the six games he has played with the national team since returning from his injury. His 2nd half brace last week vs New Zealand helped give Mexico a comfortable advantage for the away leg in Wellington. In a year marked by fans heckling the home team at the Azteca, Peralta walked off to a standing ovation.
Regardless of the scoreline, Peralta would be the first to tell you he is not satisfied. "We have to approach the game as life or death and get the goals to eliminate whatever hope they have. We are not here to defend a lead, we want to win."
Winning has eluded Mexico for much of 2013, but better late than never, right? Something a late bloomer like Peralta appreciates more than most.