ARLINGTON, Texas — Javier “Chicharito” Hernández was expected to be one of the big stars of the 2011 Gold Cup and he did not disappoint in his first outing of the tournament.
The 23-year-old Manchester United forward did much of the damage with a hat trick in a 5-0 thrashing of El Salvador, sending the sold-out crowd at Cowboys Stadium into an even greater frenzy on Sunday evening.
However, the Mexican national team icon was downplaying his achievements after the match.
“I’ve always said we can’t settle or feel satisfied with a win,” Hernández said. “We always need to work and see what we need to improve on with or without goals.”
Mexican national team manager José Manuel de la Torre was even less enthused when speaking of his star forward in his characteristic monotone commentary.
“I think of the team,” de la Torre said in his postgame press conference. “He had the good fortune to score, but as a result of the team play. That’s what the forwards are in there to do.”
Hernández had few opportunities to score in the first half, as Mexico was frustrated by an El Salvador side which battled hard enough to keep the match scoreless at the break.
“The opponent was well positioned,” de la Torre said. “But the situation changed. We knew once we scored one [goal], things would change.”
And change they did. After Efraín Juárez’s opening goal in the 55th minute, Mexico scored three times in the next 12 minutes and put the game out of El Salvador’s grasp.
Chicharito scored his first goal off a cross from Andrés Guardado, using his head to bounce the ball past Salvadoran goalkeeper Miguel Montes. Seven minutes later, the former Chivas de Guadalajara player received another ball from Guardado and used his right foot to put another ball in the goal.
“I’ll say what I said yesterday,” El Salvador manager Rubén Jorge Israel said. “He’s a great player on a great team. One player doesn’t make a difference, but Hernández is a very good player.”
But Chicharito wasn’t done scoring. In stoppage time, and with thousands of Mexico fans celebrating the impending victory, Hernández created a penalty kick for himself after charging into the 18-yard-box and being taken down by defender Marvin González.
A confident Hernández stepped up to take the penalty and chipped the ball right down the center of the goal to cap off a memorable night for himself and Mexico.
Guardado, the man who served Hernández on his first two goals, was equally pinpoint and direct with the words to sum up his teammate’s evening.
“He is having a great moment right now,” Guardado said.