By IVES GALARCEP
MEXICO CITY– The Mexican National Team’s attack is loaded with talent all across the field, but the keys to their success, particularly against the U.S. Men’s National Team, lie with how Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos perform.
The two young attackers have terrorized American defenses for years, most recently together in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, and both are in form heading into tonight’s showdown at Estadio Azteca.
Hernandez is the key to the Mexico attack, as evidenced recently by his two-goal performance in the team’s 2-2 draw vs. Honduras last week. His movement and aerial prowess could cause problems for the U.S. team all night.
“He is a player who is fun to watch. There is a reason he is playing for Manchester United – because he is good,” Klinsmann said. “So, we watch him, we scout him, we talk about him and we are sure that our centre-backs will take care of him.”
“He’s a pure number nine, a pure striker,” U.S. defender Damarcus Beasley said. “He’s not going to beat you one on one, you don’t have to worry about that. He’s not going to take the ball and beat two or three guys. He’s going to sniff out the balls in the box, rebounds, for him being small he’s very good in the air. He’s a very good header of the ball.
“You just have to watch him wherever he goes,” Beasley added. “He makes good movements on the back-line.”
U.S. defender Geoff Cameron had some modest success against Hernandez in the U.S. team’s 1-0 victory over Mexico last August, though Hernandez still found his share of chances.
“You have to get tight to him, keep close to him because his movement is fantastic. He kind of reads off your movement,” said Cameron. “He’s just got a knack for goals. He’s always sniffing around, you have just got to be prepared, keep an eye out all the time, because you never know where he is.”
“From a striker’s perspective – and for me, my whole game is movement, his movements are unreal, amazing,” said U.S. striker Herculez Gomez. “He finds gaps, spaces, makes himself available. His goals sometimes aren’t the prettiest but he is such an effective player with his movement.”
Dos Santos presents just as many problems as Hernandez, and has enjoyed some standout performances against the United States, most notably the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final.
“He’s unpredictable,” said Beasley of Dos Santos. “He can go right, he can go left. He’s quick. He likes to go at people. He likes to beat people one-on-one. He always has that confidence on the ball when he has it. He’s a good footballer and he’s hurt us for a couple of years now.”
Whoever Klinsmann turns to as a replacement for Jermaine Jones will have his hands full trying to keep tabs on Dos Santos, who likes to float all over the field underneath the Mexican forwards. His performance in the 2009 qualifying victory at Azteca was key to Mexico’s comeback, and his virtuoso performance in the 2011 Gold Cup Final was one of the most memorable parts of Mexico’s triumph.
“I’d argue that, look he played well in the (2011) Gold Cup Final, but I think in other games we’ve done a good job on him,” Bradley said. “He’s skillful, in his own way very athletic, with a low center of gravity. He’s strong and balanced. He’s one of the guys that now is able to find little spots in between the lines, play off of guys, and then with his vision and way of moving with the ball and passing, is able to cause trouble.”
Bradley could be tasked with trying to contain Dos Santos, but with Klinsmann talking about having the U.S. attack more, Dos Santos could have room to roam, which could spell doom for the U.S. defense if they aren’t careful with both Dos Santos and Hernandez.