Gold Cup: Mexico's replacements ready to step in for El Tri
HOUSTON — With the tough semifinal matchup against Honduras looming n the horizon for Mexico, a shorthanded Tri got a vital boost as their newest reinforcements joined the group ahead of Wednesday’s Gold Cup tilt (10 pm ET, Univisión).
Defenders Héctor Reynoso, Paul Aguilar and Hiram Mier all participated in their first — and only — practice on Tuesday before facing los Catrachos. The trio, all at different points in their careers but with the same goal in mind, were called up by head coach José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre after Mexico were given permission to replace the five players suspended for doping.
“To represent your national team always is something to be very proud of,” said Aguilar during a press conference on Tuesday morning. “We have to try to pitch in so that the result matches our progress, which is very good.”
For Aguilar, who was part of Mexico’s World Cup squad in South Africa but didn’t see much time, this new opportunity represents a chance to show the new coaching staff what he’s got, even though his arrival comes on the heels of an unfortunate incident.
“The doping scandal was accidental,” he said. “[But] my idea is to come here and compete and give it my all. In the end, Chepo will decide who plays.”
For his part, Reynoso, a veteran center back who plies his trade for Chivas de Guadalajara, could get his first cap a little quicker than expected. Despite being a standout for his club, Reynoso just recently received his first call-up when he joined Mexico’s U-22 team as one of the over-age reinforcements for July’s Copa América. Now, however, he could see don the green jersey for the first time in the Gold Cup.
“It was a great surprise for me,” Reynoso admitted. “It’s taken me a while to get here, so today I’m cherishing it and savoring it.”
Reynoso is one of the players who might have the best chance of getting a nod on Wednesday considering the fatigue and injuries affecting the central defense, especially captain Rafa Márquez, who’s still bothered by an Achilles injury.
Although Reynoso’s physical form is in question — the Mexican Primera División season ended for Chivas on May 15 — the defender isn’t worried about that, citing the time he’s spent training with Mexico’s Copa América team.
“I’m very motivated,” he said. “I’m here to work hard, just as I’ve been doing with the U-22s. Honestly, I’ve gotten a dose of motivation. … I’m well physically and I’m also preparing myself mentally.”
While the 30-year-old Reynoso had to wait for his first shot with Mexico, fellow defender Mier is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The 21-year-old Monterrey player, who was also part of the Copa América squad, has experienced a meteoric rise.
“I haven’t [spent] much time in the Primera División, but I’m happy with the championships that I’ve played in for with my club and I’m motivated to be here," said Mier, who was part of the Rayados team that outlasted Real Salt Lake to win the CONCACAF Champions League crown. “I’m proud to [play for Mexico]. There are a lot of players I look up to that have forged their road and you can learn something from each of them.”
Despite his young age, Mier feels no pressure whatsoever and instead wants to use this chance to further his career.
“No pressure,” he said. “I’m here to showcase myself and so that they can see the things I can do. More than pressure, it’s motivation.”