Chicharito's injury forces Mexico to change plans ahead of Gold Cup
The week started brightly for Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, but it quickly turned dark.
His goal against Costa Rica moved him closer to becoming Mexico's all-time leading scorer, and while his club situation is unsettled, the rumor mill was churning with reports of big-money deals from MLS and interest from top European clubs.
Now, instead of talking about Chicharito's future, media members will talk about his fitness. The star Mexico striker had an awkward fall after battling for a ball with Brayan Beckeles and has fractured his clavicle. It's an injury that will keep him from contesting the Gold Cup, a tournament in which the Mexican federation has made clear is one it will not accept anything less than a first-place finish.
"It will have an impact on the group but we're just thinking about what is ahead," Herrera said. "This is an unfortunate situation we cannot change."
Friendly matches before major tournaments are always risky propositions. They're necessary. You have to find a rhythm, and in Mexico's case figure out exactly which formation and tactics to deploy. But there's always the risk of an injury. Mexico got past another ugly injury in a Texas friendly last year with Jose Juan Vazquez, who turned into one of the World Cup's breakout players as a fill-in for Luis Montes, who broke his leg against Ecuador.
It's tough to tell if El Tri will be so lucky this time.
This is a team already having to cope with huge changes after centerback Hector Moreno, another of the team's standout players for a European club, suffered a foot injury in Saturday's friendly that will keep him out of the Gold Cup. Now Mexico may take a loss at the other end.
It will likely create a real problem for Herrera's men. On the one hand, Herrera already was trying to fit three forwards, in Chicharito, Carlos Vela and Giovani dos Santos, into two slots. Against Costa Rica, he tossed all three out in an attacking trident that was much sharper on paper than on the pitch.
But on the other, Chicharito was probably Mexico's most potent threat. Vela hasn't rediscovered his Real Sociedad form, while dos Santos still struggles to find his exact role in Herrera's setup.
You could see it in the second half. From the opening whistle, El Tri struggled to find any scoring threats, with Vela twice hitting the post in their best opportunities. Chicharito didn't score -- in fact he missed a chance wide to his right when he was in alone on Honduras goalkeeper Donis Escober. But after the break, Mexico missed the former Real Madrid man stretching the field and putting himself in places that forced defenders to use their heads and get out of their comfort zones.
The attack wasn't totally impotent. Jesus "Tecatito" Corona brought energy and attacking endeavor into the match, but the Copa America showed that the rising star can't carry an attack on his own. He shouldn't have to in the Gold Cup, but the thought of the Twente man combining with Chicharito late in matches was the stuff of fantasy for Mexico fans.
Instead of taking the faithful into a dream world, the preparation for the Gold Cup has turned into a nightmare without the star forward.
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